Madeline Attianese ‘22, Gillian Kick ’22 awarded Leadership Prize grants for community research

The $7,500 Leadership Prize supports sustained, mentored and community-based research projects undertaken by Elon undergraduates.

Elon University has awarded the Leadership Prize to Elon juniors Madeline Attianese and Gillian Kick to support their research into community issues and the development of potential solutions to the problems they see.

Started as a gift from alumna Isabella Cannon, the Leadership Prize was established in 2015 to fulfill the former Raleigh, N.C. mayor’s vision of facilitating leadership and change. The Leadership Prize offers a $7,500 award to students to support their study of pressing issues both locally and statewide.

The Leadership Prize supports the combined efforts from the awarded student, their mentor and the surrounding community to address the problem from a new perspective. The prize is unique because it is awarded to a student to support their research as well as the development of potential solutions to the problems they are studying.

Each project includes the three elements of intellectual inquiry, proposed solutions and proposed implementation plans. Students apply for the Leadership Prize during the fall of their junior year, with the prize supporting their work during their final three semesters at Elon.

“Leading effectively means finding ways to transform well-informed ideas into thoughtful actions,” said Rob Moorman, director of The Leadership Prize, Frank S. Holt, Jr. Professor of Business Leadership and professor of organizational behavior. “The Leadership Prize supports our students’ efforts to connect their exploration of pressing issues with their motivation to improve the lives of others.”

Madeline Attianese ’22

Attianese, an Honors Fellow and public health studies major from Granby, Connecticut, is pursuing a project titled “The Value of Authenticity in Comprehensive Sex Education.” She will be looking at the role that authenticity plays in the delivery of the Wise Guys comprehensive sex education curriculum by educators. The curriculum is focused on promoting male responsibility to help prevent teenage pregnancy. She will be working with mentor Amanda Tapler, senior lecturer in public health studies.

Attianese said she was drawn to the topic after talking with a former Elon faculty member, Jennifer Kimbrough, about the Wise Guys curriculum, and found that Kimbrough had focused her dissertation on the topic. “From there, my current research mentor, Dr. Tapler, and Dr. Kimbrough guided me in the direction of working with Wise Guys,” Attianese said. “Things fell into place in such a beautiful way. It is quite an amazing feeling when you find something you can nerd out about while having the potential to encourage change.”

The Leadership Prize award will provide the opportunity to travel to various conferences to share her research, Attianese said. “I hopefully will be able to meet with the current Wise Guys educators to brainstorm ways my research can help an already amazing program progress forward to positively impact more lives through outstanding comprehensive sexuality education.”

Gillian Kick ’22

Kick, an English literature and creative writing major from Trumbull, Connecticut, is undertaking research titled “Rewriting Injustice in Alamance County: Fostering youth agency and community engagement through social justice writing.” Her mentor is Heather Lindenman, assistant professor of English.

Kick said when she was 16, her English teacher believed in her enough to let her write a narrative on injustice in education in Connecticut and it “revolutionized my world.” She anticipates her research helping bring more youth voices to the table as society grapples with injustice against marginalized communities.

“I truly believe that high schoolers, when given the time and space to do so, can say really powerful things about our communities,” Kick said. “They just need someone to believe in them. By empowering them to write, and then unpacking their writing, I hope to discern what high schoolers have to say about social justice issues and use their ideas as a way to move forward together.”

With the support of the Leadership Prize, Kick is planning to publish a collection of student works produced as part of this project. “This will allow the voices of Alamance County high schoolers to be amplified and shared with community leaders,” Kick said. “Additionally, funds from the prize will support my own academic development through events such as conferences and writing workshops.”

Kick is an Elon College Fellow, the lead service ambassador for the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, and the director of education and youth development for Elon Volunteers!

Attianese and Kick were selected for this year’s awards from a pool of applications that included students studying issues in engineering and social justice, health improvement and stress reduction among underrepresented students, immigration experiences in Alamance County and concussion prevention in public high schools. Serving on the committee were faculty and staff members Elena Kennedy, Derek Lackaff, Mary Morrison, Danielle Lake, Chris Leupold, Meredith Allison, Melanie Bullock and Rob Moorman. Learn more about the Leadership Prize and how to apply here.