Announced in February, the yearlong program is aimed at helping the next generation of civic leaders build their knowledge and expertise through an immersive curriculum of academic and experiential learning. Twelve rising social change makers from around the world will participate in the program, which includes a core seminar led by Columbia faculty, an experiential learning component focused on policy development and implementation, and non-core seminar coursework of the scholars' choice. The experiential component will involve Columbia World Projects, a new initiative designed to apply the best evidence-based academic research to the creation and application of practical solutions to real-world challenges, complemented by robust networking, mentoring, service activities, and values-based leadership development. Participants in the program also will have the opportunity to interact with the Obama Foundation Scholars cohort based at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.
The first class of scholars includes Alice Barbe, CEO and co-founder of SINGA France (France), who is working to foster collaboration between refugees and their host societies; Rumbidzai Chisenga, program manager at the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) (South Africa / Zimbabwe), who is focused on building the capacity of African youth to advance social and economic progress on the continent; Gabriela Galilea, CEO and founder of Okimo Vision Ltd. (Paraguay), who aims to democratize access to visual health and inclusive education; Ana Maria Gonzalez-Forero, chief sustainability officer at Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional (Colombia), who is focused on enabling inclusive development through participatory planning and design processes that engage indigenous communities; Hong Hoang, founder and executive director, CHANGE (Vietnam), who is mobilizing youth leaders to promote environmental preservation; and Omezzine Khelifa, founder and CEO of Mobdiun – Creative Youth (Tunisia), who is working to inspire youth to become peaceful and creative change leaders in both Tunisia and across Africa.
The other scholars are Pavel Kounchev, co-founder and managing director of the Time Heroes Foundation and co-founder and board chair of the Fine Acts Foundation (Bulgaria), who is developing creative solutions and digital tools to inspire civic engagement; Peter Ndayihereje, community engagement program manager at Village Health Works (Burundi), who hopes to improve community cohesion among people of all backgrounds by leveraging communal structures to improve health and economic outcomes; Ndansi Elvis Nukam, founder and president of Unite for Health Foundation (Cameroon), who is focused on improving access to basic health care in underserved communities; Oluseun Onigbinde, lead partner of BudgIT (Nigeria), who is working to simplify budgets and public finance documents to strengthen the capacity of citizens to hold governments accountable; Vanessa Paranjothy, co-founder of Freedom Cups (Singapore), who is providing women in underprivileged communities with safe menstruation sanitation; and Trisha Shetty, founder and CEO of SheSays (India), who is focused on advancing sustainable development through a gender-sensitive and youth-centric approach.
"Generations of Columbia students, including President Obama, know from first-hand experience that our campus and the great, global city that is our New York home provide a unique classroom for engaging the world and addressing the problems facing society," said Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger. "We are proud to be a partner with the Obama Foundation in launching the Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia to advance our shared mission of developing leaders who are not only dedicated to making a difference, but also have the intellectual and practical skills to turn their ideas into action."
(Photo credit: Pete Souza/Columbia University)