- Monthly stipend to assist with living expenses in New York City
- A furnished studio apartment within walking distance of Columbia University
- All tuition and fees for up to four courses at Columbia University
- Basic medical, dental and life insurance for the duration of the program
- Air travel to and from home country and any program-related activities
- Leadership development programming led by the Obama Foundation that will help scholars gain the real-world skills, tools and experiences to expand the impact of their work when they return home
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University brings together rising leaders from around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to challenges in their communities, countries and regions. Over the course of an academic year, the Obama Foundation Scholars will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills and to build new capacities and networks that will accelerate their impact in their home countries.
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. A cornerstone of the program includes a required course, which will run for the length of the academic year. Scholars will also have an opportunity to select and enroll in additional courses offered by Columbia University that are relevant to their specific field or values-based leadership, or that fill in gaps in their previous studies. Scholars will also participate in workshops to develop practical skills to enhance the impact of their work. Previous workshop topics include conflict management and resolution, public speaking, data analysis and interpretation, and resilience. The program also takes advantage of the unique opportunities that come with being at one of the world’s most important centers of research and with being in the City of New York. Throughout the year, Scholars will have opportunities to engage with thought leaders and practitioners from public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
In addition, Scholars participate in one-of-a-kind experiences led by the Obama Foundation, including robust networking, mentorship, service activities and values-based leadership development, offering them a chance to learn from some of the world’s most innovative leaders and to build connections with the Obama Foundation and with Obama Foundation Scholars at the University of Chicago.
Obama Foundation Scholars reside at Columbia World Projects, a new initiative that aims to systematically bring university research out into the world in the form of projects that will have a significant and lasting positive impact on people’s lives and will help guide the way to solutions to intractable problems, while additionally enriching research and scholarship. Scholars will participate in CWP activities during the academic year.
Upon completion of the program, Obama Foundation Scholars, empowered by their experience, return to the regions where they have been working and continue along a path of service. The purpose of the program is to help Obama Foundation Scholars take the connections and skills they acquire during the program and apply them for the benefit of their communities, countries, and regions. It is our expectation that Obama Foundation Scholars will remain engaged with the Obama Foundation after the conclusion of the program.
The application for the 2020-2021 Obama Foundation Scholars Program is now open. The application form along with a list of eligibility requirements and detailed application instructions are provided below. The deadline to submit your application is 12:00pm EST on December 13.
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University seeks rising 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
- 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, written and spoken)
- 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
A complete application, submitted entirely online, includes the following materials:
Complete online application form
Complete the online application form. The deadline to apply is 12:00pm EST on December 13.
The resume/curriculum vitae should be a chronological listing of your employment and academic history, and other significant activities, including any awards, publications, or other achievements․
Personal video statement
The personal video statement should be a short video (no longer than five minutes in length) introducing the applicant and their work to the selection committee. Applicants will upload their video statement to a video hosting service, like YouTube or Vimeo, and will include a link to their video in the online application. Additional information on the requirements for the personal video statement can be found in the online application.
Responses to short essay questions
The short essay questions help the selection committee understand the applicant’s work, their motivation and how the program fits into their career trajectory. Applicants will submit their essay questions in the online application.
Proof of English proficiency
Applicants whose native language is not English are required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language by submitting scores from one of three exams: The internet-based or paper-based exams of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); the International English Language Testing System (IELTS); or the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic). No other exams will be accepted.
This requirement is waived for applicants who:
- have completed an undergraduate degree – not a master’s or graduate degree – in a country where English is an official language;
- have previously taken the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE exams in the last five years and scored at or above the minimum requirement of 100 (TOEFL-IBT), 600 (TOEFL-PBT), 7.0 (IELTS), or 68 (PTE Academic). If applicants qualify for a waiver under this exception, they must upload a scanned copy of their score report to the online application to ensure their application is eligible for review. If they did not score at or above the required minimum or no longer have a copy of their old results, they must retake an English proficiency exam.
Please note that while applicants who received scores below the posted minimums may still apply, applications are not guaranteed to be reviewed.
Three letters of recommendation
Three letters of recommendation are required from individuals who are familiar with the applicant and the applicant’s work in an academic, professional or community service setting. Recommendations should directly address the applicant’s suitability for admission to the Obama Foundation Scholars Program. Recommendations should not be written by family members or friends.
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program is accepting applications for the 2020-2021 program until December 13. Please visit our application page for more information.