Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program

Provides up to $96,000 to college seniors and graduates in support for graduate study leading to careers with USAID.

Payne Fellowship: At a Glance


  • U.S. Citizens
  • Fourth-year students and college graduates
  • Minimum GPA: 3.2
  • Intent to enter a two-year graduate program at a U.S. university

Selection Criteria:

  • Clear interest in a Foreign Service career at USAID
  • Strong academic background
  • Commitment to service
  • Leadership skills
  • Financial need for graduate school
  • Geographic, ethnic, gender, and social diversity
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Writing skills
  • Ability to overcome obstacles

Candidates for the Payne Fellowship can affirm the following statements:

  • I have a strong commitment to a USAID Foreign Service career.
  • I can demonstrate extracurricular, community, volunteer, or leadership experiences that would help me succeed in the USAID Foreign Service.
  • I possess adequate academic preparation for the chosen graduate program.
  • I can demonstrate the need for financial assistance to attendgraduate school.

Extensive Description

What is the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship? The Payne Fellowship is a program that aims to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The program supports Payne Fellows through two years of graduate study, internships, mentoring, and professional development activities. 

The U.S. Department of State is committed to promoting a workforce that reflects the rich diversity of America. Therefore, applicants should strive to reflect on their talents, experiences, perspectives and backgrounds broadly, including geographic region, rural, urban, religion, sexual orientation, disability, first generation student, immigrant origin etc. The application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service, women, and those with financial need is encouraged.

Fellowship Benefits: The program awards approximately 10 fellowships of up to $48,000 annually for a two year period for tuition, room, board, books and mandatory fees for completion of a two-year master’s degree that is approved by the Payne Program. This includes up to $22,000 per year for tuition and mandatory fees and an academic year stipend of $16,000. Fellows must obtain graduate degrees in international affairs, development, economics, history, political science, public administration, communications, public policy, business administration, foreign languages, agriculture, environmental sciences, or urban planning.

Internships and Mentoring: Fellows also participate in two internships. The first, an internship working on international issues in Washington, DC, will occur in the summer after being selected and before the first year of graduate study. The second will be an overseas internship in a USAID Mission that takes place during the summer between the first and second years of graduate study. The program provides support of up to $10,000 per summer. Each Fellow will receive mentoring throughout the duration of the fellowship as well as during his/her early employment at USAID.

Deadline Information

Deadline: Friday, November 4, 2022


Orientation: New Payne Fellows will participate in an orientation at Howard University in May, shortly after their selection. The purposes of this orientation are to familiarize the Fellows with all aspects of the fellowship and to enhance their understanding of, and skills for, international development careers.

Service: Fellows who successfully complete the Payne Program and USAID Foreign Service entry requirements will receive appointments as USAID Foreign Service Officers.  Each Payne Fellow who obtains a master’s degree is committed to a minimum of five years of service as a USAID Foreign Service Officer. Candidates who do not successfully complete the Payne Program and the subsequent five year service obligation may be subject to a reimbursement obligation.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Be a US citizen.
  • Seek admission to enter graduate school in the fall of 2023 for a two-year program at a U.S. university.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.2.

Application Process

A complete application includes the following:

  • Backrgound information
  • A personal statement (600 words)
  • A statement of financial need (400 words)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Student Aid Report 
  • GRE or GMAT Scores (optional)
  • Official Financial Aid Statement from senior year, if financial aid was received
  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended for credit

Preparing a Competitive Application: The program seeks individuals who show clear interest in a Foreign Service career at USAID, along with a strong academic background, a commitment to service, leadership skills, financial need for graduate school, diverse interests in areas such as international affairs and government, cultural sensitivity, writing skills, and an ability to overcome obstacles. A good application shows an applicant's unique motivations, experiences, accomplishments, and career goals. Please see application tips here.

UChicago Resources and Support: Please email Sandra Zupan to seek assistance with your application. Next, once you fully develop and write your essays set up a meeting with Sandra at least two weeks before the application deadlineDuring the meeting you will obtain detailed feedback and suggestions for further revisions.

For more information on this opportunity, please contact: 
Jenna Sarchio