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On Wednesday, the Obama Foundation announced Tulsa philanthropic thought leader Amanda Morrall will be part of its sixth cohort of Obama Scholars.

For Amanda Morrall, breaking glass ceilings is nothing new. As the first Black person to run an endowed, private foundation in Tulsa, she’s determined to transform philanthropy into a structure that is trust-based and community-driven.

Now, she’s taking her mission to a whole new level.

“It definitely feels overwhelming, exciting and also just like you’re on the brink of something transformative,” Morrall told The Black Wall Street Times on Thursday.

Amanda Morrall, bottom right, poses for a photo with other members of the sixth cohort of Obama Scholars at Columbia University. (Courtesy of Amanda Morrall)

The Obama Scholars Program gives leaders who are already making a difference in their own communities the opportunity to expand their impact through a curriculum that brings together academic, skills-based and hands-on learning.

The curriculum is held at the University of Chicago and Columbia University in the City of New York. The foundation chooses from a list of applicants around the world.

Morrall, who previously served as the Executive Director of Coretz Family Foundation, is now the first Black person and only the fourth American to be accepted into the Columbia cohort since the program was launched in 2018.

“It’s a really big deal here to represent Tulsa. Being a young, African American leader, I don’t take it lightly. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to talk about how we transform philanthropy,” Morrall said.

Tulsa’s first Obama Scholar builds power for the community

The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Morrall over the phone after she had just landed in Chicago on Thursday to network and build community with other thought leaders and cohort participants.

Morrall said she wants to inspire people coming up behind her to realize they can become philanthropists regardless of how much or how little they have with which to start. Growing up in Kansas City, MO, Morrall has left her mark on Tulsa.

obama scholars
Amanda Morrall. (Courtesy of Amanda Morrall)

She holds a BA in Public Policy from Duke University where she was an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar and Ex-Officio Board Member of the Sanford School. She also holds an MPP from University of California-Los Angeles where she was a Luskin Ann C. Rosenfield Fellow. 

In 2022, Morrall led the Coretz Family Foundation in a strategic planning process that engaged over 350 community leaders and 100 organizations in community conversations to document the needs faced by local nonprofits and the communities they serve.

She was also the founding president of Blueprint 918 and a Tulsa Young Professionals Foundation Trustee who has dedicated her efforts to advancing racial equity.

Nationally, she’s developed programs and events for the White House, The Aspen Institute, Duke University, University of California-Los Angeles, and United Way. 

Her path has led her to becoming one of a select few members of Obama Scholars.

“This is an opportunity to open doors for other people.”

Morrall isn’t worried about the avalanche of accolades she’s received for her work, though.

“It’s never about you. It’s always about community and the people you can support and help,” Morrall said.

She wants other Black women and men, young and old, to see that they can become a philanthropist as long as the compass of their heart is locked onto the community’s wellbeing.

“I can be a philanthropist in my community. I don’t have to have a million dollars. Hell, I don’t have to have $1,000. I just have to care about the community I’m living in,” she said.

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia welcomes 12 Scholars from 12 countries for a nine-month residency at Columbia World Projects. Scholars will engage with the institution’s multifaceted program to deepen their knowledge and skills and build new capacities and networks that will accelerate their impact on the world. 

To learn more about the program, visit their website.

To follow Amanda Morrall’s journey through the program, follow her on LinkedIn.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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