This award honors one graduating student at Harvard Kennedy School for their commitment to building community and for serving as a role model for women aspiring to be leaders. 

2023 Awardee: Raie Gessesse, MPP '23

To nominate a graduating student, please submit a letter of support (to not exceed 500 words) describing how your nominee fulfills the award criteria listed below and indicate any specific ways the candidate you are nominating (or yourself) has leveraged leadership to advance women and gender equity. Please note that self-nominations are welcome.

Nominations should be submitted via email to Laura Botero at laura_botero@hks.harvard.edu. Please include “Nomination for Barbara Jordan Award” in the subject line of your email. The Barbara Jordan Award for Women’s Leadership will be presented on Class Day.

  • Commitment to building community at HKS
  • Contribution to furthering issues of public importance outside HKS
  • Serves as an example of leadership and as a role model for women aspiring to be leaders
  • Displays the qualities of excellence (in academic achievement and community service) that Barbara Jordan embodied as a public servant
  • Leverages leadership to advance women and gender equity

  • 2022 - Majd Steitieh
  • 2021 - Abosede Alimi
  • 2020 - Ruha Shadab
  • 2019 - Tahra Goraya
  • 2018 - Sahar Ali Dar
  • 2017 - Lauren Powell
  • 2016 - Norma Torres Mendoza
  • 2015 - Phyllis Johnson
  • 2014 - Halimatou Hima
  • 2013 - Leila El-Khatib
  • 2012 - Katharine Lusk 
  • 2011 - Sorby Grant 
  • 2010 - Rasheba Johnson 
  • 2009 - Wivina Belmonte, Erica Lewis, and Shanza Khan 
  • 2008 - Letha Tawney
  • 2007 - Sarah-Catherine Phillips
  • 2006 – Lara Ponomareff
  • 2005 – Maria Torres
  • 2004 – Dawn Fraser
  • 2003 – Karin Rodgers
  • 2002 – Laila El-Haddad
  • 2001 – Lynne Lyman
  • 1999 – Michele Seligman

Barbara Jordan was a powerful politician, a riveting orator, and a dynamic leader. Through her lifelong commitment to public service, she demonstrated that the barriers women face can be overcome through courage and purpose. Jordan was the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate in 1966. As President Pro Tempore of the Senate in 1972, in the tradition of the Texas Senate, she became “Governor for a Day”—the first black woman governor in the history of the United States. Jordan later served as the first black Texan in the U.S. Congress, representing the 18th Congressional District. In 1994, she served as Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, and before her death in 1996, President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.