API and Ohio University: Building Project-Based Internships

July 19, 2023
project-based internships


  • At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Opportunities (OGO) at Ohio University (OHIO) was forced to cancel all programs abroad. Every student returned home. 
  • The office could no longer support its campus-wide experiential education programs, an initiative called Experience Ohio, with study abroad programs. However, they still had funding earmarked to support international programming. Redirecting these funds to virtual experiences would support students while keeping global activities relevant at OHIO.
  • A need at the honors college was soon uncovered: Students could not fulfill a directive to participate in a program that incorporated service-learning, was internationally-focused, and based in experiential learning. 


Working in concert with both OGO and the honors college, API set out to build a large-scale, customized, project-based internship program. It fulfilled the honors program directive, provided additional program support to the OGO team, and gave the honors faculty supplementary course content.

Outcome & Benefits

  • Despite a campus full of grounded students, API and OHIO built a large-scale, customized project-based internship program. More than 100 students could virtually work on projects with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) across Latin America. 
  • Since 2021 the program has more than tripled, with 300 students working on more than 20 different projects.
  • Students who participated in the program have requested to continue working with the same organizations through independent virtual internships
  • With API’s support, OHIO was able to successfully keep an international presence in students’ course work. This was during a time when international mobility was highly limited.

Experience Ohio

Ohio University (OHIO) is dedicated to providing its student body of more than 25 thousand students with a holistic student story that weaves experiential education into every degree plan. This starts during a student’s first year at OHIO. At this time, they match with a success advisor. Together, the student and the advisor explore the students’ goals and career aspirations to create a path to success that incorporates experiential learning. 

Keely Davin, Associate Director of OGO, shared they support Experience Ohio by providing global experiences that make students successful. “Experiential Learning programming at OHIO allows students to explore, experience, and reflect on what they’ve achieved. This stair-stepped approach allows students to gradually wade deeper into content that may initially be intimidating or seem unattainable, like international travel.” 

Earmarked Funds

In the spring of 2020, the OGO had funding earmarked specifically for international programming for students. With COVID-19 grounding all students, Davin and her colleagues searched for creative opportunities to use these funds. 

Soon, they found the OHIO honors program had a first-year course requirement which incorporated service-learning, was internationally-focused, and based in community engagement. Her team set out to support the directive and provide experiential learning opportunities to this unique course. 

The API and Ohio University Partnership

For almost 15 years, API and OHIO partnered to support almost 900 study abroad students, of which more than 700 participated in customized programs. With this strong partnership as a foundation, Davin knew she could turn to API for help to fulfill the honors program’s requirement. 

“Like everyone else, we lost staff during the pandemic and the honors program was big,” Davin shared. “API helped manage the capacity running the project-based internships program. They supported our faculty from initial content development stages all the way through project support and student coaching on intercultural competencies such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. This wraparound support really helped to achieve learning objectives of the course in a concrete way.”

The program was initially launched fall 2021. During this time, 112 students met virtually with three NGOs across Latin America to create solutions to real-world problems facing each organization. Students collaborated with their classmates and faculty regularly in and outside the classroom, meeting with the NGOs three times to ensure they were on the right track. At the end of the semester, students presented their projects to the organizations virtually. To guide the program, API provided honors program faculty with supplementary, proprietary course work developed by API’s programming team. 

“When our honors program first worked with API, they were impressed with all the intercultural content and local staff interactions that were already built into the program,” said Davin.

Fall 2021: By the Numbers

  • 1 Honors Credit Hour
  • 3 Virtual Meetings throughout the semester
  • 3 NGOs across Latin America
  • 100+ students served
  • Projects ranged from social media support to building a plan to attract more English volunteer teachers

After its inaugural run, API customized course content to meet the faculty’s interests and goals, while also giving the opportunities for real world experience.

The Pandemic and Beyond

Since the fall of 2021, the program ran in both spring semesters of 2022 and 2023 and expanded further into the OHIO Honors Tutorial College student population. During that time, enrollment tripled, with more than 300 students working on more than 20 different projects each semester. Students not only gained practical and real-world work experience, but they had an accessible experiential learning program. All of which met the honors college directive, despite ongoing travel limitations. 

As an outcome, students have gone on to do independent virtual internships with organizations who participated in the program. 

While reflecting on the program’s success, Davin shared, 

“Our goal has always been to build a scaffolded approach to international travel for students, and the Honors College was a great place to pilot that approach. A lot of Ohio University students have never left the state before or even been on an airplane. Even though we were grounded, the project-based internship program provided the opportunity for global perspectives to many who have never had that experience. Alongside API, we worked with professors in the honors college to embed project-based internships into their class. So, students could work alongside their peers with these global organizations.” 

With pandemic restrictions easing and travel returning, the program evolved to support new needs. The hope is that a virtual component of the program will always remain. In addition, groups of students will be able to work in-person with more NGOs in other parts of the world. 

“Overall, I just think it’s been a very collaborative process and API is easy to work with …they start with all the things you could need and you can pare back due to budget or curriculum requirements, but it’s flexible to your needs,” said Davin

Bring Project-Based Internships to Your Students!

API creates project-based internship programs to be flexible and accessible. Project-based internships are available as a core offering to students, and can be a fully customized program option or an add-on to an existing customized program. 

Interested in building your own project-based internship program API? Learn more about the API Value and our six-step customized program process now. 


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