GEO - Community Practicum

About the Program
The Graduate Engagement Opportunities (GEO) encourages grad students to connect theory and practice through a quarter-long internship with a community organization and a graduate seminar on engaged scholarship.

The Practicum
The experiential component of the GEO program is a 10-week work placement at a community organization. This placement serves as a structured opportunity for students to bring their expertise to bear on social issues, develop mutually beneficial community partnerships, and explore diverse careers.

“This community practicum has enabled me to connect locally with an organization that sees the utility and value of my graduate research.”
~ Matilda Stubbs, Anthropology

Some students applying to GEO already have specific institutions in mind, but this is by no means a requirement. Between the Center for Civic Engagement and Chicago Field Studies, GEO is connected to hundreds of organizations in Chicago and Evanston. Once admitted to the program, each student works one-on-one with GEO staff to secure a placement that matches his/her interests. Typically, students work 10-20 hours per week on a project they develop with their work supervisor. We have successfully placed students in humanities, STEM, and social sciences at all stages of doctoral study. To learn more about how Northwestern graduate students in the past benefitted from their experiences with GEO, see these grad student profiles: Justin & Alicia.

Past placements have included:

  • Appleseed Fund for Justice
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Asian Human Services
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • City of Evanston Office of Sustainability
  • Elevate Energy
  • Shared-Use Mobility Network
  • Street Level Youth Media

>> View a complete list of past placements.

The Course
The academic, credit-bearing component of GEO is CFS 495: Civic Engagement and Graduate Education. This faculty-led seminar allows students to connect experiences at their work site with their studies. Shared readings, along with guest speakers and site visits, foster discussion across disciplines. Topics may include theories and models of engaged scholarship, histories of civic engagement in Chicago, and case studies in community-university partnerships.
>> View a syllabus

“The seminar really helps you apply what you're experiencing to larger collective problems ... and meet like-minded people who're as interested as you are in making a change somewhere in the system.”
~Tanushree Vachharajani, English

Through the support of The Graduate School, students can use one quarter of their NU Fellowship funding to participate in GEO. In addition, some departments will support students' participation 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.

GEO is open to all PhD students at NU. Students enter GEO at all stages of doctoral study: some, in the early stages of research, use their practicum to conduct fieldwork or develop research methods; others, nearing graduation, use their practicum to gain work experience and professional contacts.  While PhD students are given priority, master’s students are welcome to apply and will be considered if space permits.

GEO is typically offered during the Spring quarter. Admission is capped at 12 students per quarter, and offered on a rolling basis. Students are encouraged to apply early for full consideration, and in order to maximize time for securing placements. Late applicants will be considered if space allows.

Please contact Ruth Curry at the Center for Civic Engagement with any questions you may have.

GEO Publications
To learn more about GEO’s innovative approach to graduate education, take a look at these publications by GEO founders and alumni:

back to top

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 consult the document below and contact Ruth Martin Curry at or (847) 467-2890

>> See information sheet for host organizations

back to top

Internship Guidelines and Agreement

We ask that students and host organizations sign an internship agreement.
>> View internship guidelines and a sample agreement

back to top

Online Application