Obama Foundation Scholars FAQ

Q: Who can apply for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program?

We are pleased to share that, for the first time, we are extending the application for the 2021-22 cohort of Obama Scholars at Columbia University to U.S. citizens and residents who are making significant contributions to their communities and or regions within the United States, in addition to seeking leaders from around the world. 

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University seeks rising leaders leaders from the United States and around the world  who meet the following criteria: 

  • Are emerging leaders who have made meaningful contributions to their field and are now at a “breakthrough moment” in their careers
  • Have a proven commitment to service and leadership within a community, region or country, 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
  • Are fluent in English (verbal, written, and spoken)
  • Have the ability and inclination to positively shape the future of their community
  • Have a demonstrated commitment to the Obama Foundation’s values: humility, integrity, inclusivity, stewardship, fearlessness, imagination, and teamwork

Since 2018, the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University has welcomed:

  • 34 rising leaders from 29 countries who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to challenges in their communities, countries, and regions
  • Scholars who were, on average, 35 years of age, with ages ranging from 25 to 45
  • Emerging institutional and movement leaders addressing a range of challenges, including strengthening governance, increasing access to high-quality healthcare, environmental sustainability, and promoting women’s rights and ending gender-based violence.

Q: Will the 2021-22 cohort of Columbia Scholars participate virtually or will they travel to and reside in New York for the academic year?

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program is fully virtual for the 2020-2021 academic year and Scholars have been participating in the program remotely from their home countries. The Obama Foundation and Columbia University will continue to monitor the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and we hope to hold the program on-site in New York City for the 2021-2022 academic year, if it is safe to do so. However, there is a possibility the program will be conducted remotely and Scholars will not reside in New York City.

Q: What program-related benefits will be covered?

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program covers the following costs:

  • A monthly stipend to assist with living expenses in New York City
  • A furnished studio apartment within walking distance of Columbia University, if the program is able to convene in-person
  • All tuition and fees for up to four courses at Columbia University
  • Basic medical, dental and life insurance for the duration of the program in New York City, if the program is able to convene in person
  • Air travel to and from home country and any program-related activities, if the program is able to convene in person

You can find more information on Columbia University Obama Foundation Scholars requirements, application timeline, and frequently asked questions here.