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New York
United States of America





Global Education and African Art for Nebraska


Presenter: Dr Natalie Hahn
Founder-the Malaika Foundation-Nebraska

International United Nations official and Malaika Foundation founder Dr. Natalie Hahn has been selected by Humanities Nebraska (HN) to receive the 2020 Sower Award in the Humanities. The Sower Award is presented annually to an individual who has made “a significant contribution to public understanding of the humanities in Nebraska.”

A native of Polk, long-time resident of Central City, former New Yorker and now a Lincoln resident, Hahn served 38 years with United Nations programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, New York City and Rome. Her global interests and adventures started when she was a Polk County 4-H member, participating in the International Farm Youth Exchange in New Zealand and then receiving a Rotary Fellowship to India.

Her work with the U.N. included areas such as new food crops and nutrition in Nigeria, women and finance with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, youth initiatives with the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF representative to Malawi, and Senior Private Sector Adviser at the U.N.’s Fund for International Partnerships.

Hahn says her favorite job was in Nigeria with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA-Ibadan), where she assisted in introducing improved food crops and nutrition programs for rural women. An agricultural revolution was the adoption of soybeans, a new crop in the country. For this accomplishment, the Yoruba Peoples honored Hahn with a chieftaincy and bestowed the title Balogun Iyalaje, meaning “the person who empowers.”
Hahn sees her recent return home to her beloved Nebraska as her "best decision ever.” With the influence of her journalist mother, Grayce Hahn Burney, she was determined to give back to her state by founding the Malaika Foundation (, a recipient of HN grants, which has a mission to build a greater understanding of peoples and countries throughout the world and enhance global education in Nebraska schools and communities. Over the past 20 years, the Malaika Foundation has organized educational workshops throughout Nebraska for 3,000 teachers and provided 68 fellowships to teachers and students to study abroad on five continents.

Hahn has donated African art to Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, the Kenneth Morrison Cancer Center in Hastings, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Wayne State College, and the public schools and libraries in Lexington.

Upon moving to Lincoln, Hahn became a member of Downtown Lincoln Rotary Club #14.

With an educational background that includes a B.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an M.A. from Ohio State University, and an M.P.A. and Ed.D from Harvard University, Hahn has also received honorary doctorates from UNL and Nebraska Wesleyan.

Hahn was nominated by HN board member Edgar Hicks of Omaha, who noted in his nomination letter that she is unique in making her contribution to public understanding of the humanities through all four categories cited in the nomination form: scholarship, volunteerism, philanthropy, and advocacy.