Scholar Spotlight: Gabriela Galilea

October 24, 2019

Gabriela Galilea was a 2018-2019 Obama Foundation Scholar at Columbia University. Applications to join next year’s cohort are now open.

What have you been doing professionally since the program ended? How did the program affect that choice?

Since the program ended, I've been working with Columbia Professor Radhika Iyengar from the Earth Institute on a new exciting literacy project that involves Okimo, my startup. This project aims to improve literacy in the post-conflict state of Telangana, India which has the second worst rate of illiteracy among all Indian states: Only 66% of people can read. Through this partnership, I've learned about scaling up the deployment of our technology in other parts of the world besides Paraguay, my home country, and how we can come up with solutions to common challenges.

Gabriela Galilea, photo credit Daniel Byers

What personal and professional connections did you make in the program that you would not have made otherwise?

I would not have had the opportunity to work with Professor Iyengar and the Earth Institute if I wasn’t part of this program. This partnership is a game changer for the work I’m doing, and it provides validation. Also, thanks to the program, I met Professor Charles Lang from Teachers College and Professor Tian Zheng from the Data Science Institute. Through these connections, we started a collaboration that’s enabled their students to put their knowledge and skills in data science to work to help Okimo.


What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying to the program?

To not doubt for one second that this is the best opportunity you can pursue. It has completely changed my career. This is the opportunity to give your current work a boost to maximize your impact.


In five years, how do you think your career will have evolved because of the program?

The Obama Foundation and Columbia names are a credential that will always open doors. I think that in five, 10 and 15 years from now, it will still be an honor that will give my work visibility. It also makes me part of a family of people who will be there for me -- to inspire and help me to never give up and keep trying to make this world a better place.


What was your favorite experience during your time in New York, personally?

From the moment I set foot in New York and met with the other scholars, I felt that my life was about to change forever. I remember during the first day of orientation, we were told about the concept of the Alma Mater: The “nourishing mother” that the university would be for all of us and how, from now on, we would forever be part of the Columbia family. That made me feel like I belong.