Mara Heneghan, Director of Policy Announced as New Obama Foundation Scholar

This week, the Obama Foundation announced that Mara Heneghan, Director of Policy for Cook County Office of the President is among its fourth cohort of Obama Scholars, two groups of 12 emerging leaders from around the world who will study at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, respectively, for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“I am honored to be a part of the Obama Foundation’s fourth cohort of Scholars and am grateful for the opportunity to build on my policy work at Cook County and the curriculum of my graduate program at the University of Chicago,” said Heneghan. “I look forward to connecting with and learning from other emerging leaders as we work to give back to our communities.”

As Director of Policy, Heneghan is charged with managing the implementation of Cook County’s strategic policy goals. She has been instrumental in advancing policy to assist in Cook county’s pandemic response and recovery, including overseeing the creation of the Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (CCLAHD) program and supporting the launch of the resident cash assistance program.

In service of the Foundation’s efforts to support the next generation of global leaders, the Obama Foundation Scholars program partners with UChicago and Columbia to combine academic learnings with one-of-a-kind experiences led by the Obama Foundation. The program’s aim is to empower emerging leaders with a proven commitment to service with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective and impactful upon their return home.

“I extend my warmest congratulations to Mara on this incredible achievement and have seen firsthand her commitment to advancing equitable policy during her time at Cook County,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The Obama Foundation Scholarship will be a wonderful opportunity for Mara and other emerging young leaders to build on the coursework of their programs and work with local community partners.”

The newly designed program at the University of Chicago will bring together Obama Scholars from across campus who are current students in their final year of study in a master’s program at either the Booth School of Business, the Harris School of Public Policy, or the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. As a part of the co-curricular programming, these Scholars will experience and examine how engaging with partners on the South Side of Chicago can lead to policies that help solve pervasive problems in communities across the globe.

Launched in 2018, the Obama Foundation Scholars program 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. To learn more about the 2021-2022 cohort, please visit


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