Inaugural Group of Obama Foundation Scholars Arrive at Columbia University

Monday, September 24, 2018

the 12 Obama Foundation scholars for 2018
Columbia’s first class of Obama Foundation Scholars.
Top Row: Gabriela Gailea, Ndansi Elvis Nukam, Pavel Kounchev, Ana Maria Gonzalez-Forero, Oluseun Onigbinde, Omezzine Khelifa
Bottom Row: Alice Barbe, Peter Ndayihereje, Rumbidzai Chisenga, Hong Hoang, Vanessa Paranjothy, Trisha Shetty

An accomplished group of 12 rising social change-makers from around the world selected as the first class of Obama Foundation Scholars have arrived at Columbia University. Consistent with the Obama Foundation’s mission to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation of civic leaders, the new, year-long academic program based at Columbia's Manhattanville campus will strengthen the expertise and knowledge of individuals with the demonstrated ability to be transformative leaders in their communities, nations, and the world.

The Scholars, from Asia, Africa, South America, South Asia, and Europe, have each shown a commitment to finding practical solutions to complex challenges facing society. They will participate in an immersive program of academic and experiential learning at Columbia’s campus in New York City, including active engagement with a new university initiative called Columbia World Projects and in one-of-a-kind experiences led by the Obama Foundation, including robust networking, mentorship, service activities, and values-based leadership development, offering them a chance to learn from some of the world’s most innovative leaders. The Scholars also will play a significant role in the Foundation’s growing global network of civic leaders.

Meet these global leaders who will be working out of Manhattanville's the Forum building:

Alice Barbe - France

CEO and Co-founder, SINGA France

Fostering collaboration between refugees and their host societies by focusing on refugees’ personal, professional, cultural, and entrepreneurial plans and goals.

Rumbidzai Chisenga - South Africa/Zimbabwe

Program Manager, Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS)

Building the capacity of African youth to lead the continent’s social and economic progress.

Gabriela Galilea - Paraguay

CEO and Founder, Okimo Vision Ltd.

Democratizing access to visual health and inclusive education through the creation of tools that help diagnose and treat visual and development conditions at a fraction of the current market price.

Ana Maria Gonzalez-Forero- Colombia

Chief Sustainability Officer, Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional (FEM)

Enabling inclusive development in Colombia through participatory planning and design processes that allow diverse stakeholders to find shared fulfillment and mutual recognition in indigenous communities.

Hong Hoang - Vietnam

Founder and Executive Director, CHANGE

Mobilizing youth leaders to promote environmental preservation through communication, education, and community organizing toward a vision of a green and clean Vietnam protected by all people.

Omezzine Khelifa - Tunisia

Founder and CEO, Mobdiun – Creative Youth

Inspiring youth to become peaceful and creative change leaders in Tunisia and throughout Africa.

Pavel Kounchev - Bulgaria

Co-founder, Managing Director, Time Heroes Foundation

Co-founder, Chair of the Board, Fine Acts Foundation

Developing creative solutions and digital tools to inspire civic engagement.

Peter Ndayihereje - Burundi

Community Engagement Program Manager, Village Health Works

Improving community cohesion among people of all backgrounds by leveraging communal structures to improve health and economic outcomes.

Ndansi Elvis Nukam - Cameroon

Founder and President, Unite for Health Foundation

Improving access to basic health care in underserved communities in Cameroon.

Oluseun Onigbinde - Nigeria

Lead Partner, BudgIT

Working to simplify budgets and public finance documents to strengthen the capacity of citizens to hold governments accountable.

Vanessa Paranjothy - Singapore

Co-Founder, Freedom Cups

Changing mindsets and making periods a problem of the past by providing women in underprivileged communities with menstrual cups through a “buy one, give one” model.

Trisha Shetty - India

Founder and CEO, SheSays, India

Advancing sustainable development through a gender-sensitive and youth-centric approach.

For more information about the program at Columbia, including the application process for the 2019-2020 class, click here. For more information on the Obama Foundation Scholars Program more broadly, click here.