Newest class of Obama Foundation Scholars announced

Harris Public Policy welcomes 20 students from around the globe into innovative program

The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Obama Foundation recently announced the second cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars, rising leaders from around the world who will study at Harris for the 2019-2020 academic year and participate in one-of-a-kind experiences led by the Obama Foundation.

Launched in 2018 in partnership with the University of Chicago and Columbia University, the Obama Foundation Scholars program aims to empower emerging leaders with a proven commitment to service with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and impactful upon their return home. The 20 scholars at Harris join 12 from Columbia University to comprise the latest cohort of 2019-2020 scholars.

The Obama Foundation Scholars at Harris Public Policy will join a robust community of students for the upcoming year pursuing a master of arts degree focused on international development and policy. The scholars will be trained to apply evidence-based, analytical tools and develop innovative practical policy approaches to address the world’s most pressing problems.

“We are delighted to welcome our second cohort of scholars and grateful for the Obama Foundation’s support in ensuring that promising leaders from across the globe have access to the world-class education and leadership opportunities they need to achieve their ambitious goals,” said Katherine Baicker, dean of Harris and the Emmett Dedmon Professor. “The Obama Foundation Scholars will enrich our vibrant community and bring diverse global perspectives to addressing the critical international development and policy questions facing the world.”

Outside the classroom, the scholars will have the chance to participate in experiences throughout Chicago, including on the South Side where the Foundation is located and where President Obama got his start in community organizing. By engaging with the local community, students will have the opportunity to complement what they learn in the classroom and also to share and exchange perspectives on service and change with local Chicago leaders.

“The inaugural class of scholars emerged more energized and capable of creating lasting change in their communities,” said Obama Foundation CEO David Simas. “They are one of the backbones of the Obama Foundation’s global ecosystem of young leaders, and we are inspired by the connections they have made and the work they will go on to do. We are eager to grow this international network of change-makers with our second cohort of scholars.”

The inaugural class scholars recently graduated from the program, and with the guidance of the Obama Foundation, have developed an action plan and approach which they are now taking back to their home regions to scale up their work and reinvest in their communities.

“The Obama Foundation Scholars are integral to our mission as a school and extend Harris’s long-standing commitment to preparing people eager to make a difference, addressing international development challenges in communities around the world,” said Christopher Blattman, the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at Harris and director of the MAIDP program.    

The incoming class of scholars who will enroll at Harris this fall are actively working to solve a diverse array of challenges, including:

  • Advocating to make public resources more friendly and inclusive to LGBTQ people in China;
  • Encouraging the growth of technology and innovation in Africa by providing pathways for youth to gain exposure to software development;
  • Working to close the water and sanitation gap in Peru by empowering rural communities and local governments with technical assistance and technology.

To learn more about the Obama Foundation Scholars program and meet the scholars for 2019-2020, visit

—Story first appeared on the Harris Public Policy website.