National deadline: January 20, 2015

Eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens.
  • Applicants must be seeking admission to enter graduate school in the fall of 2015 for a two-year program at a U.S. university.  They can be in the senior year of their undergraduate studies, graduating by June 2015, or they can be college graduates.
  • Applicants must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.2 or higher on a 4.0 scale at the time of application.

Award summary and conditions: The USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program seeks to attract outstanding young people who are interested in pursuing careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Payne Fellowship, which provides up to $90,000 in benefits over two years for graduate school, internships, and professional development activities, provides a unique pathway to the USAID Foreign Service. See homepage:
     The Payne Fellowship encourages the application of members of minority groups who have historically been underrepresented in international development careers and those with financial need.  The initiative is funded by USAID and administered by Howard University. Fellowship recipients can use the award to attend U.S. graduate programs throughout the country; they will join the USAID Foreign Service upon completion of the program, as long as they successfully complete the Payne Program and USAID entry requirements.

Program elements:

  • The Payne Fellowship Program will award two fellowships valued at $45,000 annually for a two-year program. Fellows who successfully complete the Payne Program and USAID Foreign Service entry requirements will receive appointments as Foreign Service Officers with the U.S. Agency for International Development. 
  • New Payne Fellows will participate in an orientation at Howard University in May, shortly after their selection. This orientation will familiarize the Fellows with all aspects of the fellowship and to enhance their understanding of, and skills for, international development careers.
  • Payne Fellows will participate in two summer internships.  The first, an internship working on international issues for a Member of Congress 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 will provide stipends, housing, and transportation.
  • Each Fellow will receive mentoring throughout the duration of the fellowship as well as during his/her early employment at USAID.
  • Fellows must obtain graduate degrees in international affairs or a related subject.  Studies in law do not satisfy this requirement.  Applicants apply to two-year graduate programs at U.S. universities simultaneously with their application to the Payne Program.
  • 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 three years of service as a USAID Foreign Service Officer.

A completed online application includes the following and can be found at:

  • Background Information (e.g., name, contact information, international travel).
  • A personal statement (in 600 words or less) that discusses the applicant's reasons for applying, interest in foreign affairs, commitment to pursue a USAID Foreign Service career and any relevant experience or information.
  • A statement (in 400 words or less) from the applicant that discusses his/her need for financial assistance to attend graduate school.
  • Two letters of recommendation: One from a faculty member who is well acquainted with the individual and one from a community leader or other individual who can comment on the applicant's non-academic accomplishments and his/her potential to serve as a USAID Foreign Service Officer.
         Note: In the online application, applicants will identify recommenders, who will be contacted by the program and asked to submit letters electronically.     
  • Proof of citizenship (birth certificate, passport, certificate of U.S. citizenship)
  • Student Aid Report (SAR), generated from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • GRE or GMAT Scores
  • Official Financial Aid Statement from your senior year, if you received financial aid.
  • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities the applicant has attended for credit.

Faculty representative:  Keith Raether

Selection process: The Payne selection panel will choose finalists by the end of February. The Payne Program staff will communicate decisions to both successful and unsuccessful applicants by the end of February.  Candidates selected for final consideration will be invited to Washington, D.C. for interviews and will prepare a writing sample in mid-March.  The program will pay the cost of accommodations and travel.  Offers will be made soon after the interviews are concluded.

Contact: Tessa Henry, Program Officer ( or for general questions: