Transformational Leadership Awards

The Harvard College Women's Center's Transformational Leadership Awards honor three seniors who have demonstrated transformational leadership and made a meaningful impact on fellow students, the campus, and/or the community. As a result of their excellent leadership, they have set an example that could inspire or empower women at Harvard College to assume leadership roles. The undergraduate awards are given in conjunction with a $500 cash prize. Please note: all applicable fees and taxes are the responsibility of the recipients.

2019 Women's Leadership Award recipient speaking at a podium in Pforzheimer House

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is defined as a leadership approach that causes change in individuals and social systems. A transformational leader is a mentor, collaborator, and someone who challenges, motivates, and inspires others.


Candidates for the Leadership Award must be undergraduates who are graduating in the academic year that the award is being made. Recipients of the award are expected to participate in the DSO Student Leadership Awards in early May.


In order to be considered for this honor, candidates must first receive a nomination letter submitted to the Harvard College Women’s Center by a community member, including students, staff, and faculty. Seniors are encouraged to reach out to their network for a nomination letter. There is no limit to the number of nominations which one person may make or receive. Nominations are accepted for the Transformational Leadership Award from December 1 - January 29.

To nominate a senior, please use this link to tell us how and why your nominees inspires you and others. Please provide 4-6 paragraphs in your description and ensure that it illustrates alignment with the transformational leadership rubric, as it will be forwarded to the award committee and is considered an integral part of the applicant’s packet. After a senior is nominated, the nominee will be contacted to submit an application describing their personal philosophy of leadership. In early spring, an award committee comprised of faculty and staff selects the winner from the pool of completed applications.

If you have questions about this award or any aspect of the criteria, please contact the Women's Center by email at or phone at 617-496-9426.


Once a nominating statement has been received by the publicized deadline, the candidate is notified and asked to submit via online form supporting materials in order to be considered for the award, including:

  • An application, including a personal statement of no more than 500 words detailing the candidate's transformational leadership practice (see transformational leadership rubric), the impact of that leadership on other undergraduates at Harvard College, and the candidate's perception of what it means to be a leader
  • a current résumé
  • a letter of recommendation from a faculty person, teaching fellow, staff member, or administrator to be considered in addition to the initial nomination statement(s). If an individual self-nominates or is nominated by a non-Harvard person, the nominee is responsible for submitting recommendation letters from two members of the Harvard community

Selection: The award committee reviews the applications, interviews finalists, and chooses a single recipient. The committee is comprised of members of the Harvard community (see below for more detail).

Notification: Finalists will be asked for an in-person interview with the award committee. All candidates will be informed of the award committee's decision by April 15.


The Harvard College Women’s Leadership Award Committee uses three primary criteria for selection of Candidates:

  • The candidate has demonstrated exceptional transformational leadership towards the achievement aligned with the mission of the Harvard College Women’s Center: celebrate women who mentor, collaborate, challenge, motivate, and inspire (see transformational leadership rubric); and promote gender equity by raising awareness of women’s and gender issues.
  • The candidate has made a meaningful impact on fellow students, the campus, and/or their communities over the last four years that reflects the depth and breadth of a sustained commitment. The candidate has set an example that inspires or empowers women at Harvard College to assume leadership responsibilities on campus and beyond.

In addition, the Committee considers two further criteria:

  • The candidate gives promise of continued significant contributions through their post-graduate plans and/or long-term personal goals*. Those contributions are likely to reflect distinctive creativity, originality and initiative and will mark the candidate as a leading and influential figure within their fields of endeavor. (*Candidates are not expected to have fixed post-grad plans to be considered for this award.)
  • The candidate’s communities engaged, goals accomplished, and background contribute to the diversity of the Women’s Leadership Award past recipient pool.

The Women’s Leadership Awards seeks to celebrate women who challenge, motivate, and inspire, while recognizing the cultural and structural barriers to women who lead. The Committee also takes into consideration the intersectional identity of applicants from different backgrounds, in different fields, and at different stages in their educational development. As Audre Lorde astutely remarked, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Similarly, the efforts of the candidates may not be “single-issue” as the experiences of women on our campus is shaped by the whole of their intersecting identities. As such, the Women’s Leadership Award Committee takes those differences into account in assessing applicants' success in meeting the selection criteria.

WLA Selection Committee

The committee membership may change year-to-year, however, will be comprised of:

  • Representatives from the Dean of Students Office of Harvard College (Equity Diversity, and Inclusion, Residential Life, Student Engagement);
  • One representative from the Office of Career Services;
  • One representative from the Public Service Department; and
  • An alumnae of Harvard College.

All of the representatives will be invited by the director of the Harvard College Women’s Center with the support of the Dean of Students Office on behalf of Harvard College. Committee members are expected to serve at least two years and up to four years with a gap of two years between for future membership.


transformational_leadership_rubric_oct2021.pdf121 KB