Celebrating the inaugural class of Obama Foundation Scholars

We’re thrilled to recognize and congratulate the first 37 graduates of the Obama Foundation Scholars program, and we are looking forward to seeing how they take their experiences back home and shape their world for the better!

About the Scholars Program


Obama Foundation Scholars at the University of Chicago earned a Master of Arts degree focused on International Development and Policy at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. In addition to classroom studies, the Obama Foundation offered a robust program of leadership development and service activities throughout the academic year to help Scholars gain the real-world skills, tools, and experiences to expand the impact of their work when they return home.

These included leadership development convenings; program experiences in New York and Washington, DC; speaker series with innovators across a variety of sectors; individual and group service projects; mentorship through the Obama Foundation network; potential internship placements; and action plan development for post-program activities.

You can learn more about the Obama Foundation Scholars at the University of Chicago here.

Meet the 2018-2019 Scholars at the University of Chicago

Mahmoud Abouelnaga


Technical team leader, CareForSEVEN
Intern, BioMerieux

Promoting sustainable energy development in the MENA region to decrease energy-related geopolitical conflicts.

Sassan Alexander Akhlaghi

Sweden, Iran

Political Advisor to the Prime Minister, Office of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven

Investing in increased equality and green jobs in Sweden through policy making.

Marianne Akumu


Fostering peaceful, just, and inclusive societies through transitional justice and conflict resolution programs for conflict affected communities, internally displaced people, and refugees in Uganda.

Mateus Donato Amorim de Araujo


Coordinator, Ministry of Social Development

Enabling poor families in remote areas of Brazil to safely and effectively receive benefits from a conditional cash transfer program.

Nelly Wakim Awad


Humanitarian, Researcher, and Writer

Assisting and empowering vulnerable populations of refugees, IDPs and host communities through projects in conflict areas and affected regions.

Ana Cristina Becerra Salas


Forest Engineer

Empowering vulnerable populations to be changemakers and achieve inclusive sustainable development.

Miriam Benitez Isidoro


Advisor, Sectorial Coordination for Academic Development at the Vice-Ministry of Upper Secondary Education, Ministry of Education

Increasing educational opportunities for young people from marginalized communities and forming a highly-trained teaching workforce.

Juliana Betancourt


Former Regional Liaison - Reintegration and Recruitment Prevention Program, USAID / International Organization for Migration (UN - IOM)

Promoting peacebuilding and ex-combatant reintegration for vulnerable groups in Meta, Colombia.

Kimberly Brown

United States

Spearheading legal and policy reforms related to gender equality, children’s rights, and access to justice to support implementation of regional mechanisms and national constitutional frameworks, predominantly in East Africa.

Patricia Alyanna Esquivias (Trixie) Conlu


Consultant, Atkins Acuity

Enabling public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects to close the infrastructure gap and spur economic activity in the Philippines and other developing countries.

Collins Dadzie


Energy Modeler, ICF-Ghana, USAID Integrated Resource and Resilience Planning (IRRP) Project

Transforming Ghana’s power market by developing an Integrated Power Sector Master Plan and training emerging power sector leaders to lead ethically.

Bonaventure Dzekem


Founder, Keafon Health and Chief Medical Officer, HSPC-Cameroon

Improving access to healthcare through community-centric health insurance schemes and online healthcare delivery in Cameroon.

Rahmatullah Hamraz


Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the Peace and Reconciliation of Afghanistan (PRA), Ministry of Finance

Combating hostility and armed insurgency in Afghanistan by working with local communities to conduct intergroup dialogues and empowerment projects.

Sri Andini Handayani


Former Associate for Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation, Center on Child Protection & Wellbeing (PUSKAPA)

Enabling data-driven policy formulation through research and policy advocacy in Indonesia.

Sebastian Hernandez

Nicaragua, Colombia

Associated Researcher at Centro de Análisis Socioculturales, Universidad Centroamericana
Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Applied Economics, Universidad Centroamericana

Combating economic inequality in Nicaragua through academic research and collaboration with poor communities on infrastructure, education, and household finance projects.

John Hiu Fai Mak

Hong Kong, Myanmar

Co-founder, MM Community

Promoting inclusive development by reinventing the planning process with crowdfunding technology, participatory budgeting, and reduced-interest government bonds.

Mario Mazic


Program Board President, Youth Initiative for Human Rights Croatia
Secretary General, European Grassroots Antiracist Movement

Promoting reconciliation, justice, democracy, and human rights in countries of former Yugoslavia.

Juan Carlos Monterrey Gómez


Working to empower youth, indigenous, and rural communities impacted by sea level rise.

Joshua Nassari


Member of Parliament, National Assembly of Tanzania

Championing good governance and ethical leadership as a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Tanzania.

Stanley Ndambakuwa

Zimbabwe, South Africa

Founder & CEO, African Community Fund for Education Group
Chairman, African Community Fund for Education Canada

Promoting girls education by funding educational and leadership development programs for the disadvantaged in marginalized communities and launching an international campaign on the importance of girls education.

Lan Nguyen


Independent Consultant

Strengthening local economic governance in Vietnam.

Edem Ossai


Founder and Executive Director, Mentoring Assistance for Youths and Entrepreneurs Initiative

Empowering young Nigerians to become civic leaders through a mobile library, community dialogues on girls education, and active citizenship training.

Nazish Tariq Rahmani


Research Officer - National Assembly of Pakistan

Creating a difference through research, better policies, and effective implementation.

Pearl Ranna


Managing Director, Unitech Farming

Training women in rural and urban areas on sustainable farming practices and connecting agricultural youth leaders for training, mentoring, and cooperation.

Fatima Zaman

United Kingdom

Policy Advisor and Private Secretary, Her Majesty's Government
Countering Violent Extremism Advocate, Kofi Annan Foundation

Empowering a global network of activists to counter violent extremism worldwide with counter narratives, positive alternatives, and stories of peace.

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Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University participated in Columbia World Projects, a new initiative in which faculty and researchers from Columbia partner with governments, nonprofits, the private sector, and intergovernmental organizations to create tangible solutions to real-world issues. The inaugural cohort at Columbia University participated in a rigorous, immersive program that brings together academic, skills-based, and experiential learning, designed by Columbia University in consultation with the Obama Foundation. 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 in the city of New York.

You can learn more about the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University here.

Meet the 2018-2019 Scholars at Columbia University

Alice Barbe


CEO and Co-founder, SINGA France

Fostering collaboration between refugees and their host societies by focusing on refugees’ personal, professional, cultural, and entrepreneurial plans and goals.

Rumbidzai Chisenga

South Africa, Zimbabwe

Program Manager, Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS)

Building the capacity of African youth to lead the continent’s social and economic progress.

Gabriela Galilea


CEO and Founder, Okimo Vision Ltd.

Democratizing access to visual health and inclusive education through the creation of tools that help diagnose and treat visual and development conditions at a fraction of the current market price.

Ana Maria Gonzalez-Forero


Chief Sustainability Officer, Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional (FEM)

Enabling inclusive development in Colombia through participatory planning and design processes that allow diverse stakeholders to find shared fulfillment and mutual recognition in indigenous communities.

Hong Hoang


Founder and Executive Director, CHANGE

Mobilizing youth leaders to promote environmental preservation through communication, education, and community organizing toward a vision of a green and clean Vietnam protected by all people.

Omezzine Khelifa


Founder and CEO, Mobdiun – Creative Youth

Inspiring youth to become peaceful and creative change leaders in Tunisia and throughout Africa.

Pavel Kounchev


Co-founder and Managing Director, Time Heroes Foundation
Co-founder and Chair of the Board, Fine Acts Foundation

Developing creative solutions and digital tools to inspire civic engagement.

Peter Ndayihereje


Community Engagement Program Manager, Village Health Works

Improving community cohesion among people of all backgrounds by leveraging communal structures to improve health and economic outcomes.

Ndansi Elvis Nukam


Founder and President, Unite for Health Foundation

Improving access to basic health care in underserved communities in Cameroon.

Oluseun Onigbinde


Lead Partner, BudgIT

Working to simplify budgets and public finance documents to strengthen the capacity of citizens to hold governments accountable.

Vanessa Paranjothy


Co-founder, Freedom Cups

Changing mindsets and making periods a problem of the past by providing women in underprivileged communities with menstrual cups through a “buy one, give one” model.

Trisha Shetty


Founder and CEO, SheSays

Advancing sustainable development through a gender-sensitive and youth-centric approach.