Obama Foundation Welcomes 2022-2023 Class of Scholars at Columbia University and University of Chicago
August 30, 2022 10:00 AM
The Obama Foundation is proud to announce its fifth cohort of Obama Scholars, 30 emerging leaders from around the world who will study at either Columbia University or the University of Chicago for the 2022-2023 academic year. The Scholars will participate in a unique set of activities led by each academic institution and will jointly participate in Foundation-led leadership development programming that aims to provide training, networking activities, and individualized support as they work to expand their efforts after graduation. The Foundation’s programming will kick off on Thursday, September 15, at the University of Chicago.
“The Obama Scholars program provides students with the unique opportunity to give and gain insight into the work that fellow young leaders are driving in their communities, while speaking to the intersectionality of their efforts through collaboration,” said Obama Foundation Chief Executive Officer Valerie Jarrett. “We are eager to welcome the new cohort of Scholars to the Foundation family–a network of changemakers tirelessly working for a more equitable future.”
The newly expanded program at the University of Chicago will welcome 18 Scholars from across campus who are current students in their final year of study in a master’s program at either the Booth School of Business, the Harris School of Public Policy, or the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. As a part of the co-curricular programming, these Scholars will experience and examine how engaging with partners on the South Side of Chicago can lead to policies that help solve pervasive problems in communities across the globe.
“The University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars Program provides students with a unique opportunity to engage with communities across Chicago and the world,” said University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos. “Much like a University of Chicago education, the program’s interdisciplinary approach prepares emerging leaders to address our most complex problems.”
At Columbia University, 12 Obama Scholars will complete a nine-month residency with Columbia World Projects, an initiative that mobilizes the university’s faculty and researchers to work with governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and communities to create tangible solutions to real-world issues. This cohort will also participate in seminars, personal and professional development workshops, audited coursework, and other programming designed in consultation with the Foundation.
“It has been tremendously gratifying to witness the growth and evolution of this program over the last four years,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “The Obama Foundation Scholars have proven themselves to be an exceptionally talented group of people dedicated to addressing complex challenges in their communities and around the world. Our university community has been made richer by their engaged and forward-looking presence.”
The Obama Foundation Scholars program is designed to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and impactful across their global communities. Since its inception in 2018, the program has served 125 young leaders from 55 countries. The members of this year’s cohort are actively working to address many challenges and issue areas, including:
- Empowering victims of gender-based violence in Somaliland by providing access to legal services, medical, and psychosocial treatments.
- Championing restorative and transformative policy reform that supports healing for people and communities impacted by mass incarceration.
- Promoting democracy and human rights in Venezuela through grassroots mobilization, technology and increasing equitable access to water and energy.
- Building innovative vertical farming technology to improve food security and empower women to develop sustainable agricultural solutions for urban spaces.
To learn more about the program, please visit obama.org/scholars. A list of the 2022-2023 cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars can be found below.
Columbia University Obama Foundation Scholars
Amna Akhtar – United Kingdom
Co-Founder and Creative Director, GirlDreamer
Increasing access to opportunities for young women of color to support their professional and entrepreneurial development and increase representation for minority communities.
Jesús Armas – Venezuela
President, Ciudadanía Sin Límites
Promoting democracy and human rights in Venezuela through grassroots mobilization, technology and increasing equitable access to water and energy.
Dinara Auyelbekova – Kazakhstan
Founder and Director, Girls Power Fund
Designing and delivering innovative solutions to address gender inequality in rural Kazakhstan by promoting girls’ access to STEM education.
Kealohaku’ualohaku’upoki’i (Poki’i) Balaz – United States
Interim Executive Director, Lunalilo Home
Shaping the future of senior care and improving community health by engaging leaders, families, and neighbors to develop culturally appropriate continuums of care for the kupuna (elders and aging adults) of Hawaiʻi.
Allison Benson-Hernández – Colombia
Founder, Director and Principal Researcher, Re-imaginemos Action Research Center
Creating opportunities for Colombians to challenge inequality and reimagine the future of their country through collaborative conversation, research-based journalism, art, and media.
Teresa Buczkowska – Poland & Ireland
Integration Manager, Immigrant Council of Ireland
Mobilizing migrant communities to increase political participation, strengthen democracy, and support migrant voices in leadership roles.
Josue De Paz – Mexico & United States
CEO & Co-Founder, First Tech Fund
Supporting low-income youth to reach their full potential by providing access to technology, career mentorship, and skills training.
Wael Haffar Habbal – Syria & Greece
Community Leader and Director, The Syrian and Greek Youth Forum
Connecting refugees, migrants, and all Athenians living in Greece to gather, share experiences, and work together to create creative action for their communities.
Lilian Nakigozi – Uganda
Founder & CEO, Women Smiles Uganda
Building innovative vertical farming technology to improve food security and empower women to develop sustainable agricultural solutions for urban spaces.
Olusola Owonikoko – Nigeria
Executive Director, Stanforte Edge; Founder, Project Enable Africa
Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in workplaces and legislation to allow people with disabilities in Nigeria to fully participate in employment and civic life.
Jackson Rowland – New Zealand
Impact Investing Advocate; Former Director, Ākina Invest, Ākina Foundation
Growing New Zealand’s impact investing space to connect social impact businesses with capital and to encourage corporations and economic leaders to invest in social change.
Mustika Wijaya – Indonesia
Founder & Executive Director, Solar Chapter
Promoting sustainable community development by increasing access to water, sanitation, and education in rural communities across Indonesia.
University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars
Deqa Aden – Somaliland
Former Manager, Harhub
Empowering victims of gender-based violence in Somaliland by providing access to legal services, medical, and psychosocial treatments.
Chris Akel – Chicago, Illinois
Nurturing access to education and mental health counseling for youth leadership development in refugee, rural, and low-income Palestinian communities.
Olamide Babatunde – Chicago, Illinois
Former Director, Alumni Career Office, Noble Network of Charter Schools
Improving career opportunities for low-income youth and adults across Chicago.
Linda Flor Brito – Chicago, Illinois
Community Organizer, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos
Building collective resistance against the deportation and criminalization of immigrants and forcefully displaced communities.
Binh (Ben) Bui – Vietnam
Founding Member and Product Lead, Social Walk
Increasing educational opportunities for underserved learners through technology.
Christine Goggins – Chicago, Illinois
Lead Violence Recovery Specialist, University of Chicago Medical Center
Providing crisis intervention care to promote the comprehensive recovery of victims and families of intentional violence.
Noel Green – Chicago, Illinois
Student & Change Agent, Southside Health Advocacy Resource Partnership (S.H.A.R.P.)
Curating community-driven models of social change that foster liberation of marginalized groups from oppressive systems.
Ben Harris – Denver, Colorado
Former Health and Social Systems Strategic Advisor, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
Developing and supporting community-based service models for individuals with complex health and social needs.
Amanda Lee – Chicago, Illinois
Director of Practice Transformation, Access Community Health Network
Transforming health care delivery in the community health setting to advance health equity.
Orlando Mayorga – Chicago, Illinois
McCormick Reentry Policy Coordinator, Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative – Office of Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton
Championing restorative and transformative policy reform that supports healing for people and communities impacted by mass incarceration.
Heena Mohammed – United Kingdom
Former Policy Advisor, UK Government
Designing and improving equitable, community-based solutions to eliminating racial disparities in crime and policing policy.
Karem Muksed – Chicago, Illinois
Mental Health Professional and Refugee and Immigrant Advocate
Increasing mental health care access to refugees by focusing on services and trauma informed practices.
Omotunde Odedeyi, Nigeria
Bridging the opportunity gap for young Nigerians through mentorship and entrepreneurial skills development.
Rebecca Silverman – Chicago, Illinois
Co-Founder, Rose Café
Promoting literacy, education, and peace in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago.
Nishit Shukla – India
Scaling impact of promising climate adaptation startups through climate finance solutions.
Lily Wang – Canada
Co-Founder & CEO, Demi
Building a healthier planet through sleek and convenient urban composting solutions to reduce food waste and encourage sustainable living habits.
DeKevious Wilson – Chicago, Illinois
Regional Manager, Youth Guidance – Becoming A Man Program (BAM)
Fostering, supporting, and strengthening resources of urban communities through mental health advocacy and policy work.
Umama Zillur – Bangladesh
Founder and Director, Kotha
Addressing the root causes of gender based violence in Bangladesh and South Asia through advocacy and educational interventions.
Contact: Gloria Nlewedim, [email protected]