Apply to the Obama Foundation Scholars Program


August 28, 2018. Former US President Barack Obama welcomes the inaugural class of Obama Scholars to Chicago. Photo Credit: The Obama Foundation


Stanley Ndambakuwa is part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Scholars at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and his experiences so far are taking his work to the next level. From the diversified experiences inside the classroom, and engaging the world through out of the classroom activities. Learn more about his experiences, from his social media updates here.


Applications are now open for the next class of the Obama Foundation Scholars at the University of Chicago and Columbia University and we hope you’ll encourage qualified leaders to apply. The Scholars Program 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.


We’re seeking 20 Scholars at UChicago and 12 Scholars at Columbia University for this one-year residential experience. The 2019-2020 program will begin in August 2019 and conclude in June 2020. Scholars will receive a full scholarship to the University of Chicago or Columbia, including a stipend for living expenses. Leaders may apply to both programs.


Applications for the Scholars program at the University of Chicago are due on January 1, 2019 and qualified leaders can apply here. Applications for the Columbia University Scholars Program will close on February 3, 2019 and qualified leaders can apply here.


In addition to the classroom experience, the Obama Foundation will offer a robust curriculum of leadership development, networking activities, mentorship, and service activities throughout the academic year to help both cohorts of Obama Scholars gain the real-world skills, tools, and experiences they need to expand the impact of their work when they return home. The Scholars will have a chance to meet, collaborate, and build community with each other through convenings in Chicago, and Washington, DC over the course of their year-long program. Additional details on the two programs can be found below.


University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars Program

The cohort of Scholars based at University of Chicago will receive a Master of Arts in international Development and Policy degree from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy when they successfully complete the program. The application can be found here and will close on January 1, 2019.


The Obama Foundation Scholars at the University of Chicago will complete nine courses prior to graduating in June 2020. These classes will cover three categories: foundational skills for policy analysis, international development and policy, and electives. The three foundational courses in the fall cover data analytics, analytical politics, and economics. Scholars will then take a two-course sequence on international development and policy during their Winter and Spring terms with the first course addressing economic issues, and the second focused on political questions. Scholars at Harris will also have the option to select electives from among a wide range of courses in international development, governance, and leadership.


For the UChicago Program we’re seeking emerging leaders from around the world who meet the following criteria:

  • Significant work experience (typically 3-5 years or more) and professional accomplishments with a clear trajectory of increasing impact.

  • Demonstrated record of community service or working for the public good, either through a full-time professional role or significant engagement outside of primary employment.

  • Possess a clear focus on a global challenge or policy issue.

  • A clear commitment to return to and reinvest your new skills in your community after the program concludes.


Columbia University Obama Foundation Scholars Program The cohort of Scholars based at Columbia University will receive documentation from Columbia and the Obama Foundation in recognition of their successful completion of the program. At Columbia University, the Obama Foundation Scholars will participate in a core course developed by Columbia faculty, which will run for the academic year. Scholars will also have the ability to select a few courses offered by Columbia University, which will allow them to deepen existing areas of expertise or fill in gaps in their knowledge and skills. Additionally, these Scholars will have the opportunity to collaborate on the global issues and solutions being worked on and developed at Columbia World Projects and collaborate with cross sector experts on those initiatives. The application can be found here and will close on February 3, 2019.


For the Columbia University Program we’re seeking emerging leaders from around the world who meet the following criteria:

  • Have a proven commitment to service and leadership within a community, region, or country outside the United States, coupled with a demonstrated commitment to return to these communities following their completion of the Program and apply their enhanced training, skills, and connections on a long-term basis for the benefit of these communities going forward.

  • Are emerging leaders who have made meaningful contributions to their field and are now at a “tipping point” in their careers.

  • Are fluent in English (verbal and written).

  • Have the ability and inclination to positively shape the future of their community.

  • Have a demonstrated commitment to humility, integrity, inclusivity, stewardship, fearlessness, imagination, and teamwork.

Meet the inaugural class of Obama Scholars



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