Using Intellectual Inquiry to Drive Solutions

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

The Leadership Prize was established in 2015 through a gift from Isabella Cannon.  The Leadership Prize is intended to support students who engage in research in the community and puts their knowledge into practice to facilitate change.

Undergraduate students from all areas of study are invited to apply for The Leadership Prize during the fall semester of their junior year.  For the cohort beginning the Spring of 2023, applications and the mentor’s nomination form are due Wednesday, October 11, 2023 (before Fall Break begins) for projects that will be completed by the end of the spring 2025 semester.

Key Characteristics of the Leadership Prize

The Leadership Prize is a $7,500 prize that supports sustained, mentored, community-based research projects undertaken by an undergraduate student.  Students are expected to use the majority of the award for project expenses; however, up to $2,500 of the award may be applied to tuition.

Leadership Prize projects are community-based research projects that engage the student, mentor, and community members.  At the heart of the projects should be a focus on pressing community issues or programs that could effect social change.  Preference will be given to projects based in North Carolina.

Applications are due in October of the fall semester of the applicant’s junior year.  The prize will support work starting in the subsequent spring semester and the following academic year (3 semesters total).  (If planning to study abroad, students will only be eligible for the prize if they are still be able to actively engage in their research and mentorship by their faculty member while abroad.)

Leadership Prize applications are developed by an undergraduate student, mentored by a faculty mentor.  Applications should include and will be evaluated based on:

  1. Relevance/importance of the proposed topic
  2. Methodological approach to the research question
  3. Research and project’s potential to lead social change
  4. Research and project feasibility, potential for completion, project timeline, and proposed budget (supplies, travel costs, conference presentations, etc. needed to support the research, leadership development, and project/change effort)
  5. Connection of the research and project/change effort to the student’s educational goals
  6. Proposed mentoring plan
  7. Student’s academic record
  8. Mentor bio-sketch indicating expertise in the research/project topic

The Three Elements of Completed Leadership Prize Projects

Intellectual Inquiry:

The Leadership Prize is intended to support students who undertake research in the community that has the potential to facilitate change.  Leadership Prize projects begin with extensive research examining the nature, causes, and consequences of a live problem about which candidates are deeply passionate.  Leadership Prize research should not merely report current thinking or review accepted practices.  Instead, Leadership Prize research seeks to identify new and interesting plans for examining an issue “with new eyes.”  The result of this research is a well-developed, and indeed novel, understanding of a problem’s root issues, potential approaches to solve the problem, and the obstacles to its solution.

Proposed Solutions:

Based on conclusions from the inquiry into the community-based problem, awardees will ultimately propose and justify an evidence-based solution. The proposed solution should draw on the findings of the study and use established scholarly theories (within the discipline and leadership) for support.  Further, the proposed solution will be vetted for an understanding of how leaders effect change and against likely obstacles to its implementation. The best solution will be both effective in addressing the underlying reasons for the problem and practical in its application.

Proposed Implementation Plan:

Following the completion of the research and proposal for a change project, an implementation plan must be developed.  This plan will describe a strategy to implement, measure, and evaluate the proposed solution or change effort.  Instrumental to the success of any implementation plan is an understanding of the leadership approaches that would be most successful in motivating support or collaboration in its execution. To this end, the implementation plan should draw from the awardee’s earlier study of leadership theory to identify the leadership practices that will enhance implementation effectiveness.

Prize Amount and Use

Each Leadership Prize is $7,500, to be used over the spring semester of the recipient’s junior year and the fall and spring semesters of his or her senior year at Elon. A maximum of $2,500 may be applied to tuition, while the rest should be used to support research expenses, the costs of supporting experiences, and leadership development expenses. No more than $3,000 of the $7,500 shall be used in the junior year.

In addition to the completion of the Leadership Prize project, each recipient is expected to participate in the Leadership Development Program associated with this award.  The Leadership Development Program includes two leadership development workshops and/or events offered during each of the three semesters of the award (total of six workshops and/or events).  For each of the 3 semesters, recipient is required to enroll in LED 4998 (or an equivalent) for 2 credit hours.  Recipients are expected to adhere to Reporting and Accountability for their Leadership Prize, including submission of semester reports and ethical allocation of funds. Each recipient is expected to present their culminating work at the annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) their senior year.

If you have additional questions, please contact Dr. Jodean Schmiederer, Dean of Student Development and Assistant Professor, at