Columbia World Projects Announces 2021-22 Cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars

Twelve individuals who are making positive changes in their communities across the globe have been chosen to be a part of the latest cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars.

September 07, 2021

Columbia World Projects (CWP) is proud to announce the next cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars at Columbia University, 12 emerging leaders from around the world who will hold a year-long residency at CWP for the 2021-2022 academic year. Programming will kick off virtually on Wednesday, September 8. 

In their time on campus, the Columbia Obama Scholars participate in a customized weekly seminar, personal and professional development workshops, audited coursework, a thought leadership speaker series, and additional programming designed by Columbia World Projects in consultation with the Obama Foundation. Their year-long academic experience provides Scholars with the skills, experiences and tools to scale their work and reinvest in their communities. 

“I am honored to have these rising leaders join us for the upcoming academic year. I am confident that their experience at Columbia will contribute to their further growth and development. At the same time, I look forward to their contributions to our ongoing work at Columbia World Projects,” Wafaa El-Sadr, the director of Columbia World Projects, said. 

“I’m very proud of the work being done by the Obama Foundation Scholars program and Columbia World Projects to train future generations to lead on the issues that matter,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “We’re very grateful for the contributions of the scholars to our university community over the last three years and look forward with great enthusiasm to welcoming this new cohort. The moment we’re in and the challenges we face underscore the need for talented leaders who understand the world’s problems and are committed to addressing them.” 

"It is truly remarkable to see the steadfast commitment of these rising leaders working to meet the economic, educational, and social needs of their communities across the globe," said Obama Foundation President Valerie Jarrett. "These individuals have displayed profound courage, dedication, and the spirit needed to create lasting change in the world, especially during challenging times. I'm thrilled to welcome this cohort of scholars." 

The Obama Foundation Scholars program, which launched in 2018, is designed to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and impactful across their global communities. In addition to the cohort at Columbia, another group of scholars participates in the program at the University of Chicago. 

The 2021-2022 Scholars are: 

Millicent Barty 

Founder and Lead Designer, Millicent Designs [Solomon Islands]

Combining traditional oral history practices with innovative infographic design to communicate complex development issues across the Solomon Islands 

Cecilia Chapiro 

Investments Lead, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Founder, Yunus & Youth [Argentina & Spain]

Using technology and innovative financing to enable entrepreneurial ecosystems to grow and progress the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 

Nika Kovač 

Founding Director, 8th of March Research Institute [Slovenia]

Building coalitions to transform legal precedent on gender and economic inequalities in Slovenia 

Jean-Noé Landry 

Social entrepreneur and open data advocate; Former Executive Director, Open North [Canada]

Guiding public, private, and community stakeholders towards the responsible and collaborative use of data and technology to solve complex social and environmental problems 

Vincent Loka 

Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Wateroam [Indonesia & Singapore]

Working towards a world without prolonged thirst by providing access to clean, affordable water technologies in areas with limited infrastructure across Southeast Asia 

Lineo Matlakala 

Founder and Director, Barali Foundation [Lesotho] 

Using arts, advocacy, and education to promote women’s reproductive health and financial independence in Lesotho 

Patience Musiwa Mkandawire 

Founder and Executive Director, Fount for Nations [Malawi]

Building inclusive learning opportunities for all children in Malawi by improving educational access and equity for children with special-needs and intellectual disabilities

Mohit Raj 

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Project Second Chance India, Turn Your Concern Into Action Foundation (TYCIA) [India]

Working with incarcerated and justice-involved youth in India to bring systematic and structured change to the Indian prison landscape 

Mohammed Keana Sabo 

Founder and Team Lead, Almajiri Child Rights Initiative [Nigeria]

Advocating for the social inclusion and right to education of vulnerable children by promoting sustainable development and accountable governance

Melusi Simelane 

Founding Director, Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities [Eswatini]

Advocating for the acceptance and legal rights of the LGBTQ community in Eswatini and building intersectional human rights coalitions to empower young leaders across Southern Africa

Juliana Tafur 

Founder and Social Impact Filmmaker, Story Powerhouse [United States ] 

Designing and implementing a listening methodology to inspire positive dialogue across differences and foster human connection

Francesco Tena 

Founder, Pipeline to Power [United States]

Training young people to be leaders in participatory budgeting processes and governmental decision-making across the United States and Canada