- What are the eligibility criteria for the Obama Foundation Scholars program? add
The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University seeks rising leaders from the United States and 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 verbal, written, and spoken English
- 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
- Are U.S. citizens and residents eligible to apply? add
Yes. The Obama Foundation Scholars Program is designed for individuals with a history of and future commitment to living in and making significant contributions to communities, regions, and countries around the world.
- What is the time commitment for the program? add
The Obama Foundation Scholars program is a full-time program, running for the duration of the academic year from August through May. Prior to arriving in New York, Scholars will be asked to take part in some online activities, though these are not full-time commitments. In addition, Scholars will be expected to engage in various activities led by the Obama Foundation throughout the year. Upon returning to the countries and regions where they work at the conclusion of the program, Scholars will play a role in the broader international Obama Foundation network and participate in Obama Foundation activities.
- Can Scholars participate in one semester of the program rather than a full academic year? add
No. Scholars must commit to participating in the full program for the entire academic year.
- Can participants continue in current jobs while participating in the program? add
No. Scholars will not be permitted to continue their current job during their participation in the program. This is a full-time program in which active and engaged participation is key to creating a meaningful experience.
- Can Scholars participate in this program remotely? add
Scholars are expected to reside in New York City for the academic year, if public health conditions allow Scholars to safely do so. The Obama Foundation and Columbia University will continue to monitor the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic as it plans for the 2021-2022 academic year.
- Will program commitments continue during holidays and breaks? add
Yes. During certain portions of breaks, Scholars will engage in program activities with Columbia World Projects and The Obama Foundation.
- When is the application available and when is the deadline? add
We are no longer accepting applications for the 2021-2022 cohort. Sign up for the Columbia World Projects newsletter to be notified when the 2022-2023 application becomes available.
- How does the application process work? add
Interested applicants must complete and submit an application through the Obama Foundation Scholars program online application system. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee.
- Is English proficiency required? add
Yes. Obama Foundation Scholars must be fluent in reading, writing, and speaking English. Scholars are expected to be able to read and comprehend complex texts, work in teams, give oral presentations, draft memos and reports, understand academic lectures, engage in classroom discussions, and build networks — all in English. 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); 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), 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.
- What does the program cover in terms of costs? add
The Obama Foundation Scholars program covers the following costs:
- 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
- Can my spouse/partner and/or children accompany me to New York City for this program? add
Applicants with spouses/partners and/or children are welcome to apply, but the Obama Foundation Scholars program will only cover costs associated with the Scholar and will not cover costs for family members or partners. Housing allowances and stipends are fixed at a single Scholar rate, and the program will provide assistance with obtaining visas for Scholars only. Additionally, family members will not be permitted to travel with Scholars on program-related trips throughout the year. The program will provide assistance for obtaining visas only to Scholars.
- Do I need to maintain any particular political affiliation to be selected as an Obama Foundation Scholar at Columbia University? add
No. The Obama Foundation Scholars program is a non-partisan, non-political program that is not affiliated with any political party or entity. We are looking for Scholars who will bring a diverse set of perspectives to the program.
- What will Obama Foundation Scholars study? add
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 is a weekly seminar, which runs 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 the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
- Can you explain what the Obama Foundation-led activities and requirements of the program will be? add
In addition to participating in the Columbia University-led elements of the program, Scholars are expected to engage in a unique set of activities led by the Obama Foundation in New York City, Chicago, and possibly other U.S. locations.
Scholars will also have the opportunity to lend their experience and expertise to Obama Foundation programs focused on training the next generation of leaders. Scholars will work with the Obama Foundation to tailor an action plan to remain engaged with the Foundation upon their return to their home countries or regions.
- Will Obama Foundation Scholars receive a degree for participating in this program? add
No, this is not a degree-granting program. Obama Foundation Scholars who complete the Columbia University program will receive a certificate of completion from the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University.
- Is the program appropriate for someone who already has a master’s degree? add
The program is appropriate for individuals from a variety of educational backgrounds and an undergraduate or master’s degree is not a prerequisite for consideration. At Columbia University, the Scholars will participate in a year-long, rigorous, immersive program that brings together academic, skills-based, and experiential learning, designed by Columbia University in consultation with the Obama Foundation.
The program provides individuals who have a proven commitment to service and leadership with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and give them the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to tackle real-world challenges. Scholars will also have the opportunity to build connections with a network of leading practitioners and rising global leaders, taking advantage of the unique opportunities for engagement that come with being in the City of New York.
- Do Scholars have to return to their country or region when the program is over? add
After completing the program, Scholars are expected to return to the country or region of the world where they have been working and continue along a path of service, either through a full-time job or volunteer activities.
- After completing the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia, will Scholars be able to stay connected with the Obama Foundation? add
Yes. Upon returning to their countries and regions, Scholars will become part of a lifelong Obama Foundation community with access to a deep network of support. Scholars will have the opportunity to continue to actively engage with the Obama Foundation as program alumni.
- I am running for public office, can I apply? add
No. Applicants who are running campaigns for public office during the program term do not meet the eligibility criteria to apply for the program, due to the Obama Foundation’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization registered in the United States. We encourage you to apply again in the future.