“I set up Grace Foundation in honor of my late mother Grace, an inspirational visionary who passionately believed in helping people to help themselves. Grace Foundation is the embodiment of everything she stood for: Building the social capital of communities by helping them source local and international educational, financial and human resources, supporting young people in finding training, study, enterprise or employment opportunities, providing girls and women with equal access to learning and development opportunities and protecting them from violence. Together, this investment will not only grant that the poorest members of our society can live independent lives, supporting their families and communities, but also that the next generation of Nigerians can break free from the cycle of poverty that has held back the prosperity of our nation for so long. “

Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe is the Founder and President of Grace Foundation for Education and Development and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for African Development at Cornell University and a Faculty Fellow at the Telluride House, Cornell University. She was previously a Visiting Scholar at Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center. She also developed the Alternative Service Break program for the Office of Dean of Students at Washington State University. The award-winning program combined service learning and scholarly work and provided a more transformative service learning experience, particularly for students of color, first generation students and those from low-income families.

Following her life-long passion about gender and education issues, Dr. Oviawe has participated in several global discussions and e-forums on women that were sponsored by UNESCO, UN Women, UNIFEM and the World Bank. She is also the Founder of the Africa Special Interest Group (ASIG) of the Comparative and International Education Society, an active and vibrant scholarly community that encourages and supports critical inquiries into African educational issues. The network includes academics, practitioners and graduate students from over 15 countries.

Dr. Oviawe’s life and work experiences are as varied as her interests; spanning several continents including: Africa, North America and Eurasia. She has conducted online training on violence prevention for the US Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women in conjunction with Green Dot for Universities across the United States, consulted for Sesame Street for their project launch in Nigeria, and is a member of the Education Special Interest Group of the 100 Year Starship, a global initiative of former astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, to promote science and technology and to ensure the capabilities for human travel beyond our solar system exist within the next 100 years while using findings from such travels to enhance life on earth.

In addition to her work in the higher education and nonprofit sectors in the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Oviawe worked in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, where she developed a culturally appropriate public relations campaign for a consolidation of four of the largest micro-lending institutions in the Country.

She has a PhD degree in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education, an MSc degree in International and Intercultural Education and a Bachelors in Public Policy and Administration with specialized honors. Dr. Oviawe is the recipient of several awards including: Woman of the Year Award, Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award and Excellence in Civic Engagement Award from Washington State University. As well as the Woman of Distinction Award from St. Maria Goretti Old Girls International.