Our Story

Wilberforce’s proto-genesis goes back to 1989 when the founder Dr. Bob Osburn, who was then employed by International Students Inc., was studying the Book of Galatians with a non-believing Chinese PhD student from China. As they read Galatians 5:13 (“You, my brothers, are called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another in love”), the student virtually leapt out of his chair and exclaimed, “Bob, that can change China!”

What was previously considered a text for the Body of Christ suddenly became a text for transforming public life, even the futures of whole nations. This student saw with unredeemed eyes what many Christians miss: The Word of God is truth that transforms nations as well as individual lives!

However, it was not until 2008 that the timing was right to create an organization dedicated to training international students to be redemptive change agents in their home societies. With the help of fellow visionaries in academia, law, and the professional world Wilberforce Academy was born. It was named for the great British parliamentarian, William Wilberforce, who fought slavery while also redemptively transforming British society. From its very beginning, the organization has aimed to train international students to courageously, creatively, intelligently, and skillfully apply a Christian worldview to problems facing their home societies.

In 2020, a process of succession planning began with the hiring of Dr. Kevin Cooney to succeed Dr. Osburn as President of Wilberforce and our name was changed to Wilberforce International Institute in order to more correctly identify our mission and differentiate us. Dr. Cooney, a well-published professor of both Business and International Relations, was given a mandate to expand the Institute by 200-300% and to extend its influence nationally. With this in mind Wilberforce is bringing in new staff with new skills to better accomplish our mission. 2021 is shaping up to be a transformative year for the ministry.


Internationals will foster human flourishing as they apply a Christian worldview and principles in their societies.


To equip internationals to bring Christ-centered transformation to their societies.

Our Core Commitments


Guided by biblical principles, we offer programs and solutions that honor Christ


We will practice our core values throughout the organization. We will actively communicate our practices and outcomes to donors, mentees, and partners

Enduring Commitment

We are committed to the long-term success of our mentees and their projects

Global Focus

We aspire to take a global perspective in our practices and outcomes

Our Impact

Innate giftedness is the primary factor, but the Academy’s effect is heightened by the amount of time spent in personal mentoring, both spiritually and professionally, as well as personal trips to visit mentees. Our mentees are never alone in their missions of redemptive change. Mentees face unique issues in their professional training, as well as particular economic, political, and cultural challenges from their home societies. Our customized approach to mentoring, combined with the Holy Spirit’s role as a teacher-counselor (John 14:26-28), has helped us think through and discover solutions consistent with a biblical worldview.

A handful of the Institute’s mentees come from particularly strategic nations where Christians have unusual, but guarded access to positions of power and influence. One mentee is rewriting a Christian-based K-12 curriculum that will, when finished, become the standard throughout the nation. Another has developed a Christian-based financial literacy program that has the potential to impact millions of people in their country and, in translated form, in many other nations around the world. A third is in a country where they hope to eventually develop a Christian public policy think-tank. A fourth is collaborating with a mentee from a nearby country to develop artificial intelligence efforts, while a fifth is waiting in the wings while drafting their redemptive project.

In our short history, more than 12,000 people have been directly touched by the Institute, and, indirectly, through its mentees, the numbers go well into the tens of thousands. Our Wilberforce graduates remain active and engaged in redemptive projects that they have formulated, led, and developed around the world.

Wilberforce Graduates’ Redemptive Projects Include:

  • Legal services for vulnerable children in Jamaica’s court system • Leadership training for young Haitians involved with Compassion International
  • A girls’ orphanage in an Asian capital city
  • A series of conferences and other activities to empower pastors in eastern Congo to bring social transformation in their communities
  • A peace, conflict resolution, and development training organization in eastern Zimbabwe
  • A financial literacy training organization in an Asian country
  • A Christian education training program for the youth of Cameroon, and their parents

I also feel challenged knowing that to who lot has been given, lot is required, and God has poured so much in me through this ministry for international students.”

– AbbelJoseph, Haiti

I also feel challenged knowing that to who lot has been given, lot is required, and God has poured so much in me through this ministry for international students.”

– Abbel Joseph, Haiti