Eighteen emerging leaders from the University of Chicago have been chosen to participate in the latest cohort of the Obama Foundation Scholars program, it was announced on Sept. 6.

The University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars Program will include students from the Booth School of Business, the Harris School of Public Policy and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. The unique program will enable Scholars to explore the relationship between local engagement and global impact, paving the way for innovative solutions to complex challenges. Nine of the 18 UChicago students in the program are committed to continuing their impact in Chicago, including in the communities surrounding the future Obama Presidential Center, once the program concludes.

Obama Foundation
President Barack Obama greets past members of the Obama Foundation Scholars program.

“This opportunity provides its scholars the chance to not only benefit from the programs rich experiential-based offerings, but to also deepen and enrich their capacity to challenge widely held assumptions and ideas through exposure to the University’s distinctive learning environment,” said University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos. “It is our hope that this experience will inspire them to realize and surface novel solutions to some of the most important problems facing our communities.”

The Obama Foundation Scholars program provides Scholars with exposure to real-world skills, tools and experiences that will expand the impact of their work when they return home. Scholars participate in academic, skills-based and experiential learning, as well as Foundation-led leadership development programming that includes training, networking opportunities and personalized support beyond graduation.

“The Obama Scholars program enables rising changemakers to gain insights into the work of fellow leaders, across issues and geographies, while collaborating to address complex challenges,” said Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation. “We are eager to welcome the new cohort of Scholars to the Foundation family, where they will join a network of changemakers striving for a stronger, more sustainable, and more inclusive world.”

Since its inception in 2018, the Obama Foundation Scholars program has supported 132 leaders from 59 countries. This year’s cohort includes 30 rising leaders from UChicago and Columbia University, who are working to address today’s pressing issues—from supporting mothers in Chicago with mental health challenges, to transforming education for children in Ukraine, to helping Brazilians learn AI to prepare for their careers.

Generous support for the University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars program is being provided by BMO Harris Bank; Robert and Jane Clark; The Clayco Foundation; The Crown Family; The Harris Family Foundation; Rachel DeYoung Kohler and Mark S. Hoplamazian; The Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation; Charles Ashby Lewis and Penny Bender Sebring; The Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation; The Neubauer Family Foundation; and Susan Rustandy and Tandean Rustandy.

To learn more about the program, please visit obama.org/programs/scholars. Read more about this year’s University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars below:

Booth School of Business

Laura Kinter — Chicago
Executive director, Awakenings
Using art and storytelling to help survivors of sexual violence heal from trauma, and build bridges between organizations in an under-resourced mission area.

Benya Kraus Beacom— Waseca, Minn.
Co-founder and vice president of civic ventures, Lead For America
Building economic prosperity in rural and emerging cities through national service.

Amaral Medeiros — Brazil
Co-founder, Gradua
Helping Brazilians learn and use artificial intelligence to prepare people for the jobs of tomorrow.

Jordan Lewis — Chicago
Judge advocate, United States Army JAG Corps
Addressing sexual harassment within military ranks through legislative advocacy and compassionate counsel.

Kim H. Tran — Chicago
Chief of staff, Office of the President, Chicago State University
Pioneering a more thoughtful model for comprehensive economic development to drive holistic investments into historically underserved neighborhoods towards inclusive prosperity.

Christopher Wen — Alhambra, Calif.
Co-founder & chief executive officer, Covery Health
Providing equitable access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder.

Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Maria (Teresa) Barajas — Chicago
Learning Center Community Engagement Manager, The Field Museum of Natural History
Fostering long-term partnerships in communities focused on co-creation to inspire youth and families toward careers and opportunities in science and history. 

Alli Gattari — Chicago
Volunteer coordinator, The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
Enhancing support for unaccompanied and separated immigrant children in government custody, while expanding access to community-based resources.

Molly Harris — Chicago
Regional director of Model United Nations, KIPP Chicago Public Schools
Cultivating leadership, critical thinking and advocacy skills in middle school students on Chicago’s West and South sides through Model United Nations programs with the vision of emphasizing student voices to create change.

Avinash Kumar — India
Member, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
Facilitating social change by enabling and empowering traditionally marginalized communities, while advocating lasting people-led legislative and policy reforms.

Austin Shipman — Seattle, Wash.
Assistant director, The Undocumented Migration Project
Raising awareness about the global migration crisis to help families of disappeared migrants identify and honor their loved ones who died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Samantha Siers — Chicago
Program and operations coordinator LIFT Chicago; auxiliary board president, San Miguel School
Increasing the financial and mental well-being of families of color by expanding access to high-quality education, support services, social capital and direct cash transfers.

Harris School of Public Policy

Muaz Chaudhry — Pakistan
Co-founder and president, Gender Rights Watch
Working toward the equal rights—such as education, health care and legal rights—of gender and sexual minorities as an activist and by working with nonprofits and the public sector.

Mateo Cruz — Colombia
Founder and director, Impact Social Consulting
Easing financial access in Latin America through technology and community-driven solutions.

Terrius Harris — Chicago
Indigenous business and partnerships coordinator, American Sustainable Business Network
Empowering Indigenous-led, community-based economic development, entrepreneurship and environmental conservation through a community-driven approach.

Sharowar Khan — Bangladesh
Assistant secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Empowering the most vulnerable people to climate change around the world through a united front by forging a shared vision of a future where no one is left behind.

Jane Kim — Chicago
Teacher, Chicago Public Schools
Empowering youth in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood to navigate the digital world safely, fostering social-emotional growth and academic progress through a comprehensive social media education program.

Joseph Olalusi — Chicago
Executive director, Gambit Chicago
Mobilizing minority communities with unique programming to create economic development, social development and neighborhood revitalization.

This article originally appeared at UChicago News.