Academic Year Internships

Hosting the headquarters of organizations such as CAREThe Carter Center, and Habitat for Humanity, Atlanta is a focal point of international development. At the same time, the Atlanta metropolitan area holds pockets of entrenched urban poverty and one of the largest and most diverse refugee communities in the U.S. Atlanta’s major international airport also makes the city a hub for human-trafficking. Many non-profit agencies and community-based organizations are locally active to serve these communities and to address these challenges (including organizations like New American Pathways, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Youth Spark). Building on the city’s historical role in the struggle for social justice, several organizations also seek to harness community innovation and creativity for transformative change (like the Center for Civic Innovation, Global Growers, and WonderRoot).  

Most MDP students engage in internships with these partners during the academic year. Providing students with opportunities to work with international NGOs as well as non-profits focused on domestic issues deepens students’ understanding of global-local development linkages. The Emory MDP Program recognizes that vulnerability, marginality, poverty, and injustice are not phenomena that only affect people in distant parts of the world. Rather, they are deeply connected with processes and realities that manifest themselves in the United States. Such breadth also helps students determine how development practice differs depending on the organization' size, type, and focus.

In any given year, approximately 85-90% of MDP students engage in academic-year internships or assistantships. About 65-70% of these are paid positions, entailing a time commitments ranging from 10 to 20 hours per week. Students may also receive academic credits for these experiences.

Internship Highlights


Bianca Patel, MDP 2020

Bianca worked as the Community Engagement Program Analyst at The Nature Conservancy where she collected data and conducted an analysis of urban engagement and conservation efforts across 24 US cities. As the project lead, she developed the interview guide, conducted interviews with city leaders, and coded and analyzed the data.  As an integral part of the Community Engagement team, she: 1) compiled and shared tools, innovations, and best practices for equitable and sustained engagement, 2) informed and prioritized programmatic strategies, and 3) developed future community engagement plans.

This dynamic project was supervised by Emory MDP Alumna, Myriam Dormer.  To learn more about their experience working together check out the MDP In The News story, What Is In Mentorship?  

Fiona Cooper, MDP 2020  

Fiona interned with the Knowledge Management and Learning team at CARE International, working to understand the different failures identified from their evaluations of their projects around the world.  As a part of the, team she updated and maintained the CARE internal database library and the external library by collecting and analyzing different '5 minutes of inspirations' and project briefs.

The Failures Project involved using MAXQDA to analyze the evaluations and organize them under a series of codes developed prior to the project. Then, they collected, coded, and analyzed the data to understand which failures were most common, which failures often came together, and how different regions were impacted by failures. With the support of Katie Pons (another MDP intern), she wrote a report and produced several podcasts centered on the learnings and how this information might be used in the future.

Mallory St. Claire, MDP 2019 

Mallory worked with Habitat for Humanity International, Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter as a Market Systems Intern her entire graduate school career.

She provided a lot of general support to the market systems HQ team, but mainly worked on drafting and editing different knowledge products (reports, etc.) that the team produced. She also helped them set up and roll out their market systems database, which is going to collect quantitative indicators around monitoring and results measurement for our different market systems programs worldwide. A big highlight of the internship was attending the SEEP conference in Washington D.C. last year with the team when she attended many sessions around market systems, economic development, and MEAL; you can read more about the experience here.

Melania Croce, MDP 2019

Melanie served as a Graduate Research Assistant at The Carter Center.  Drawing upon an extensive review of both scholarly and grey literature on Violence Against Women in Elections (VAWE,) Melania supported the Democracy Program's effort to design global research tools for quantitative and qualitative data collection on VAWE (i.e. key indicators, survey questionnaire, semi-structured in-depth interviews.) Given the complex, multifaceted, and sensitive nature of this phenomenon, incidents of violence, threat, and intimidation perpetrated against women during the electoral period are usually under-researched and under-reported. Thus, adopting a common framework of measurement would allow for stronger comparability of data across time and geographical areas, and would provide sound evidence to advocate for policy and legal changes.

Rebecca Spens, MDP 2019

Rebecca interned with the Youth Futures team at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC provides academic, vocational, and social support to refugee students at Clarkston High School, including social integration support, tutoring, academic counseling, and assistance with applications. Over the semester she focused on grant-maker research and grant writing to secure funding for the “Ready Set College!” program, a summer camp for refugee youth that aims to increase postsecondary enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. She also provided research to inform future grants supporting refugee youth in postsecondary education. The following semester she continued to research grant-makers for Youth Futures and supported preparations for “Ready Set College!” by launching a crowdfunding page and seeking out food donations.

“My experience at IRC has informed my career direction and improved my workplace skills. It’s fantastic to be surrounded by people working on such valuable and interesting projects!” remarks Rebecca.

Jessica Doanes, MDP 2018

Jessica completed a ten-month internship with the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) as a Humanitarian Mapping Intern where she mapped locations in Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean and assisted OTI and other organizations by locating relief effort routes in the Caribbean for Hurricane Matthew. She also hosted a “Humanitarian Mapping Crash Course” map-a-thon, in which she taught MDP students mapping techniques that may be helpful during their summer field practicums.

Reflecting on her experience Jessica said, “I enjoyed my experience as a Humanitarian Mapping Intern. I learned how to add spatial data to maps and complete open-source research validation. I also gained knowledge of mapping software, such as OpenStreet Maps, Java OpenStreet Maps, and QGIS. I recommend that interested students apply to the VSFS program in the future.”

Mia Nieves, MDP 2018

In 2017 Mia served as a graduate assistant (GA) for The Carter Center’s Hispaniola Initiative. The Carter Center, which works in 86 countries around the world, focuses its interventions on two areas: peace and justice, and public health. The program she focused on works with the Ministries of Health of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic to accelerate the elimination of malaria and lymphatic filariasis from the countries' shared island, Hispaniola, by the year 2020. As a graduate assistant for the project, Mia contributed to an arts-based health communication project as a component of the community engagement strategy for the malaria elimination work The Carter Center is accomplishing in Haiti.

Samantha Friedlander, MDP 2018

Samantha interned with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) during her first year with the MDP program. In her first semester with IRC, she served with the economic empowerment team, helping newly arrived refugees find jobs that matched their skill sets and needs. During the Spring semester, she worked with the adult education department, teaching an English Language and Civics class to adult learners.

“My time at IRC was tremendously beneficial to my growth, as I learned the joys and challenges of working for a large organization such as IRC and with refugees and immigrant populations. I enjoyed comparing my culture and traditions to those of my students and clients, and hearing about their daily triumphs and struggles as they adjusted to life in Atlanta. I got to try donuts from Benin, fufu from Togo, and eggplant dip from Afghanistan!”

Tim Rupnarain, MDP 2018

Tim Rupnarain was a Research and Policy Analyst Intern with the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) where he researched best practices in open data innovations from other cities that are making data publicly accessible, which improves not only government transparency and accountability but also citizen engagement and civic innovation. His work contributed to a comprehensive open data initiative which will improve collaboration between city staff, civic innovators, and residents, establishing an open data ecosystem fully reflective of the city’s gender, racial, and socioeconomic diversity.  

The mission of the Center for Civic Innovation is to address challenges of inequality gaps, lack of upward mobility, and historic low of trust and participation between people and government leaders by empowering people to shape the future of our city by designing local public policy from the ground up.  

Xin Li, MDP 2018

Xin interned with the General Board of Global Ministries for her 2017 practicum where she worked in Cambodia with their Community Health and Agricultural Development project. While in Cambodia, she designed an evaluation plan for the project and then carried out qualitative research with beneficiaries in six villages to inform a final evaluation report. She then presented the report at the Global Ministries 2017 annual conference. She continued working with Global Ministries the next semester, contributing to monitoring and evaluation projects across multiple sectors, including WASH, health, agriculture, and disaster relief. This included creating logical frameworks, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data, and making recommendations for future implementation. Xin said, spending a year with Global Ministries has allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of their programming”.