GEO - Community Practicum

Spend a quarter working for a community organization in the Chicago area while learning about the role of public intellectuals in civic life. Opportunities are available at the Chicago History Museum, the Field Museum, the Newberry Library, Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, City of Evanston Department of Health among others. We work with each student to find the placement that suits his or her individual needs. The program is open to all PhD students, and through the support of The Graduate School students can use one quarter of their NU Fellowship funding to participate in this program, which promotes a scholarship of engagement that creates partnerships between the university and the community to deepen knowledge and address the community’s needs.

The GEO Community Practicum provides interested graduate students with the opportunity to undertake a quarter-long, internship or field study in the overlapping areas of civic engagement, social justice, or community studies. Simultaneously, students will enroll in CFS 495: Civic Engagement and Graduate Education. The seminar will allow students to share their experiences at the work site as well as connect the practicum experience to their studies. Topics include the scope of civic action and public work, the nature of public scholarship, and the types of community-university partnerships. By its very nature the seminar is interdisciplinary, allowing students to make connections with peers in other departments. When appropriate, practicing public scholars are invited to discuss their work and career paths with the students and the class may make a site visit to one of the host organizations.

The seminar plus internship or field study is thus broadly designed to bring together a high-toned graduate seminar with an engaged learning experience and encourages graduate students to reflect intellectually on civic engagement while actually engaging some dimension of civic life in their internship or field study. It is fully expected that graduate students in the course of the seminar and internship will also expand their research interests and burgeoning expertise into areas of community and civic importance beyond purely academic ones. The practicum serve as structured opportunities for students to bring their expertise to bear on important community issues, and will position the students to become leaders in public policy and public service.

Please contact Heidi Gross (847-467-1821) at the Center with any questions you may have. Click here to download a flyer about the program.

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Who is eligible to apply?
The program is open to all Northwestern PhD students.

How many hours per week is the internship?
Typically students work between 15-32 hours per week. The exact number of hours can vary based upon the placement.

What organizations do you work with?
Between the Center for Civic Engagement and our partner Chicago Field Studies we have worked with hundreds of organizations in the Chicago area. For an incomplete list of the organizations click here.

Do I need to know which organization I want to work with before I apply?
No, we meet individually with each student to help her/him find a placement that will best match her/his interests.

I already have a relationship a community organization. Can I work with them for my practicum?
Yes, you can work with a community organization that you identify yourself.

How does participation in GEO affect my funding?
Through the support of The Graduate School students can use one quarter of their NU Fellowship funding to participate in the program. In addition, some departments will support students' participation in GEO by releasing them from departmental expectations (or decreasing responsibilities) for the quarter. GEO staff will work with you to help navigate these logistics with your home department.

What quarters will the GEO Community Practicum be offered?
Typically GEO will be offered during the Spring and Fall quarters.

How many students can participate the program each quarter?
Up to 12 students can be admitted into the program.

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Information for Host Institutions

The Graduate Engagement Opportunities (GEO) program is a ten-week academic internship program for Northwestern PhD students. Our community partners are what make this program a success. We welcome any feedback from continuing and new partners on how we can strengthen the program and further develop mutually beneficial relationships.

If you are interested in becoming a host institution, please send Heidi Gross(, 1813 Hinman, Evanston, IL 60208-4175) a brief description that describes your organization, the work or project for a student, the skills, knowledge and experiences you require or hope for from candidates and how the students should apply.

Click here to download an information sheet for host organizations.

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Internship Guidelines and Agreement

We ask that students and host organizations sign an internship agreement. To see the internship guidelines and a sample agreement click here.

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Online Application

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