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The Obama Foundation Scholars program will give rising leaders from the United States and around the world who are already making a difference in their communities the opportunity to take their work to the next level through an immersive curriculum that brings together academic, skills-based, and hands-on learning.

The Scholars program at Columbia University and the University of Chicago empowers individuals with a proven commitment to service with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective, to identify innovative solutions to complex global problems, and promote change through values-based leadership.

The program will build lasting relationships among emerging leaders who are committed to working together to solve the most pressing challenges of our time, thereby creating a global network that reaches across issues and borders. After completing the program, Obama Foundation Scholars will:

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  • Return to work on their global issue of focus and implement their personalized action plan to accelerate positive change within their community.
  •  Have an opportunity to play a role in the Obama Foundation’s efforts to inspire, empower, and connect rising leaders from around the globe.

You can get to know our previous classes of Obama Foundation Scholars and see highlights from their time together here.

ABOUT THE SCHOLARS PROGRAM

The Obama Foundation offers a robust curriculum of leadership development, training, networking activities, and customized support throughout the academic year to help the Obama Scholars gain the real-world skills, tools, and experiences they need to expand the impact of their work when they return home. These experiences allow Scholars to gain insights from high-level leaders across sectors and from the wealth of knowledge across the network of Obama Foundation program participants while planning the way they’d like to reinvest their new skills, networks, and knowledge after they graduate from the program.

Foundation-led activities include both cohorts of Scholars, based at UChicago and Columbia, with the aim of creating a broader global community of practice for shared learning to both inform Scholars’ approaches to their own work and accelerate that work as they return to their communities after graduation. Each cohort’s experience is tailored to tap into the rich research ecosystems of these two world-class institutions and the cities where they are based, providing unique and immersive learning opportunities for Scholars in Chicago and New York City.

Key components of the experience led by the Obama Foundation include:

  • An orientation program to welcome the cohort to the Obama Foundation community and a concluding graduation program to celebrate the cohort’s achievements and present their action plans.
  • Leadership Development Workshops and Conversations designed to improve Scholars’ ability to tell the story of their work, reflect and refine their leadership approach, and build sustained, personal resilience. Through a variety of virtual session formats, Scholars also hear about the innovative solutions coming from the Obama Foundation program participant alumni community and have conversations with high-level thought leaders across sectors.
  • Development and refinement of an action plan that draws on their experiences throughout the program, centered around their initiative of focus and their future vision for their work.
  • Connections across the growing alumni community, the Foundation facilitates direct connections between current Obama Scholars and prior cohorts, based on their issues of focus.
  • Tailored support including an executive coach and strategic communications and fundraising experts to aid Scholars in their action plan development, and their own progression over their leadership journey.

Columbia University

Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University will participate in Columbia World Projects, an initiative that mobilizes the university’s researchers and scholars to work with governments, organizations, businesses, and communities to create tangible solutions to real-world issues. The program will also take advantage of the unique opportunities for engagement that come with being at one of the world’s most important centers of research and residing in New York City.

Scholars participate in an immersive program that brings together academic, skills-based and experiential learning, designed by Columbia University in consultation with the Obama Foundation.

Key components of the program at Columbia University include:

  • A Weekly Seminar that runs the length of the academic year, exploring questions in tandem with key global trends including inequality, technological developments, the diffusion of power, population movements, and climate change.
  • Personal and Professional Development Workshops designed to strengthen practical skills to enhance Scholars’ ability to lead. Previous workshop topics, led by institutes and faculty from across Columbia, include conflict management and resolution, design thinking, public speaking, and data analysis and interpretation.
  • An Experiential Learning component that engages Scholars in the work of Columbia World Projects.
  • Audited Coursework that provides Scholars with the flexibility to select and enroll in up to two graduate level courses each semester at Columbia.
  • A Thought Leadership Speaker Series that introduces Scholars to seasoned practitioners from the NGO community, and philanthropic, governmental, and international organizations to expand Scholars’ networks and perspectives to help advance their work.
  • Partnership with a Columbia faculty adviser selected for their subject matter expertise to provide Scholars with new insights and perspectives to inform Scholars’ work.
  • Meaningful opportunities for Scholars to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus and gain exposure to different perspectives by engaging with the Columbia University community.

The application for the 2022-2023 Columbia University Obama Foundation Scholars Program is now open. Applications are due by December 22, 2021 at 5:00PM EST. You can learn more about the program and apply here!

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Scholars

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