The Obama Foundation Scholars Program

By Bernadette Meehan, International Programming

In the year since I started working at the Obama Foundation, our International Team has traveled to Germany, Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, China, and India to meet with hundreds of young leaders looking to create change in their communities. We met with leaders who are already making an impact and those who are interested in becoming more involved in their communities but aren’t sure how; students who have started their own organizations; and impassioned young people who want to change their world.

I have been so inspired by every one of these young leaders, and they have provided the impetus for the Obama Foundation to build programs and initiatives to support their work and dreams. Every day we ask: what do people on the brink of bringing about real change need to achieve their goals, and how can we help?

Today, we are excited to announce the creation of the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Chicago. This partnership will bring together emerging leaders from around the world and give them the opportunity to take their work to the next level through a newly designed curriculum that brings together academic, skills-based, and hands-on learning. The Scholars program will empower individuals that have 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 to promote change through values-based leadership.

These global Scholars will receive a full scholarship to study for one year at UChicago’s world-renowned Harris School of Public Policy, pursuing a Master of Arts in International Development and Policy. But the Obama Foundation Scholars won’t just be studying in the classroom. These rising leaders will participate in one-of-a-kind experiences designed and led by the Obama Foundation, from robust networking to values-based leadership development. And, as part of the Foundation’s pledge to bring the best and the brightest of the world to the South Side, the Scholars will actively engage with the South Side and broader Chicago community.

This program will help the Obama Foundation Scholars deepen their knowledge, skills, and networks so that they can accelerate their impact upon returning to their communities. The program will build lasting relationships among emerging leaders who are committed to working together to solve the most pressing challenges of our time, creating a global network that reaches across issues and borders. After completing the program, Scholars will return to their communities and we hope will play a role in the Obama Foundation’s efforts to inspire, train, and connect emerging leaders from around the world.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming an outstanding class of young people to Chicago’s South Side — the future home of the Obama Presidential Center. And we hope that each class of Obama Foundation Scholars begins a journey in which they inspire more young people to build the world as it should be.” 
—President Obama

We are thrilled to initiate the Obama Foundation Scholars program with the University of Chicago, a world-renowned academic institution that means so much to President and Mrs. Obama, and, we are excited to bring these leaders to the future home of the Obama Presidential Center. Visit to learn more about the Obama Foundation Scholars Program and how you can apply by the April 10, 2018 deadline!