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GESI Summer 2021

Virtual Global Development in Action

The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) is offering a virtual rendition of its programming in lieu of canceled study abroad programs due to COVID-19. This is a unique hybrid opportunity to explore complex questions through coursework while simultaneously engaging in a meaningful internship—all in a completely virtual online setting.

Program highlights:

  • Earn two academic credits
  • Intern virtually with a community-based nonprofit
  • Learn about development in a global context
  • Gain experience collaborating with remote and global teams on project-based work, an increasingly important skill in a post-COVID world


You will earn two Northwestern credits through INTL ST 393-0: Development in a Global Context. This field studies course will use a flipped classroom model to help students build the skills necessary to operate ethically and reflexively in complex transnational work environments. In conjunction with a virtual internship with nonprofits and NGOs around the world, you will engage in real-time reflection and critical analysis of concepts like "participation" and cultural humility in development work. This course invites you to examine deep complexities within global structures, the impact of good intentions, and your role in a rapidly changing world. You should check with your major/minor and academic advisors to see how these credits might count for you. One unit of INTL_ST 393-0 may be applied towards the Weinberg College Distribution Requirements in Social and Behavioral Sciences (Area III).

The course schedule will include one day for synchronous engagement in small group activities and discussion and another day of lecture (can attend synchronously but will also be recorded for asynchronous viewing). During the Summer Quarter, the class time will be MW 9:00-11:30 AM and will follow a schedule of lectures on Mondays (asynchronous) and small group activities on Wednesdays (synchronous) during the 8-week summer session (June 21-August 15).

The course will be co-taught by Dr. Diego Arispe-Bazán, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Spanish & Portuguese, and Dr. Tim McLellan, Northwestern Buffett Postdoctoral Fellow. If you have questions about the academic structure of the course, you are encouraged to contact Dr. Arispe-Bazán and Dr. McLellan directly.

While the syllabus is finalized, it is subject to minor changes if needed. 


Diego Arispe-BazánDiego Arispe-Bazán, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Spanish & Portuguese

Diego researches Global North to Global South migration, internal migration in South America, and historical ideologies of Spanish colonization, from a linguistic and cultural anthropological framework. His work combines textual and ethnographic data and investigates the relationship between (post)colonialism, race, and identity.

Tim McLellanTim McLellan, Postdoctoral Fellow, Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Tim is a cultural anthropologist. His research investigates how funding organizations shape research practice and examines aspirations to democratize the sciences. He is currently writing a book based on 2 years of ethnographic fieldwork at an agroforestry research institute in southwest China.


You will be matched with a community-based nonprofit or NGO in one of nine countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Peru, Uganda, or Vietnam. As an intern, you will support your organization with various projects, using your academic background and skills to support your organization and the community's needs. 

The unpaid internship will include 15 hours per week. Some internships will include teams of 2-5 Northwestern students, while others will entail individual work. Within this time commitment are opportunities for supplemental learning such as cultural context or language classes.

Being accepted to GESI and committing to participate in the program means agreeing to work with a host organization that is expecting you. Please plan your participation seriously, as placements will be considered with students and hosts in mind.

Bolivia/Argentina Internships

  • Ability/disability
  • Environment
  • Habitat (WASH)
  • Public health (HIV prevention)
  • Youth programs
  • Urban agriculture
  • Requires Spanish-speaking ability

Costa Rica Internships

  • Arts
  • Business
  • Education
  • Environment/Ecotourism
  • Gender
  • Social and other media
  • Website design/management
  • Requires Spanish-speaking ability

Ecuador Internships

  • Intercultural education
  • Gender
  • Transformative justice
  • Food sovereignty
  • Community-based tourism
  • Digital storytelling
  • Activist research
  • Spanish and English options available

Ghana Internships

  • Children’s rights
  • Education
  • Economic empowerment
  • Grant Writing
  • Livelihood
  • Marketing
  • Research
  • Web creation/management
  • English-only options

Guatemala Internships

  • Environment
  • Human rights
  • Livelihood development
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Youth and education
  • Requires Spanish-speaking ability

Peru Internships

  • Renewable Energy
  • Ecosystem Restoration
  • Water and Sanitation
  • NGO management
  • Social enterprise creation
  • Research
  • English and Spanish options available

Uganda Internships

  • Environment
  • Engineering
  • Gender
  • Health (WASH)
  • Human rights
  • Microfinance/microenterprise/business
  • Women
  • Youth and education
  • English-only options

Vietnam Internships

  • Business development
  • Communications
  • Environment
  • Marketing, advertising
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Social and other media
  • Youth and education
  • English-only options

Student Testimonials

"GESI gave me the opportunity to connect the work I was doing hands-on with the theory and history behind development while deepening my understanding of cultural humility, ethical storytelling, and the complexities of NGOs." 
--Cindy Shou

"The GESI program has been incredibly insightful and eye-opening. I got to learn about the complex web of power structures in the international development world, and how that can manifest in unexpected places. The lectures have been interesting and engaging with in-class activities, discussions, and guest speakers. The internship was informative and meaningful. We get to see the inner-workings of a real-life, professional organization, and how our work can help support them in their endeavor." 
--Quan Pham

"Virtual GESI is a great window into the global sphere of NGO's and a great way to learn about, through first-hand involvement, another nation from your own home." 
--Sebastian Gomez-Parra

Time & Availability

All internships will require 15 hours per week. Each internship will vary in terms of the amount of live (synchronous) work time required (with Northwestern student teammates and/or host organization staff). Exact meeting times will be scheduled with site teams and host organizations once internship assignments are made. Most locations will require specific time availability to ensure synchronous meetings across time zone differences. Please be flexible in the process of determining common availability for internship meetings and workshops. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.   When are applications for the summer program due?

  • Applications for the summer offering of GESI 2021: Virtual Global Development in Action will be due on April 25. Apply Now!

2.   Who can take part in "virtual GESI"?

  • Virtual GESI is open to second, third, and fourth year undergraduate students from every major and minor.
  • Students who have completed their first full academic year (rising sophomores) at Northwestern can participate in the summer program.

3.   What are the application requirements?

  • All students must attend or view a recorded information session (also imbedded in the online application) as part of the application process.
  • If your GPA is below a 2.5, you will be asked follow-up questions within the application.

4.   How can the 2 credits for INTL_ST 393-0 be articulated?

  • WCAS students: One of two course credits may be counted toward the distribution requirement for social and behavioral sciences (Area III).
  • Global Health Studies students: The GHS program will allow virtual GESI to count for one required GHS elective credit toward the adjunct major or minor on a provisional basis through summer 2021.

5.   Is there a language requirement?

  • Internship placements in Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala require at least conversational Spanish ability.
  • Peru and Ecuador have internship options in both English and/or Spanish.
  • No other locations have a language requirement.

6.   Is there anything else applicants should keep in mind about applying for this program?

  • Strong applicants will demonstrate flexibility, curiosity, and a willingness to learn.
  • Once selected, students will be enrolled in this class through CAESAR by GLO staff.

7.  Will financial aid apply to virtual GESI?

  • Yes. If you receive financial aid during the academic year, financial aid may also be applied in the summer to the 2-credit virtual GESI program.
  • Any students who received a Gilman scholarship are able to apply this award to virtual GESI. 
  • Students can request a summer aid estimate from the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid at

8.   Is GESI repeatable across virtual and in-person versions of the program?

  • Evanston campus students who complete this course may also apply to in-person GESI in the future.
  • Additionally, Evanston campus students who have already completed in-person GESI are welcome to apply for the virtual program as an opportunity for sustained engagement. 
  • Repetition of course content and activities and will be minimal across different iterations of the program.

Other questions can be directed to