Laura Nichols Award

The Laura Nichols Women’s Studies Undergraduate Award supports activist, service, or creative projects that reflect a commitment to social change and the values of equality, inclusion, and justice.

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. As the department’s Assistant Director and Academic Advisor, Nichols managed the administrative functions of the department and advised every Women’s Studies major or certificate student; she also advised Black Women’s Studies minors. In addition to the ways that she served the department, Laura Nichols was also an active proponent of equality and inclusiveness in the university as a whole, including service on the President’s Commission on Women’s Issues and 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. A serious Terp, Laura and her four children all attended the University of Maryland. The Laura Nichols Award recognizes undergraduate students who exemplify her commitment to feminist principles and social change.

Recipients of the Laura Nichols Award

2017 Laura Nichols Award2017, 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 his 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 session 2015-16 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 the summer of 2016 and hopes to move forward with more work in this vein this upcoming summer 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 Dr. 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 Laura Nichols Award2016, 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.” This semester Tyannis is interning 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 when 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.