Typical Fellowship Experience

The Fellows' experience begins with their selection in mid-January.  The Program advises successful candidates by email soon after the interviews.  Once they are selected, Payne Program staff work closely with the fellows to begin security and medical clearances and to facilitate their placement in an internship in Washington, DC during the summer and with a USAID Foreign Service Mentor.  Participation in the Payne Program is conditional upon successful completion of pre-employment procedures specified by USAID, including background investigations for a security clearance and medical examinations.

All new Fellows arrive in Washington in mid-May to participate in an orientation program that introduces them to the program and their USAID Foreign Service career. Fellows then begin domestic internships in Washington DC for approximately ten weeks.  In addition, the Fellows take part in various meetings at Howard University and trips to institutions involved in international development to learn more about foreign policy formulation and implementation.

They meet with USAID officials at many levels, as well as with representatives from other executive branch agencies, Capitol Hill, non-governmental organizations, and foreign diplomats.

They participate in activities to strengthen skills such as writing needed for their USAID Foreign Service careers. The Payne Program covers costs of travel, room and board and provides a stipend for the summer program.

In mid-August, the Fellows disperse to attend graduate school in approved programs throughout the United States. Fellows must obtain master's degrees in international affairs or a related subject, such as economics, development, history, political science, environmental studies, agriculture, public health, urban studies, public administration, or public policy.  They receive up to $52,000 annually in assistance for tuition, room, board, books and other related expenses. Some universities provide supplemental financial assistance to Payne Fellows. Other universities provide financial assistance on a case-by-case basis.

In the summer between their first and second years of graduate school, Payne Fellows participate in a 10-week overseas internship at a USAID Mission overseas. Each internship experience is different, with Fellows working on a variety of issues and projects in different sections of the Mission.  The internship provides them with hands-on knowledge of international development, conditions in specific countries, and the work and lifestyle of the USAID Foreign Service. It sharpens their professional focus and enhances their language and communication skills. The Payne Program provides a stipend for expenses for this internship.

Returning to the United States, Fellows complete their graduate work, maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.2 out of 4.0 throughout their period of study. Upon successful completion of the Payne Program and USAID entry requirements, Fellows receive an appointment to the USAID Foreign Service, with a required five years of service.


The Payne Fellowship, reflecting a collaborative effort between the U.S. Agency for International Development, Howard University, the U.S. Congress and universities nationwide, helps ensure a Foreign Service that represents the diversity of America and is second-to-none in its ability to promote U.S. interests throughout the world.