The University of Chicago and the Obama Foundation introduce the 2022-2023 University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars from the Harris School of Public Policy, the Booth School of Business, and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice:

University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars

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Deqa Aden

Deqa Aden

Somaliland | Former Manager, Harhub

Empowering victims of gender-based violence in Somaliland by providing access to legal services, medical, and psychosocial treatments.
Deqa Aden was recently a Manager at Harhub, a business incubator in Somaliland that creates jobs for vulnerable youth across the country through mentorship and grant investments. Deqa previously worked at the World Bank’s Finance Competitiveness and Innovation global practice, where she handled projects aimed at supporting fragile, conflict-affected countries with a focus on marginalized youth and women. Through these impact-driven investment projects, Deqa found her unwavering passion for working at the nexus between economics and gender-politics. In the near future, Deqa plans to establish a holistic advocacy center for victims of gender-based violence in memory of her late mother, Amran Abdi, a fierce advocate for education and women’s rights.

Deqa is pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. 

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Chris Akel

Chris Akel

Chicago, Illinois | Co-founder, Pathways

Nurturing access to education and mental health counseling for youth leadership development in refugee, rural, and low-income Palestinian communities.
Chris Akel is the co-founder of Pathways, an organization that serves to enhance English education, college access, and youth development for rural, refugee, and low-income communities in Palestine. Chris was previously a K-12 teacher and college counselor in both the United States and Palestine, and is currently transitioning to work in community-based mental health and therapy in the U.S. Through both avenues of prior experience, he seeks to support Pathways’ long-term vision to support broad access to counseling and mental health support for Palestinian youth by connecting the U.S. diaspora community and resources with those in the West Bank and Gaza.

Chris is pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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Olamide Babatunde

Olamide Babatunde

Chicago, Illinois | Former Director, Alumni Career Office, Noble Network of Charter Schools

Improving career opportunities for low-income youth and adults across Chicago.
Olamide Babatunde founded the Alumni Career Office at Noble Network of Charter Schools, an open enrollment, multi-campus public charter school network that predominantly serves low-income and first-generation college students throughout Chicago. Through that work, he improved the employment outcomes of over 17,500 Noble alumni from 41% to 80% within three years, surpassing the national average for all college graduates in the U.S. by 5%. The Alumni Career Office has since provided individual coaching to graduates, established recruiting pipelines with over 150 regional employers, and created paid internship programs that students can complete during college to boost their experience. 

Olamide is pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. 

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Linda Flor Brito

Linda Flor Brito

Chicago, Illinois | Community Organizer, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos

Building collective resistance against the deportation and criminalization of immigrants and forcefully displaced communities. 
Linda is a Community Organizer at Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, a community-led organization working at the intersection of labor and immigration on the Southeast side of Chicago. Linda organizes alongside community members to build collective power, lead campaigns, and develop educational training that promotes solidarity amongst immigrant workers. Linda previously worked in Washington, D.C. as a migrant justice organizer with the FreeThemAllVA Coalition and Sanctuary DMV to call for the abolition of the Prison-Industrial Complex. Linda also utilizes her poetry and the power of storytelling  as a tool of resistance and liberation.

Linda is pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

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Binh (Ben) Bui

Binh (Ben) Bui

Vietnam | Founding Member and Product Lead, Social Walk

Increasing educational opportunities for underserved learners through technology.
Binh (Ben) Bui was recently Head of the Teaching Assistant Team at the STEAM for Vietnam Foundation, a non-profit educational organization providing free Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics education in Vietnam. While there, he led, recruited, and built a training program for a team of 20 teaching assistants who provided free computer science lessons for over 7,000 children. Prior to leading STEAM – Binh served as a volunteer consultant to help launch Khan Academy Vietnam, where he contributed to the delivery of over 2,500 video translations. Since gaining first-hand experience in the power of education technology and the non-profit sector, Binh has been committed to identifying scalable long-term business models for organizations to increase their social impact work.

Binh is pursuing a dual degree MS in Computer Science and MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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Christine Goggins

Christine Goggins

Chicago, Illinois | Lead Violence Recovery Specialist, University of Chicago Medical Center

Providing crisis intervention care to promote the comprehensive recovery of victims and families of intentional violence. 
Christine Goggins serves at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she helps patients and their families recover from intentional violence by providing crisis intervention and intensive clinical case management. Christine has been an advocate for Chicago residents impacted by violence in various capacities for the past 15 years. She experienced the devastating impact of gun violence first-hand when her best friend, Blair Holt, was shot and killed on a Chicago Transit Authority bus in 2007. Through her work she has engaged with the root causes of gun violence, and maintains a vested interest in addressing housing insecurity as a critical solution to the issue of gun violence in the community.

Christine is pursuing her second master’s degree in clinical social work with a focus in trauma response  at The University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. 

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Noel Green

Noel Green

Chicago, Illinois | Student & Change Agent, Southside Health Advocacy Resource Partnership (S.H.A.R.P.)

Curating community-driven models of social change that foster liberation of marginalized groups from oppressive systems. 

Noel Green is Chair of Southside Health Advocacy Resource Partnership (S.H.A.R.P.), an institution that seeks to end HIV and liberate the economic, physical, and emotional health of communities in the South Side of Chicago. Since 2016, Noel has developed interventions that foster re-engagement into primary care for HIV positive youth; economic justice for Black queer public health workers, cross-city collaborations for homeless queer youth, and efficacious community-level, public health interventions. Noel’s community work now focuses on ending the school to prison pipeline and preventing recidivism for Black men and boys in Chicago through emotional and economic empowerment.

Noel is pursuing a master's degree in clinical social work from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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Ben Harris

Ben Harris

Denver, Colorado | Former Health and Social Systems Strategic Advisor, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

Developing and supporting community-based service models for individuals with complex health and social needs.
Ben has worked in the US health and human services system for over a decade. He began his career at Erie Family Health Center in Chicago, where he monitored and managed the performance of health programming, including HIV/AIDS care, pediatric and perinatal behavioral health, and diabetes management. He then led the Accountable Care Collaborative at Colorado’s Medicaid agency. There, he developed a cross-sector workgroup to improve behavioral health access and engagement for people reentering the community from state prisons. Under his leadership, the workgroup tripled the rate of engagement with behavioral health services for the population. He most recently served as a Farber Fellow through the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) at Repowered, an employment social enterprise in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Ben is interested in developing and implementing community-driven models that combine multiple human and social services into a cohesive delivery fabric for individuals with complex health and social needs.
Ben is pursuing a master’s in business administration at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he is a Neubauer Family Civic Scholar.

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Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee

Chicago, Illinois | Director of Practice Transformation, Access Community Health Network

Transforming health care delivery in the community health setting to advance health equity.
Amanda is a practicing pediatric primary care nurse practitioner and the Director of Practice Transformation at Access Community Health Network (ACCESS). She collaborates with ACCESS leaders and care team members to develop and execute strategies that advance the overall care delivery environment and promote accessible, trauma-informed, and value-based care at ACCESS’ 35 community health centers, serving 185,000 patients annually throughout Cook and DuPage counties. She works to ensure their roadmap for transformation centers the voices and expectations of the patients and communities ACCESS serves. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has led ongoing initiatives including the development and implementation of telehealth services, COVID-19 testing, and COVID-19 vaccination programs at ACCESS.
Amanda is a Neubauer Civic Scholar, pursuing her second master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s  Booth School of Business.

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Orlando Mayorga

Orlando Mayorga

Chicago, Illinois | McCormick Reentry Policy Coordinator, Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative - Office of Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton

Championing restorative and transformative policy reform that supports healing for people and communities impacted by mass incarceration.

Orlando Mayorga serves the Office of Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton’s Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative as McCormick Reentry Policy Coordinator. Orlando’s passion to reverse the adverse effects of mass incarceration in Illinois is informed by the 20 years he spent in the Illinois Department of Corrections. As a part of his work, Orlando collaborates with reentry stakeholders and individuals transitioning out of incarceration to create an ecosystem of holistic support and a healing-centered process in support of people impacted by harm. His advocacy efforts to promote policy that is restorative and transformative have led to collaborative initiatives that provide Illinois State Identification Cards for people released from prisons in Illinois. He is also the co-founder of People's Liberty Project, a trauma-informed, peer-led support group centered on healing and policy reform advocacy designed to remove post-incarceration barriers to healthy reintegration into society. 

Orlando is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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Heena Mohammed

Heena Mohammed

United Kingdom | Former Policy Advisor, UK Government

Designing and improving equitable, community-based solutions to eliminating racial disparities in crime and policing policy.
Heena most recently served as the Deputy Head of Police Powers for the UK Home Office. In this role, Heena was responsible for ensuring police powers, notably stop and search powers, were used fairly and equitably in the pursuit of reducing crime and violence. Prior to this role, Heena served as the Senior Private Secretary to the British Minister of State for Policing and Fire. Through her early career as a civil servant, she worked on key social policy issues including welfare, housing, and criminal justice. Currently, Heena organizes and delivers educational programming for incarcerated populations, which includes creative writing, civic engagement and voter rights training, at Cook County Jail and Illinois Youth Center.

Heena is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and is a Fulbright Scholar with the US-UK Fulbright Commission.

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Karem Muksed

Karem Muksed

Chicago, Illinois | Mental Health Professional and Refugee and Immigrant Advocate

Increasing mental health care access to refugees by focusing on services and trauma informed practices.

Karem Muksed grew up in Iraq and fled to the United States as a refugee when he was a child. This experience formed his deep commitment to advocating for immigrant rights and providing mental health support to refugees. Karem has previously worked at the Illinois Migrant Education Program and the National Immigrant Justice Center, conducting outreach to migrant farmworkers and legal advocacy for unaccompanied minors. He is a therapist in training at the The Family Institute of Northwestern University, where he provides therapy to groups and individuals facing challenges such as anxiety, chronic thoughts of suicide, depression, self-harming behaviors and intense emotions.  

Karem is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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Omotunde Odedeyi

Omotunde Odedeyi

Nigeria | Co-Founder, JetAfrica

Bridging the opportunity gap for young Nigerians through mentorship and entrepreneurial skills development.
Omotunde Odedeyi is the co-founder of JetAfrica, a platform that tackles unemployment and poverty of disadvantaged communities in Nigeria through skills development and mentorship for youth. She is passionate about improving access to tools and learning opportunities for recent graduates and young people seeking unique career, educational, or entrepreneurial opportunities. Omotunde aims to fill these gaps by providing youth with practical knowledge to demystify the job search and application process, to navigate the interview process and learn corporate etiquette, and to provide a toolkit for entrepreneurial engagement. JetAfrica has a growing network of volunteers working across disciplines who are matched with young graduates based on their area of interest, with the goal of expanding professional networks and securing full time employment for their participants. 

Omotunde is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. 

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Rebecca Silverman

Rebecca Silverman

Chicago, Illinois | Co-Founder, Rose Café

Promoting literacy, education, and peace in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago.
Rebecca Silverman is the Co-Founder of Rose Café, a community bookstore in the Roseland neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago that aims to address the book desert in the community by providing access and reading opportunities. Rebecca became passionate about equal access to quality literature during her time as an elementary school teacher in Chicago, and believes that literacy access can transform a historically disinvested neighborhood. In partnership with her co-founder, Roseland native Iesha Malone, Rebecca hopes Rose Café will be a community space that will encourage a love of reading for youth, bring business and art to the Roseland neighborhood, and inspire new generations through community programming and civic engagement opportunities. 

Rebecca is pursuing a dual master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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Nishit Shukla

Nishit Shukla

India | Co-Founder, ReHive

Scaling impact of promising climate adaptation startups through climate finance solutions.

Nishit Shukla is the Co-Founder of ReHive, an optimized fundraising platform that helps climate adaptation innovators raise capital. ReHive’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to a climate-resilient reality for under-resourced communities. In his home country, India, climate extremes are rising and becoming more intense and frequent than ever before. While effective adaptation innovations exist, climate finance, the lever needed to support and scale these innovations is significantly skewed towards climate mitigation solutions such as solar and electric vehicles that don’t necessarily tackle these climate extremes today.  ReHive takes the first step towards creating such a shift by curating impact-driven investors and high-potential startups, facilitating their interactions, and enabling seamless investments.

Nishit is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

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Lily Wang

Lily Wang

Canada | Co-Founder & CEO, Demi

Building a healthier planet through sleek and convenient urban composting solutions to reduce food waste and encourage sustainable living habits.

Lily Wang is the co-founder & CEO of Demi, a social enterprise that aims to combat the climate crisis by making composting mainstream amongst urban residents, starting with Chicago. Their mission is to create a healthier planet by cultivating a culture of composting amongst local communities through sleek biodegradable bins, a mobile interface, affordable collection services, collaborative partnerships, and educational tools and resources. Lily plans to work with local residents, businesses, and families to advance the necessary tools, resources, and training to achieve a truly circular economy, reduce 25 million tons of landfilled food waste and mitigate up to 10 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Lily is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where she is a Forte Fellow and C200 Scholar.

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DeKevious Wilson

DeKevious Wilson

Chicago, Illinois | Regional Manager, Youth Guidance - Becoming A Man Program (BAM)

Fostering, supporting, and strengthening resources of urban communities through mental health advocacy and policy work.

DeKevious Wilson currently serves as Regional Manager for the South Side of Chicago’s Youth Guidance’s Becoming A Man (BAM), a program that encourages academic achievement and aims to reduce violence among boys and young men of color. Through his work, DeKevious has co-created space for young men to learn, internalize, practice their social cognitive skills, and expose them to life after high school, through both workforce and post-secondary development. DeKevious oversees planning, development, coordination, implementation, and evaluation of all program activities, staff and the outcomes of program participants. In his home state of Arkansas, DeKevious is also a member of the American Legion Arkansas Boys State program, an immersive civics-based leadership program for rising high school seniors. 

DeKevious is pursuing his second master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

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Umama Zillur

Umama Zillur

Bangladesh | Founder and Director, Kotha

Addressing the root causes of gender based violence in Bangladesh and South Asia through advocacy and educational interventions. 

Umama Zillur is a researcher, community organizer, and founder of the Bangladesh based feminist organization, Kotha. Kotha uses community building, education interventions, art, interactive theater, and accessible research to fight root causes of gender-based violence. Through Kotha, Umama launched Bangladesh's first fully youth-led comprehensive sexuality education program, Kotha at School, with a vision to change mindsets and model behavior for a society free of gender-based violence. Under her leadership, Kotha at School has impacted 1,000 students through long-term partnerships with educational institutions and played a critical role in popularizing root cause solutions to tackle Bangladesh’s rape culture. Umama also focuses on national coalition building to connect the power of mass demonstrations and protests to policy advocacy and social change. Umama’s research work has taken her to low income communities across Bangladesh and most recently to the Rohingya refugee camps to analyze power and violence through a gendered lens.

Umama is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and is a Fellow at the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts.