In 2017, Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib developed the idea for a new statewide fellowship program to give students access to study abroad and college support opportunities. Recognizing that many students in Washington state lack access to such opportunities, Lt. Governor Habib designed the Washington World Fellows program with equity at its core, connecting motivated students with the resources to help them flourish. The program is designed not only to give students an enhanced sense of global awareness through study abroad, but also to support students as they explore their postsecondary educational options.

Promoting international engagement and expanding access to college opportunities are central to the Lt. Governor's office mission, and the name "Washington World Fellows" was chosen to reflect this synergy.

To implement the program, the Office of the Lt. Governor initiated partnerships with key organizations throughout the state to ensure that the program is delivered equitably and at no cost to students.