Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

International Professional Service Semester

What is the difference between IPSS, DPMI Plus, FMS, and the Independent Practicum?

So what is the difference between IPSS, DPMI Plus, FMS, and DPP Independent Practicum?

Hint--It's in the details. View matrix of semester-long opportunities.

When deciding whether to do IPSS, DPMI Plus, FMS, or the DPP Independent Practicum students should consider the following:

1) Which training program(s) should I complete?

The DPMI program provides participants with practical training in development project management, social entrepreneurship and strategic partnering, and facilitating participatory development. During the training, students learn new technologies used in the development field, work in teams representing various non-governmental organizations that are selected, ad hoc, during the program, and facilitate simulated trainings among their peers. By the end of the training, participants will have acquired a unique set of tools and techniques that they can apply in the field.

The IPSS pre-departure training covers organizational analysis, consulting techniques, technical skills, applied research design, and professional preparation and communication workshops.  January workshops are optional and taught by experienced practitioners. IPSS fellows present their final work to their peers during the final part of their internships and then meet remotely with a faculty panel for feedback. Projects can be done individually or in teams. 

The Frontier Market Scouts 10-day certificate training in social enterprise management and impact investing is offered in January and May/June each year. The training covers designing a business model, introduction to social enterprise and impact investing, scaling high-impact social enterprises, and social enterprise management and due dilligence. 

2) What is the difference in the application processes?

Application standards are approximately the same. All programs seek students who have at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA at the Institute. 

DPMI Plus participants should apply online a minimum three months prior to their desired start date. Dr. Levinger and Carolyn Meyer review all applications.

The IPSS application process is also online. Applications are due nearly a year in advance (in late March for the subsequent spring class). A limited second-round application process is open from August 1-October 31 for those receiving a job opportunity or interested in serving an existing IPSS organization that has a vacancy. Students who make it to the second round of the IPSS application process will be asked to complete a writing assignment in which they complete a problem analysis memorandum exercise. This exercise simulates a task that most IPSS students will need to complete while on assignment. IPLSP Director Carolyn Meyer and the GSIPM Dean review all applications.

Frontier Market Scout students should apply in the fall for January and February trainings and subsequent 2-12 month field program. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Scouts interested in the summer training and February-December field program should apply in the early spring.

3) Which faculty member would be most suited to supervise my field research?

All DPMI Plus projects are supervised by Dr. Beryl Levinger, the DPMI academic director.

During an IPSS assignment, fellows work with an academic mentor from GSIPM faculty to define and create their IPSS projects. Mentors are selected by the student or assigned by the IPSS program if no advisor is selected.

FMS students in the DPP program seeking academic credit for the field course and hoping to have it count towards their Capstone requirement must successfully complete the certificate training, secure a placement, and then register for either the DPP Independent Practicum (requires a faculty sponsor) or DPP Development Practicum course (completed remotely). FMS students from the MBA program should complete a MBA Proposal form to enroll in the FMS field course for academic credit. Many MIIS students complete the FMS field program for no credit. 

4) What are the deliverables for each of the programs? How are the deliverables graded?


The 2 or 3-week DPMI training is worth 3,4 or 6 units of credit (2-week version can be completed for 3 or 4 units; 3-week version can be completed for 3 or 6 units). The DPMI Plus field course is worth 6 units of credit and may fulfill the MPA capstone requirement and a seminar requirement. There is a $500 program fee for MIIS students to complete the domestic DPMI certificate training. International training costs usually include lodging so prices vary.

Training: Each week has a different set of deliverables that pertain to the type of work done that week. All students that wish to receive a certificate of completion for the DPMI program are required to submit a comprehensive development philosophy statement (waived for trainings abroad) that reflects on themes and concepts discussed during the three week training. Projects are reviewed on a pass-fail basis.

Field Course: Students should propose a deliverable(s) equivalent to roughly 270 hours (6-unit; half for MPA-IEM students in 3-unit course) of work for the DPMI Plus course by the third week of their internship. These deliverables should relate to the skills presented during the DPMI training (or in the DPP curriculum) and might include an indicator plan, core competency matrix, partnership strategy matrix, baseline survey, logical framework analysis, etc. Students will also need to complete a cover sheet for each deliverable and one case study report that includes a 1-2 page reflection. There is no program fee for the DPMI Plus field course, however, regular tuition fees apply.


The IPSS program includes five optional 1-unit professional skills workshops in January followed by a 6-unit capstone course from February-August. Students can earn an additional 1 unit in January through a consulting directed study with Dr. Beryl Levinger making 6 units in January possible. IPSS professional skills workshops are open to all MIIS students, but spots are reserved for IPSS fellows. The IPSS field course includes an applied project,  reflection paper, and taped presentation. Letter grades are assigned for the IPSS field course, but January workshops are evaluated on a Pass/Fail basis. There is not program fee for the January workshops, however regular tuition rates apply.


Training: MIIS students can take the FMS training for no credit or 1-6 units (5 workshops at 1 unit apiece and a 1-unit directed study option with Yuwei Shi). Completion of all workshops are required before completing a field assignment. MIIS students can take the FMS training as a certificate program for a program fee of $2,000 (some program fee scholarships available).

Field Program: Frontier Market Scouts field placements are for 2-12 months. Field placements start around July and February each year. MIIS students may take the training and complete the field program in a subsequent semester if approved by FMS team.

5) How much peer support and pre-departure preparation would I like to have prior to starting my professional service assignment?

DPMI Plus participants develop a strong set of professional contacts through the three-week, intensive training, although only a small percentage of participants from a specific training will be departing on DPMI Plus assignments at the same time. Students can stay in touch through email and social-networking sites.

IPSS January workshops have the added benefit of helping students build a peer support network prior to departing for their IPSS assignment.  IPSS brings together a group of peers working across a broad range of policy sectors, thereby giving students broader exposure to different policy fields. Most of the participants in the January IPSS workshops are also planning to complete an IPSS internship/job. IPSS fellows can earn extra credit by editing another fellow's work.

Frontier Market Scouts participate in a training that includes Scouts headed on assignments as well as those only participating in the training. Participants are exposed to a number of guest speakers and experts in the field. A majority of participants in this program are not current Institute students. 

6) When do I want to complete a professional service assignment?

DPMI Plus is offered spring, summer, and fall (or any combination of subsequent semesters) and can range in length from 3-9 months (May-January being the longest range). Some students completing DPMI Plus during the "summer semester" can graduate with 60 credits one season ahead of schedule if they take the maximum amount of credits offered for DPMI and DPMI Plus and are not required to return to Monterey. Regular tuition costs for 60 units (One degree program) apply. Note: financial aid is only awarded for four months (standard semester) or 3 months (summer semester) for DPMI Plus students. Participants choosing to complete an internship longer than four months should budget accordingly and not depend on financial aid to support themselves for month 5, 6, etc. Students may be able to register for 6 units in the summer and 6 units in the fall to lengthen their fellowship experience. DPMI Plus should be completed in your third or fourth semester.

IPSS is only offered January-August and lasts 4 -8 months. IPSS students are required to present their final project to a group of colleagues, tape this presentation and submit it to IPSS. The recorded presentation will be played for a group of faculty mentors as well as the fellow's IPSS research advisor in late August. The fellow will participate in a remote feedback session  with faculty after his or her presentation is shown. IPSS should be completed in your third or fourth semester. 

Frontier Market Scouts can complete field assignments February-July, July-August, or July-December (variable lengths may be accepted although six months is the norm). Students receive a minimum stipend of $250/month for up to six months.

7) What kind of practicum search approach do I prefer?

DPMI Plus assignments are most often secured by the student with document review and strategic support from their career adviser and the GSIPM Immersive Professional Learning and Special Programs Director. Certain DPMI Plus assignments are secured for students by DPMI staff if the student's internship interests match a contact of the DPMI Plus or career advising team. DPMI Plus staff work continually with students to ensure that an appropriate internship is secured and may contact an employer on behalf of the student to describe the DPMI Plus program and the student's credentials. DPMI Plus participants are expected to apply to relevant positions on their own as well.

Through the IPSS application process, students list his or her first, second, and third organization choice. IPSS staff and a fellow's career advisor provide organization contact hints and resources to empower the student in securing his or her IPSS organization. IPSS staff work continually with students to ensure that appropriate internship are secured, sometimes moving to a third or fourth organization choice.

Frontier Market Scouts are placed with social enterprises around the world (including the US). The placement matching process is managed by the FMS placement team, however, acceptance of the Scout's application and background by the partner social enterprise is required. Scouts are permitted to source their own placement for FMS. Placements are subject to review by FMS placement team.

Other Important Points to Consider:

  • DPMI Plus is best suited for MPA and IPD students interested in international development or IEP students specifically interested in working in a program management capacity for international conservation NGOs.
  • NPTS students prefer to do the IONP or IPSS program.
  • IPSS is better than DPMI Plus for students seeking internships at think-tanks.
  • FMS is open to MBA, MPA, IEP, and IPD students interested in social enterprise and impact investing. 
  • IPSS, DPMI Plus, and FMS field assignments can be paid and can be full-time jobs.
  • IPSS and DPMI Plus assignments should be full-time.
  • DPMI Plus assignments should be a minimum of 11 weeks with an organization that has at least three full-time, paid, staff members.
  • IPSS, DPMI Plus, and FMS assignments can be full-time jobs provided you are working in a position in your desired career field after graduation. In other words, you do not need to be on an internship.
  • The Independent Practicum requires a faculty sponsor, this is best suited for DPP students who don't want to do the DPMI training; can't go off campus in the spring for IPSS; or prefer to work with a specific instructor for his or her off-campus semester-long professional service practicum. It is the most self-directed of all the options and requires dilligence and strong communication and project planning on the part of the student.
  • The IPSS field project and DPP Independent Practicum course includes a deliverable is more all-encompassing than the DPMI Plus or FMS courses as projects range from a research paper to a monitoring and evaluation plan. DPMI Plus deliverables should focus on evaluation, strategic planning, or process improvement within an organization or project. FMS deliverables are unique in that they focus on some aspect of social entrepreneurship and often have a business focus.

For more information on DPMI Plus or IPSS contact cmeyer@miis.edu or your career adviser. For FMS contact Erina McWilliams-Lopez at emcwilliams@miis.edu. For Independent Practicum questions, contact Gael Meraud at gmeraud@miis.edu.

You can also visit http://go.miis.edu/dpmiplushttp://go.miis.edu/ipss, or http://go.miis.edu/fms.

What should I expect from the time I apply to when I start my service?

The IPSS Internship Search Plan gives a general overview of the process of looking for and securing a practicum opportunity for IPSS. 

Writing tests will be held in early April for all first round IPSS applicants. An additional writing test will be held in the fall for second round applicants. 

Accepted applicants will be invited to an orientation meeting in early May after they have received notification that they have been accepted to the program. Students will spend the early part of the summer updating career collateral, such as their resume and cover letter. Depending on the student’s organization, contact may start during the summer, although a majority of the communication with organizations will take place during the first three weeks of September.

The fall through January preceding the start of IPSS internships, students will maintain contact with their future supervisors and organizations and develop a Terms of Reference (work plan).

The OPTIONAL pre-departure training will take place in January.  Students will depart for their assignments in late January through early February.

Is there funding for the program?

Participating students pay tuition for one semester (12 credits) and in return receive faculty supervision of the academic offerings and assignments outlined above. In addition to tuition, students cover expenses of travel (including airfare), rent, and other living expenses.

Participating students may apply for a loan through the Institute's Office of Student Financial Planning for expected expenses while on assignment. Loans are approved by the Office of Student Financial Planning in consultation with the IPSS Director.

Organizations are asked to facilitate the locating of appropriate housing for the student, and any other assistance they deem appropriate.

IPSS Fellows are encouraged to apply for immersive learning scholarships. IPSS fellows may accept paid internships or consultancies as their IPSS assignments. Some past fellows have secured additional funding through family grants or travel scholarships outside of the Institute. Crowdfunding is also encouraged, for example through sites like Indiegogo or StartSomeGood.

For more thorough information, visit the IPSS Funding Information.

What types of positions are available?

There are positions available in many different fields of international policy. Please see the list of previous IPSS Participants and Participating Organizations to learn more about the types of positions available. It is also recommended that you meet with IPLSP Director Carolyn Meyer and/or your career advisor and faculty to brainstorm options. A list of openings sourced through IPSS will be sent to outgoing fellows by the end of September.

How do participants select an organization?

We recommend that students start their brainstorming process by reviewing organizations with which the Institute has an established relationship. Please see our list of organizations in the "participating organizations" section.

A student can work with IPSS faculty, staff, and career advisors to research potential IPSS organizations.

The focus of the work of the organization must be international or transnational. One of the key selection criteria is that the assignment fits the academic specialization and career interests of the participating student. Faculty and career advisors are available to assist in identifying an appropriate organization.

Participating students may wish to go to a specific region or country. The "language of work" in that organization/country may have a direct impact on whether a student is accepted into the program. Local NGOs and local/national branches of IGOs may require specific languages of work.

Students should also consider visa needs. Check with the relevant embassy websites for the countries in which organizations are located.

Who is eligible for IPSS?

This program is for highly motivated, academically prepared, and well qualified students who display exceptional commitment to their academic work and have proven interests in working at an international governmental or nongovernmental organization.

All students enrolled in the International Policy and Development, International Environmental Policy, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, and Public Administration graduate degree programs are eligible to apply.

Both international and U.S students are eligible. International students may be subject to certain visa requirements depending upon the assignment.

Tell me more about the field project and presentation...

IPSS fellows can participate in a 2 week January professional  training prior to departing for their assignments. These workshops will focus on:

  • High-Value Organizational Consulting
  • Designing and Evaluating Interventions
  • Applied Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis
  • Quantitative Data Analysis in a Professional Setting Using Excel
  • Social Media Tools: Managing and Leveraging Your Organization’s Message

Field Project

  • The cornerstone of the academic component of the program is an ambitious field project completed by IPSS fellows while on assignment.  The project should present value for their host organizations and help fellows apply and advance skills and expertise essential for their own career aspirations.  The fellows will benefit from peer feedback and mentor guidance while working on their field projects. 

Final Presentation

  • All IPSS fellows will present their work to their organization by August. Fellows will then present in a webinar format to MIIS faculty and staff in mid-August.
What materials are needed to apply?
  • Personal statement
  • Resume or CV
  • Degree Map (with planned coursework through graduation)
  • Completed application form including contact details for three organizations you might serve while on IPSS.
How many credits will I receive?

  • With successful completion of IPSS, students will receive up to 12 credits consisting of 0-6 credits for the January pre-departure training (with pass/no pass grade) and 6-credits (with a letter grade) for the field deliverables produced during the internship assignment.  
  • IPSS fellows can elect to take another course in January instead of the IPSS training. Fellows may also only take the 6-unit IPSS field course after discussing this option with their advisor.


When is IPSS offered?
  • IPSS is offered in the spring semester, with an optional 2-3 week pre-departure training taught in January and 4-6 months of on-site work with an international organization (February-July/August).  Students can only go on IPSS in their 3rd or 4th semester at the Institute.
How can I connect with past IPSS fellows?

Current IPSS fellows, IPSS alumni, and those interested in learning about the program can email ipss@miis.edu for more information.

If I am accepted to IPSS, what are my next steps?

All conditionally accepted students will be invited and are required to attend an orientation session in May (the year before the start of their IPSS assignment). At this meeting, IPSS faculty will explain academic requirements and the placement process.

Students must continue to demonstrate high academic achievement and completion of required coursework through the fall semester leading up to IPSS to maintain their status in this academic program.

Students will work on career documents such as resumes and personal statements during the summer prior to IPSS.