UChicago, Obama Foundation announce program for emerging leaders from around the world

Master's program at Harris and foundation-led activities to help leaders impact their communities

Obama with students
President Obama speaks with Chicago-area students during an April 2017 visit to the University of Chicago.
Photo by
Jean Lachat
Jeremy Manier
Assistant Vice President of CommunicationsUniversity Communications

The Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago on Feb. 28 announced the Obama Foundation Scholars Program, a new program at the Harris School of Public Policy to support the next generation of leaders making an impact on issues in their communities and around the world.

Students in the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Harris will pursue a master’s degree with an emphasis on international development and policy. Students also will participate in a range of leadership activities outside the classroom led by the Obama Foundation. Some of these foundation activities will include experiences throughout Chicago and the South Side. By engaging with the local community, students will have the opportunity to complement what they learn in the classroom and also to bring their unique perspectives to Chicago.

The program will provide rising leaders from across the globe with the skills, tools and experiences to expand the impact of their work at home. It will build relationships that reach across issues and borders, and build a global network that is committed to working together on solutions to address the most pressing challenges of our time.

The program will begin in the fall of 2018, and applications for the inaugural class of scholars are due April 10.

“This will be an impactful opportunity for emerging leaders from across the globe,” said Daniel Diermeier, provost of the University of Chicago and the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor at Harris. “Harris is known for educating leaders using rigorous, evidence-based approaches to confront the world’s most pressing problems. The Obama Foundation will provide unique and innovative opportunities to apply that learning outside the classroom and to build a global network. The result is a program that will equip a new generation of leaders to have a positive impact on a global scale.”

“The University of Chicago is where President and Mrs. Obama worked with students and future leaders for many years, so the opportunity to establish a world-class program to train the next generation of leaders there is particularly exciting for them personally,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation. “The Obama Foundation is committed to inspiring and empowering emerging leaders around the world, and Harris has extraordinary resources to help young people gain new skills that will help them promote positive change. We look forward to working with Harris and to providing foundation-led programming to help these leaders gain real-world skills, tools and experiences to expand the impact of their work at home.”

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program will provide full scholarships and stipends for living expenses to approximately 25 students in its first year. The program will aim to attract individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, including community leaders, entrepreneurs and people in public service. Candidates for the program will be selected based on the work they are already doing on an issue of local or global importance and their demonstrated dedication to making a meaningful contribution to that issue and their community. The skills they develop and experiences they have as Obama Foundation Scholars will accelerate their progress and help take their work to the next level.

The Obama Foundation’s mission is to inspire, empower and connect the next generation of civic leaders. In the last year, the Obama Foundation hosted a global summit in Chicago, training days in Boston, Chicago and Tempe for local young leaders, and events with emerging leaders in Brazil, Indonesia, Germany and India. The Obama Foundation is developing the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side.

Applicants who are selected for the scholars program will join Harris’ diverse community, including alumni representing 36 countries. The students will study with leading academics from Harris and across UChicago in such fields as international development, economics and global conflict.

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome a new cohort of rising international leaders to our growing Harris community,” said Katherine Baicker, dean of Harris and the Emmett Dedmon Professor. “What unites our faculty, students and alumni is a desire to effect change on a global scale, using today’s best science to improve policy and improve lives. At a time of great and urgent need for policy innovation, ours is a home for new data-driven solutions to international policy issues across sectors and around the world.”

Students who wish to apply by the April 10 deadline can learn more about the program on Harris’ website at harris.uchicago.edu/obama-scholars. More information can be found on the Obama Foundation website at obama.org/scholars.