South Africa

Internship Award


upclose of keybaord with a button that says human rights

Working in an organization that promotes human rights offers the opportunity for a life-changing experience, as you are engaged in the process of generating positive change. However, for many students, such an experience can be cost prohibitive as these types of internships are often unpaid. With funds from a generous San Diego area donor, the Center for Human Rights within the College of Arts & Letters at SDSU is able to provide awards to students who are accepted to an unpaid internship at a human rights organization.  Students may be eligible for awards between $1,000 - $2,000 during the fall or spring semester and up to $4,000 during summer (see Award Details).


  • Fall 2023 awards - Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023
  • Spring 2024 awards - Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024
  • Summer 2024 - Wednedday, April 10, 2024

Award and Application Details

student doing internship

Working in an organization that promotes human rights offers the opportunity for a  life-changing experience, as you are engaged in the process of generating positive change.  

The internship experience can help you gain a better idea of your own personal and professional goals, so that you can more clearly determine where your educational and professional future will lead.  Or it can help you appreciate the human rights dimensions of the profession you are interested in.

Whatever your path, the work will provide you with knowledge, skills, and other competencies that set your resume apart from others when applying for jobs as well as during interviews. Participating in an internship can teach you adaptability and flexibility in a way that cannot occur through reading or studying, help you develop the communication skills and gain the social understanding that enables you to make a positive impact on the world.

You may learn about different communities, human rights issues, understanding of policies and practices as well as systems in place that hinder the protection and enjoyment of human rights; workings of the international human rights system and the functioning of human rights organizations; or the work of promoting greater respect for human rights, whatever the profession.

You will be able to build your network and establish connections that may be important to you as you proceed with exploring future career paths.

United Nations Human Rights commission meeting




Both undergraduate and graduate students may apply for this award.  Students must also complete the internship for academic credit (either through an internship course in their major/minor or an independent study course).

What kind of internship is eligible? The Center for Human Rights looks to support students engaged in a human rights internship that provides the student with:

  • A significant amount of responsibility in projects, so that the experience allows you to gain a good understanding of the specific tasks that go into generating change, and/or
  • The opportunity to spend time in the field, working directly on specific projects to build competencies and abilities to make you more employable in the human rights sector and beyond.

Organizations engage in a range of different types of work that serve the protection of human rights. 

For those interested in exploring a career in the field of human rights (including human rights or civil rights law), you might seek an internship that allows you to:

  • Engage in hands-on training, such as advocacy, civil rights litigation, community organizing or;
  • Work directly with at-risk individuals, interviewing and reporting, researching previous cases, assisting with legal support or;
  • Help plan conferences or workshops, visit shelters or support centers in communities of focus, arrange presentations, leading educational outreach, directly assist with establishing programs in a community, provide other organizational support.

Some of you may not be interested in a career in human rights advocacy specifically, but are concerned that your work is meaningful and has a positive impact on society.  Human rights-serving organizations seek students from various backgrounds to support a range of different work to keep the organization going, such as technical website support, social work, accounting, etc.  For example, the Business and Human Rights Resource Center and the Education Project seek students interested in those fields;   Survivors of Torture International seek students in social work and with technical skills for their website and media; and there are many other organizations that seek those trained in psychology, public health, economics, finance, etc.

Review a list of potential Human Rights Internship options.

Step 1) Secure an internship

Students must secure an internship placement on their own. However, to aid you in your search, we encourage you to review this list of Human Rights-oriented organizations and look up current information about internships that may be available. This list includes organizations in the San Diego area, in the State of California, within the United States, and in other countries, as well as those who offer remote internships.

Submit your applications to the organizations that interest you, or contact them about opportunities and how to go about applying.

It may also be possible to seek out an organization that has never hosted an intern and work with that organization to create an opportunity from scratch.

Step 2) Apply for the Center for Human Rights Internship Award

Once you have been accepted for an internship, complete the online application linked below. There are several short answer questions where you will provide information about the internship placement you have secured, as well as a brief statement about your interest in human rights and how the award will help you achieve your goals. 

Personal statement prompt: The definition of “human rights” is constantly under debate.  Strong applications do not just define the problem in terms of human rights, but also conceive of the solution in a human rights framework. Demonstrate that you have considered how the work you will be involved in will further the protection of human rights.

Application Deadlines:

  • Fall 2023 awards - Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023
  • Spring 2024 awards - Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024
  • Summer 2024 - Wednedday, April 10, 2024

Submit an application

In order to be eligible for the award, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an active/matriculated SDSU undergraduate or graduate student
  • Have a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA
  • Show proof of internship placement (email confirmation from organization will suffice)
  • Submit a complete online application and personal statement essay on or before application deadline

Award Details:

This is a competitive application process and there are a limited number of awards available. Selected students will be awarded between $1,000 - $4,000 to support their participation in an eligible Human Rights-oriented Internship.  Award amounts will be based on hours worked at internship placement: from $1,000 for 80 hours worked/semester or summer session to $2,000 for 160 hours worked/semester or summer session. Students participating in internships during the summer may be eligible for up to $4,000, depending on the number of hours they work, if they are not enrolled in more than three units per summer session.

Selected students will receive the funds at the start of the semester.

Please note that if you receive financial aid and/or student loans, you may not be eligible for this award or it may affect your financial aid package. Please contact the financial aid office before applying to determine if you are eligible to receive this award.