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Laidlaw Leadership and Research Program

Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
Application Timeframe: Fall
Lia Sokol participated in a leadership project in Zambia alongside Laidlaw scholars from other universities around the world.


The Laidlaw Undergraduate Leadership and Research Program promotes ethical leadership and international research around the world—starting with the passionate leaders and learners found on campuses like Cornell.

With generous support for your research, leadership development, and a summer abroad putting your skills into action, this 20-month program for emerging leaders lays out a path for you to invest your skills, knowledge, and experience to help others. As a Laidlaw scholar, your talent and motivation are cultivated through research, leadership training and experiences, and networking with like-minded peers.

Over two years, Laidlaw scholars become skilled researchers, embrace data-based decision-making, and learn to lead with integrity. Hear how Laidlaw scholars across the globe have benefited from the program.

Interested in joining our next cohort of scholars? By submitting your intent to apply in advance, you can receive application support from Maja Anderson, our Laidlaw coordinator. Fill out the intent to apply by December 15.

The Program's Key Components


You will spend your first summer as a Laidlaw scholar working on campus on an internationally-focused research project that is supervised by a faculty member or an experienced research team. Your faculty research mentor will need to provide one of your application recommendation letters.

The Laidlaw program supports you with a weekly stipend while you develop skills of analysis, investigative study, problem-solving, and data management. Your research may be:

  1. A pre-existing project: Many faculty members are already looking for undergraduate research assistants to join exciting projects across fields. Contact a Cornell faculty member from our list of projects to see if you would be a good fit, or identify research projects and faculty from across campus.
  2. An individual project: Choose your own project. You may identify a research project that interests you, and select a faculty mentor to work with one-on-one. Please contact the Laidlaw program coordinator for more details. 

If you'd like support as you identify a faculty mentor and research project, let us know by completing your intent to apply, due by December 15. 

Leadership Training

Leadership training is an essential component of the program that continues throughout your time as a Laidlaw scholar. You’ll learn core leadership values and skills that include how to be a global citizen, prioritize collective action and critical reflection, and meaningfully engage with your community. This programming is facilitated in partnership with the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.
You will develop problem-solving and communication skills that benefit you long past your time in the program, as well as earn a certificate of global citizenship and engaged leadership.

Leadership-in-Action Experience

Spend your second summer abroad, putting your knowledge to use in the real world. You will be able to choose from a variety of options:

  1. Central leadership program: A leadership-intensive, centrally organized program that you select from Laidlaw's approved list. You will experience a new and challenging environment outside of the U.S. alongside Laidlaw scholars from other universities. Cornell Laidlaw scholars have worked on community health promotion in Fiji, human rights issues in Zambia, climate change in Mexico, and conservation education in Uganda. 
  2. Community-engaged leadership: A placement with a nonprofit, community organization, or social enterprise that takes you outside of your comfort zone. In this placement, you may build on your research project, plan and implement strategy, and engage with others in leading meaningful change. Laidlaw scholars often participate in opportunities hosted by the Einaudi Center's regional and thematic programs.
  3. In-field application of research: An application of your research in the field that aims to create positive change while developing your leadership skills. In addition to being outside of your comfort zone, you will need to provide clearly defined objectives and impacts of your work which will be beneficial to society.

These skills are directly transferable to future work across disciplines, while also introducing you to different life experiences and expanding your perspective.


Over your two years in the program, you will get to know like-minded scholars who are passionate about Laidlaw's shared values. The international network of Laidlaw scholars extends beyond Cornell University to a global community that shares an online space for continued collaboration. 


Summer 1: Up to $3,900 stipend while you conduct full-time research.

Summer 2: Program fees or stipend while you engage in an international leadership-in-action experience. Additional support is available for travel or research-related expenses.  


First- and second-year students from any college or major may apply. We are looking for students who seek to be globally engaged citizens, ethical leaders, and internationally focused researchers. You should have a strong academic background and must be able to commit to full participation in the program. U.S. citizenship is not required. 

In order to be eligible for program funding, scholars must commit to all components of the program. Upon acceptance, scholars will be required to sign a commitment form. These expectations and important upcoming dates are outlined below.

Participant Expectations

  1. Attend and fully participate in all leadership development activities/training/events. 
  2. Engage in faculty-mentored research on campus for six consecutive weeks during the first summer. Scholars are not permitted to hold other internships or full-time commitments during that time.
  3. Engage in an immersive leadership experience abroad for six consecutive weeks during the second summer.
  4. Present your research during the fall research symposium.
  5. Write a report or produce a short video on your overall learning and leadership outcomes at the conclusion of the second summer.
  6. Serve as a mentor to new scholars and as an ambassador of Cornell's Laidlaw program.
  7. Be an active member of the Laidlaw Scholars Network while a scholar, and keep the central Laidlaw Program informed of career developments as an alum.

Important Dates 

Year 1:

April: Laidlaw scholars welcome and launch, leadership assessment, and workshop

May: Leadership retreat and community-building days, research scaffolding workshop

June 5-July 15: Leadership and global citizenship training (weekly)

June, July, and August: Research dates are flexible, but must be full time over six consecutive weeks

August: Research communication workshop

September: Research symposium

October: Laidlaw scholars conference

November: Introduction to leadership-in-action

Year 2:

February: Ethical leadership masterclass (remote)

Winter/spring: Monthly workshops, planning for leadership-in-action experience and pre-departure orientation

June, July, and August: Six week leadership-in-action experience dates are flexible, but must be full time over six consecutive weeks

September: Leadership-in-action presentations at fall symposium

October or November: Introduction to leadership-in-action and leadership celebration

How to Apply

Receive support through your application process by filling out your intent to apply by December 15, 2023. The intent to apply allows you to request support and ask questions as you proceed with the full application.

Applications should be submitted by January 31, 2024 using the link below. Students who are selected to become Laidlaw scholars are notified by March 15.

Documents to Submit with Your Application

  • Resume/CV
  • Personal leadership statement
  • Transcript (can be unofficial)
  • Proposed research plan
  • References who can submit letters of recommendation
    • One should be your proposed faculty mentor who has agreed to work with you, and one will be a reference of your choosing.

Contact our Laidlaw coordinator, Maja Anderson, with any questions. 

Additional Information

Funding Type

  • Scholarship


  • Student