Laidlaw Leadership and Research Program
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.
Interested in joining our next cohort of scholars? Join us for an upcoming information session.
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 work is supported by a weekly stipend. Research may be:
- A faculty 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.
- 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.
How do I find a faculty research mentor?
Start by exploring our list of faculty who are looking for students to contribute to their existing projects. If there is a project or faculty member that you are interested in, do some more digging—look at their website or other information you can find about the project. Then, reach out to the faculty member.
Multiple students may express interest in the same project, so faculty may ask to interview you or review your résumé before deciding if they can become your mentor.
If you are proposing your own unique research project, you should identify a faculty mentor whose work is relevant to your research. Start by speaking with professors you know or look for professors whose work overlaps with your own. Many faculty at Cornell whose work is international are affiliated with the Einaudi Center.
Your faculty mentor will write one of your letters of recommendation to apply. We realize that they may not know you well, but we are interested in knowing that you’ve discussed doing research together and that your mentor endorses your research plan.
Does the research have to be international?
Yes, your research should have an international focus or dimension that is outlined in your research plan.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What is expected of Laidlaw scholars?
- Attend and fully participate in all leadership development activities/training/events.
- 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.
- Engage in an immersive leadership experience abroad for six consecutive weeks during the second summer.
- Present your research during the fall research symposium.
- Write a report or produce a short video on your overall learning and leadership outcomes at the conclusion of the second summer.
- Serve as a mentor to new scholars and as an ambassador of Cornell's Laidlaw program.
- 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.
How many hours per week will I have to commit?
During both summers of the program, scholars are expected to commit full time for six weeks and participate fully in all Laidlaw activities. There may also be occasional weekend activities.
During the semester, you will spend an average of 2 hours per month attending Laidlaw events or workshops. There is also a leadership retreat at the end of the semester that occurs on a Friday evening and Saturday.
What is the timeline of activities?
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
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
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
- 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.
How in-depth should the research plan be?
The research plan can be up to 750 words and should include answer the following questions: what is the broad research topic? what do you hope to learn? how do you intend to carry out this research? What are the potential impacts of this research? Write in terms that can be understood by a non-expert or someone not in your field. Identify any community partners or key stakeholders. This research should be done in six weeks; if you are involved longer, that is fine, but the proposal should be for a six-week project.
What should I put in my leadership statement?
In the leadership statement, you should reflect on your understanding of and experience with leadership. We are especially interested in your thoughts on what it means to be a community-engaged leader, what global citizenship means to you, and the difference you would like to make as a leader and global citizen.
Contact our Laidlaw coordinator with any questions.