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Laura Nichols Award

The Laura Nichols Award recognizes undergraduate students who exemplify her commitment to feminist principles and social change through their scholarship, service, activism and/or creative endeavor. 

About The Award

From her arrival at the University of Maryland in 1987 to her retirement in 2014, Laura Nichols was a key staff member in women’s studies and an important advocate for equality and inclusiveness in the university as a whole. The Laura Nichols Award recognizes undergraduate students who exemplify her commitment to feminist principles and social change through their scholarship, service, activism and/or creative endeavor. Women’s studies majors and certificates, Black women’s studies minors and LGBT studies certificates and minors are all eligible.

Project Eligibility

Applications may be for activist, service or creative projects that reflect a commitment to social change and the values of equality, inclusion and justice. Applications may be for work done on-campus or in the wider community. In some instances awards may be given to support a student research project if it fulfills the goals of the Laura Nichols Award. Students may directly apply or nominations for the Laura Nichols Award may be forwarded by any member of the university community.  We especially encourage students to nominate other students whose work they see as especially worthy.

Applications will be accepted for projects completed within the last year, for ongoing projects or for projects to be undertaken sometime within the next six months.

Applications/nominations will be accepted for work done by a single student or for a group of students working together in an activist/service/creative endeavor. In the instance that the nomination is for a group of students, the majority must be officially enrolled in one of the departments’ programs: women’s studies major or certificate, Black women’s studies minor, LGBT studies certificate or minor.

How to Apply

Applicants must be in good academic standing at the time of the application and should submit:

  • A 300-500 word statement describing the academic, service, activist or creative project for which the nomination is being made and, especially, noting the ways in which this project reflects a commitment to social change and the values of equality, inclusion and justice. Please be as specific as possible in describing the work, considering its impact/importance or potential impact/importance and indicating why it is especially worthy of the Laura Nichols Award.
  • If you are proposing a new project: 100-200 word narrative of the applicant’s prior work in this area or other qualifications for successfully undertaking the proposed project
  • Resume(s)
  • Transcript(s) (unofficial is okay)
  • Names and contact information for two individuals who could serve as references in relationship to the project

In the case of nominations, the nominee should explain their relation to the student(s) and/or project and should confirm that the student(s) have agreed to be nominated.

Awardees will receive a $600 scholarship.

Applications are due March 15, 2020 by 4:00 p.m. and should be submitted via email to Gwen Warman, undergraduate advisor, Department of Women’s Studies at

Recipients will be expected to submit to the department a short written report at the completion of their project.

About Laura Nichols

As assistant director and academic advisor, Laura Nichols managed the administrative functions of the department and from 1987 to 2014 advised every women’s studies major or certificate student; she also advised Black women’s studies minors. Especially noteworthy was Nichols’ work to facilitate students’ experiential learning opportunities through internships that had social, economic, educational and/or political impact on women’s lives and that helped students develop the skills to critically analyze their work experiences and practically consider how they might implement feminist models in the workplace. Nichols’s dedication to student success—in both their on-campus experiences and beyond—was unwavering and is part of the legacy we hope to preserve through this award.

In addition to the ways that she served the department, Nichols was also an active proponent of equality and inclusiveness in the university as a whole. A longtime member (and 2002–04 chair) of the President’s Commission on Women’s Issues, Nichols also served on the campus Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Committee. Throughout 2004 and 2005 she organized surveys and focus groups culminating in a co-authored Center for Leadership and Organizational Change report on campus climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender faculty and staff. For this work, she was awarded the 2005 Champion of Our Community award by the LGBT Staff and Faculty Association. Beginning in the late 1990s, Nichols served as a member of the Peer Consulting Network for the Center for Leadership and Organizational Change and today continues in that capacity.  A serious Terp, Laura and her four children all attended the University of Maryland.

Past Recipients

2017, Muhammad Mussadiq, an LGBT studies certificate student, is pursuing an individual studies major in global public health, international development, and gender disparities.

A particular focus of his research and service/activism is sexual minorities in the country of Pakistan. Under the guidance of Dr. Bokeloo and Dr. Howard in the School of Public Health during Winter 2016 he initiated and carried out a research project in Pakistan, collecting data from NGOs to determine the health needs and local availability of resources for sexual minorities, particularly the transgender community. He continued this research in Summer 2016 and hoped to move forward with more work in this vein to learn about the services NGOs provide to sexual minorities and transgender population with the hope that new programs to improve the health of this population can be developed and implemented. Currently he is working on a research project with Bokeloo which examines the risk factors, social behavioral factors and socio-economic disparities which increase the vulnerabilities of transgender women in Pakistan, particularly in relation to their exposure to HIV.

In his Laura Nichols application, Muhammad wrote, “the lack of knowledge and education about sexual health of minorities and understanding of the most basic medical practices are unfortunately prevalent throughout the developing world including countries like Pakistan. The health disparities often affect women and sexual minorities most significantly. I opted to study Global Public Health, International Development and Gender Disparities along with the LGBT certificate to develop eloquent skills to play a more proactive role in improving the conditions and health equity of gender and sexual minorities.”

2016, Tyannis Carter, a women’s studies major, will use the award to support her work with a small group of 8th grade girls at the middle school she attended, KIPP: Ujima Village Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. In her application she wrote, “I still have strong relationships with the women who taught and inspired me. Equipped with my personal experience and my knowledge of women’s studies I feel as though I am ready to give back to the place that gave so much to me.” Tyannis interned at the school, meeting twice a week with the girls to discuss topics such as relationships, mental and physical health and the importance of art and politics. Each week in their meetings with Tyannis the girls engage in dialogue around these issues, complete creative projects and work toward their final activity–a community play where each will have a chance to write and perform their own monologue, dance or poem that expresses who they are. The project’s goal is that each young girl will have a greater realization of and ability to confidently answer the question “Who am I?” while at the same time developing their political views and becoming emboldened to affect change in their communities. The Laura Nichols Award will fund the group’s activities, including a healthy and affordable cooking class, a photography project and the community play.