Smithsonian Affiliations Internship Opportunities

Leadership for Change Internship

The Summer 2024 application process will open in early January 2024. 

The Smithsonian and its Smithsonian Affiliates, in collaboration with the Emerson Collective Youth Collaborative and the George Washington University, will offer the Leadership for Change Internship to rising college sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are committed to helping communities, are passionate about social justice, and are driven to accelerate positive impact in our world.

Smithsonian Affiliations is committed to helping people across the globe understand the complexity and the nuances of our world by collaborating with a network of mission-aligned Affiliate organizations in this critical work. The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, and its network of Smithsonian Affiliates believe in the power of museums and cultural organizations to strengthen and transform our world. This change cannot happen without diversity—not just of race or ethnicity, but also of ideas, experience, and perspective.

This internship provides an opportunity for students to use their dedication to social justice, combined with their skills and life experience to support museums and cultural organizations in affecting change in our communities. Students will become museum advocates and explore new ways to bring museum content, resources, and expertise to communities near and far.

Internship opportunities will take place in person at a Smithsonian Affiliate organization or in Washington, D.C.

A Unique Internship Experience

Hear from intern alumni about why you should apply for the Leadership for Change Internship.

Internship Details

There are two (2) internship opportunities with the Smithsonian in Summer 2024. All internships will be 32 hours per week and take place June -August  2023 (exact dates to be determined). Students will receive a modest stipend, plus travel and housing assistance.

  • An experience with one of our Smithsonian Affiliate organizations across the U.S.
  • An experience with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Affiliate organization experience:
Students are matched with a Smithsonian Affiliate organization geographically near where they will be living during the summer. There are more than 200 Smithsonian Affiliates in nearly every state, plus Puerto Rico and Panama. NOTE- Not all Smithsonian Affiliates participate in this program. A list will be posted closer to the application deadline. Students will participate in hands-on activities, meet with and learn from Affiliate mentors, and participate in on-site enrichment activities.

Smithsonian experience in Washington, D.C.
Interns will spend 8 weeks at the Smithsonian* for a hands-on, in-person learning experience. Interns will work with a Smithsonian office, museum, center, library, or program. Not all Smithsonian units participate in this internship. A list will be posted closer to the application deadline.

Unlike many museum internships, applicants are not required to have museum experience, or even an intention of pursuing a museum career. The key qualification for Leadership for Change interns is that they are committed to helping communities, and passionate about social justice. Interns’ understanding of and commitment to social justice and leadership are strengthened through meaningful, hands-on projects as well as access to mentors and leaders in the field.

Projects typically focus on one or more of 4 core topic areas:

  • Women’s History
  • Climate Change
  • Race and Social Justice
  • The Changing American Narrative (including rural initiatives, immigration, education, civics, democracy, and other topics).

Interns may find placement and learning opportunities in:

  • Digital engagement
  • Educational equity and accessibility
  • Communications
  • International relations
  • Exhibition development
  • National and community outreach
  • Museum advocacy

Regardless of placement at an Affiliate or in Washington, D.C., all interns have the opportunity to network with the full Emerson Collective summer cohort. Interns will have access to the breadth and depth of Smithsonian and Affiliate resources, meet with Smithsonian leaders, and gain an understanding of how museums and cultural organizations are vital in providing platforms to discuss, understand, and solve some of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Interns will also be paired with a professional mentor through the ECYC Mentorship program, designed to develop leadership capacity and build professional networks.

Interns matched with a Smithsonian Affiliate organization must work with their assigned supervisor to find appropriate housing within commuting distance of the organization. If needed, funds for housing will be provided by Smithsonian Affiliations and added to the base stipend amount. Fund amounts are based on internship location, commuting distance, and need for housing (for example: if you are matched in your hometown and live at home, you will not receive housing funds but will receive commuting assistance).

Interns matched with the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.: Housing is provided in dorms at the George Washington University. While we strive for gender-inclusive housing, a student’s gender does play a role in determining their room and roommate assignment. In most cases, students are assigned roommates of the same gender identity. Students will receive a housing questionnaire which will help administrators assign roommates. Students opting to take advantage of the housing benefit must agree to follow all rules and regulations set forth by GW Summer Housing.

International students based in the U.S. are welcome to apply for this internship. Please note, if you are an international student considering an internship with the Smithsonian, there are some additional considerations regarding your participation in an internship. As a non-U.S. citizen, you will need to present proof of legal authorization to participate in your internship. In addition, your internship is contingent on approval from the Smithsonian Office of International Relations. Please review the information for international interns on the Smithsonian Office for Internship Programs website for more guidance.

This is an example of the type of information required to apply for this internship. This may change closer to the application opening date. Please check back for details. 

Required application material:

  • Resume
  • Cumulative GPA
  • Cover letter that includes answers to these questions:
    • Is this your first internship and/or first time working in an office setting? In either case, what do you hope to learn, and how will it apply to your future personal development and career goals?
    • What has your experience been with museums, science centers, and cultural institutions? How have they played a role, or why have they not played a role, in your personal or educational journey?
  • Learning Goals essay that addresses each of these questions. Each answer should be no more than 250 words.
    • Tell us your story. What experiences, ideas, thoughts, skills, talents, and/or adventures have shaped you?
    • How do you see yourself contributing to society in the future?
    • Tell us about a particular social justice issue that you have explored or would like to explore that speaks to your passions, professional or personal interests.

The Leadership for Change internship offers placements at Smithsonian Affiliate locations across the U.S. Organizations have not been selected for the 2024 internship program yet. You can see locations from 2023 on this Google Map here.

Smithsonian Staff, along with Interns, Fellows, and Research Associates are no longer required to be vaccinated. The Smithsonian is, and will continue to be, a mask-friendly institution and is committed to fostering an inclusive, safe, and supportive workplace.

  • Please note that in-person opportunities are subject to change based on CDC recommendations and Smithsonian and Affiliate policies related to COVID-19.
  • If you are assigned to a Smithsonian Affiliate organization, you must adhere to that organization’s COVID-19 policies and procedures.
  • If you stay in the provided GWU dorms, you must adhere to all GWU policies related to COVID-19.

Questions? Email