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During the one-year program, participating University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars develop a distinctly interdisciplinary approach to advancing social change in a wide range of settings. Scholars come into the program at breakthrough points in their leadership journeys, and leave the program prepared to address complex social challenges in their community and committed to continuing along their path of service.
As a UChicago Obama Scholar, you participate in a robust set of supplemental programming organized by the University and the Obama Foundation designed to complement your final year of core degree requirements within your school. The intensive program runs from early September 2023 - May 2024, and Scholars are expected to commit to participating in the following elements of the program.
Multiple day sessions
Scholars will gather for three in-person events throughout the program term. At the beginning of the program in September, the Obama Foundation will host a multi-day orientation to welcome Scholars to the Foundation community. Scholars will convene mid-program for an Obama Foundation event and program activities. At the conclusion of the program in May, Scholars will participate in a multi-day graduation program to both celebrate the cohort's achievements and present their action plans.
80 minutes per seminar
Drawing from faculty across the University, these seminars are designed to help students engage with the big ideas behind applied social change work. Faculty members engage student scholars with how their research connects to issues of democracy, inequality, power, governance, community, and more. Scholars are then encouraged to take advantage of this facilitated space to think about how their own work connects to these enduring themes. These 80-minute seminars take place twice a month, allowing Scholars to bridge rigorous thinking and research with the practice of uplifting communities—from Chicago’s South Side to around the globe.
2 hours each, with option for additional engagement
Led by the Obama Foundation, these virtual sessions take place twice a month and are designed to improve Scholars’ ability to tell the story of their work, reflect and refine their leadership approach, and build sustained, personal resilience. Through a variety of virtual session formats, Scholars also hear about the innovative solutions coming from the Obama Foundation Scholars program participant alumni community and have conversations with high-level thought leaders across sectors.
While up to two sessions a month are required, additional optional sessions are provided for Scholars who would like to join.
Over the course of the year, Scholars utilize the resources of the program to develop their own action plans to guide their next career steps and note a specific commitment to reinvest new skills towards solving a particular problem in their own community.
4 hours per quarter
These half-day excursions bring Scholars off-campus to meet with and learn from civic leaders and community activists who are confronting pressing social issues that shape Chicago’s neighborhoods and are of critical concern to communities around the world. Through these treks, Scholars develop sustained relationships with civic practitioners who work on the South Side and access new opportunities to support local nonprofits.
90 minutes per quarter
Scholars have an exclusive opportunity each quarter to meet with, question, and learn from the Institute of Politics Pritzker Fellows, a diverse cohort of elected officials, diplomats, policymakers, activists, nonprofit leaders, and journalists who come to campus for deep-dive analyses of pressing social issues impacting young people in communities across the globe.
6 hours per quarter
The University pairs Scholars with accomplished professionals from their schools’ alumni communities who can help them connect their coursework with the practical day-to-day challenges and opportunities that await them in their careers. Each mentor is paired with a Scholar whose work and goals most closely align with their expertise.
The Foundation facilitates direct connections between current Scholars and prior cohorts, based on their issues of focus. Upon graduation from the program, Scholars also have the option to join a series of program participant-led communities of practice across the entire Obama Foundation network.
Scholars are paired with an executive coach to help gain self-awareness, clarify goals, brainstorm ideas, achieve development objectives, and unlock potential. Scholars also have access to professionals who provide customized advice related to fundraising in support of action plans as well as the social-emotional realities of leadership.
The UChicago Obama Scholars Program is an intensive commitment on your path to service. Students must commit to participate in all programming elements described above. While we recognize that existing coursework and other academic and extracurricular commitments are substantial, we expect Scholars to fully involve themselves in all portions of this program. Before applying, please consider whether you would be able to honor this commitment.
Note: The required time commitment is approximately 3 live sessions per month over the course of 9 months, with additional programming occurring during orientation and graduation. Please only apply if you can commit to the full time required for the program.
Program Faculty Director
Jennifer Mosley is an associate professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago, and the Editor of Social Service Review. Her scholarship explores the ways human service nonprofits, philanthropic foundations, and government agencies work together to produce social policy and implement social programming.
Adrian Talbott is the Associate Dean for Civic Engagement at the Crown Family School, where he manages community-engaged scholarship and learning efforts that pair faculty and students with civic partners to collaboratively address pressing social issues that impact Chicago’s neighborhoods.
There is no additional cost for University of Chicago students to apply or to participate in this program.
Each participating student will receive $10,000 of financial support in the form of a stipend* to defray tuition costs and living expenses in their final year.
Participating students also complete this program with a certificate from the Obama Foundation and matriculate into the Obama Leadership Network, the Obama Foundation's global alumni community, driven by values and committed to tackling the most pressing challenges of our time.
*These stipends are taxable income. For nonresident, international students, the University automatically withholds 14% federal tax. For domestic students, the University does not automatically withhold taxes, but these students are still responsible for reporting this income on federal and state tax returns and will be taxed at the same 14% rate.