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Why Columbia and the Obama foundation are looking for international fellows

The Obama Foundation wants to " inspire, empower, and connect the next generation of civic leaders". That includes those from abroad. Source: Shutterstock

If you’re a young social change-maker, have plans to meet the former president of the United States and plan to study at an Ivy League school, you’re in luck

According to The New York Times, the program – known as the  Obama Foundation Scholars program – at Columbia University will offer stipends and pay expenses for a group of 12 international fellows to study at the school’s new Manhattanville campus while participating in New York civic life.

“We are looking for emerging leaders who are at the tipping point of their career,” said Bernadette Meehan, Chief International Officer at the Obama Foundation.

“We expect them to be active in local organizations, and with service projects, and taking those lessons back with them.”

This year, 12 fellows have been selected for the fall intake from Asia, Africa, South America, South Asia and Europe for showing commitment to “finding practical solutions to complex challenges facing society”, according to the school’s website.

The impressive cohort includes the founder of a Singaporean nonprofit offering reusable menstrual pads to poor women, a co-founder of a Bulgarian foundation promoting digital tools for civic engagement and a Nigerian scholar running a company to improve government transparency.

Obama Foundation CEO David Simas describes these young leaders as “incredibly impressive” and looked forward to helping “support and scale” their work.

“When President Obama left office, he challenged us to believe — not in his ability to bring about change, but ours,” said Simas.

“Through our partnership with Columbia with this new Scholars program and through all of the Foundation’s work, we are living this call to action.”

Columbia is Obama’s alma mater, where as an undergraduate he majored in political science with an international relations focus. Source: Shutterstock

The scholars will be participating in a core seminar led by Columbia faculty running through the entire year as well as non-core seminar coursework which will provide Scholars with the flexibility to select one or two courses at Columbia.

Additionally, they will work with the Obama Foundation and Columbia World Projects to apply the best evidence-based academic research to develop and implement policy through an “experiential learning component”.

“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 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.”

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