The Obama Foundation Scholars Program
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University is accepting applications for the 2021–2022 program until February 5, 2021
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program will give rising leaders from the United States and around the world who are already making a difference in their communities the opportunity to take their work to the next level through an immersive curriculum that brings together academic, skills-based, and hands-on learning. The Scholars Program empowers individuals with 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 promote change through values-based leadership.
The program will build lasting relationships among emerging leaders who are committed to working together to solve the most pressing challenges of our time, thereby creating a global network that reaches across issues and borders. After completing the program, Obama Foundation Scholars will return to work on their global issue of focus and implement their personalized action plan to accelerate positive change within their community. They will also have an opportunity to play a role in the Obama Foundation’s efforts to inspire, train, and connect rising leaders from around the globe.
NOTE: While the hope is that the 2021-22 Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University will reside on-site in the City of New York, there is a possibility Scholars will participate in the program remotely from their home countries and communities, due to COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic to ensure it is safe for Scholars to travel to and reside in the City of New York.
Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University will participate in Columbia World Projects, an initiative that mobilizes the university’s researchers and scholars to work with governments, organizations, businesses, and communities to create tangible solutions to real-world issues. The program will also take advantage of the unique opportunities for engagement that come with being at one of the world’s most important centres of research and residing in New York City.
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University seeks rising leaders from around the world who meet the following criteria:
Are emerging leaders who have made meaningful contributions to their field and are now at a “breakthrough moment” in their careers
Have a proven commitment to service and leadership within a community, region or country, 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 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
Monthly stipend to assist with living expenses in New York City
A furnished studio apartment within walking distance of Columbia University, if the program is able to convene in person
All tuition and fees for up to four courses at Columbia University
Basic medical, dental and life insurance for the duration of the program in New York City, if the program is able to convene in person
Air travel to and from home country and any program-related activities, if the program is able to convene in person
A complete application, submitted entirely online, includes the following materials:
Complete online application form
Complete the online application form for the 2021-2022 Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University by February 5, 2021, at 5:00 PM ET. Any applications received after the deadline will not be considered.
The resume/curriculum vitae
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․
The personal video statement
The personal video statement should be a short video (no longer than three 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 four 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); the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic); or the Duolingo English Test (DET). 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, PTE Academic, or DET exams in the last five years and scored at or above the minimum requirement of 100 (TOEFL-IBT), 600 (TOEFL-PBT), 7.0 (IELTS), 68 (PTE Academic), or 120 (DET; 75 on the DET taken prior to July 2019). 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.
TOEFL – Internet-Based Exam: 100
TOEFL – Paper-Based Exam: 600
International English Language Testing System Academic: 7
Pearson Test of English Academic: 68
Duolingo English Test: 120 (75 on the exam taken prior to July 2019)
Please note that while applicants who received scores below the posted minimums may still apply, applications are not guaranteed to be reviewed.
Two letters of recommendation
Two 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.