What is the Obama Scholars Program

What is the Obama Foundation Scholars Program?

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program is a program from the Obama Foundation and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy for rising leaders from around the world who are focused on an issue of global importance, have a track record and commitment to advancing the public good, and want to accelerate their impact.

There are two components of the Obama Foundation Scholars Program: students will earn a Master of Arts in International Development and Policy (MA-IDP) at Harris Public Policy, and have the opportunity to receive a one-of-a-kind scholarship that includes full tuition and expenses, a stipend for living expenses, and access to exceptional programming outside the classroom. Scholars will work with members of the Obama Foundation to gain real-world skills, tools, and experiences that will expand the impact of their work.

Alums of the program will be part of a network of rising international leaders who are connected to one another, the UChicago, and Obama Foundation networks of global policy leaders. After completing the program, Obama Scholars will return to their communities and continue the important work they started in the program by implementing their own personalized action plan. They will also have an opportunity to play a role in the Obama Foundation’s efforts to inspire, train, and connect rising leaders from around the globe.

Obama Scholars Programming

What is the nature of the out-of-classroom programming that is part of the Obama Foundation Scholars Program?

The Obama Foundation will offer a robust program of leadership development and service activities throughout the academic year to help Scholars gain the real-world skills, tools, and experiences to expand the impact of their work when they return home.

Over the course of the year, you will engage in Leadership Week before classes begin and several in-person convenings in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. with all Obama Foundation Scholars. These programs will provide extraordinary opportunities to network with others, actively develop your skills as a leader, and inspire you to change your own community and the world in new ways.

Between these convenings, there will be multiple avenues to build community with your fellow Scholars and refine your plan for action and impact going forward.

This active training will include guidance in developing your action plan, digital skills trainings, speaker series, and other opportunities to engage with the Obama Foundation. Some of these activities will occur throughout Chicago and the South Side communities near the University.

Obama Scholars - Requirements

What are the requirements for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program?

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program is for rising leaders from around the world who are focused on an issue of global importance, have a track record and commitment to advancing the public good, and want to accelerate their impact.

We seek a diverse group of individuals representing a cross-section of backgrounds, including those working in government, the private sector, and NGOs, and civil society organizations.

Specific requirements are available under How to Apply.

Obama Scholars - experience

Who is eligible to apply?

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program is designed for individuals with a history of and future commitment to living in and making significant contributions to communities, countries, or regions outside of the United States.

Obama Scholars - Can I be granted a wavier for the TOEFL or IELTS?

Am I required to take the TOEFL or IELTS? Can I be granted a waiver?

The Office of Admissions is not authorized to grant waivers for the TOEFL or IELTS. If your academic background meets University requirements stipulated here, the online application system will automatically waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirement for you. 

You might be prompted to upload a video if the information you entered (TOEFL/IELTS/College Attended) does not meet language proficiency requirements. The application provides a limited number of times to successfully upload the video, so we encourage students to practice beforehand.

For full information on TOEFL and IELTS requirements and circumstances under which the language proficiency requirement can be met without the exams, please visit the 
Office of International Affairs (OIA) website. Outside of the TOEFL and IELTS areas of the OIA website, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the information for F and J students found here.

Please note we can accept unofficial transcripts or self-reported GRE, TOEFL, and IELTS scores as part of the application process. Upon admission, students must submit official transcripts and scores.
 

Obama Scholars - Class Size

How many Obama Foundation Scholars will there be?

We plan to enroll a class of 25 Obama Foundation Scholars in Fall 2019.

What is the MA-IDP

What are the details of the MA-IDP program?

The Master of Arts in International Development and Policy (MA-IDP) is a one-year degree program that provides a solid foundation in policy design and analysis, with particular emphasis on international development and policy.

Tailored to the needs of rising international leaders, it draws on the expertise of faculty from Harris and UChicago in international development, economics, global conflict, and analytical methods. It applies the evidence-based analytical approaches for which Harris is known to the world’s most pressing problems, combining cutting-edge tools with on-the-ground practical policy innovation.

The nine courses in the Harris MA-IDP curriculum cover three categories: foundational skills for policy analysis, international development and policy, and electives. Students have options to study topics related to their interests across a wide range of electives and Policy Labs at Harris and across campus.

Admitted Scholars - Denials

I was previously denied for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program. What are my options? Can I reapply?

Yes, you are welcome to apply for admission as part of the next round of Obama Foundation Scholars or for one of our other programs or degrees. Unfortunately, due to the large number of applicants, we cannot provide feedback on your prior application.

MAIDP comparison to Joint Degrees

How does the MAIDP compare to the joint degree in Public Policy and International Relations or the joint degree in Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies?

The Master of Arts in International Development and Policy is a one-year Master of Arts degree that is tailored for the needs and goals of promising international leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to making a difference in their community and want to accelerate their impact in the world.

Drawing on the core strengths of a Harris education, the MAIDP provides a solid foundation in policy design and analysis, with particular emphasis on international development and policy, combined with the opportunity to study topics based on your background and interests. In addition, if you are accepted as an Obama Foundation Scholar, you will receive a full scholarship and participate in one-of-a-kind programming outside the classroom with the Obama Foundation.

In contrast, the joint degree in Public Policy and International Relations is for those students looking to specialize in international relations and policy in order to go on to careers in government or an international policy organization. The two-year program combines training in public policy analytical tools with a substantive emphasis on international affairs. It culminates in two Master of Arts degrees—one in public policy and one in international relations.

The joint degree in Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies addresses the needs of students wishing to acquire a background focused on modern Middle Eastern languages, history, and civilization while developing their abilities in policy analysis in preparation for professional careers in scholarly, educational, governmental, non-governmental, and business environments in the United States and abroad. Students graduate with both a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from Harris and a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago.

Enroll in MAIDP without being an Obama Scholars

Can I be accepted into the Harris MAIDP program even if I’m not selected as an Obama Foundation Scholar?

Yes. While applicants will submit a single application, the Harris MAIDP degree can be pursued independently from the Obama Foundation Scholars Program.

Students who enroll in the MAIDP and are not Obama Foundation Scholars will need to find other sources of financial assistance. They will also not be able to take part in any of the out of classroom experiences.