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Lead Forward takes an innovative approach to leadership development, one that uniquely promotes students’ ability to create and implement a leadership vision toward a greater good. To overcome unique challenges, to bring about real change, student leaders must learn to imagine new possibilities and work with others to carve out new paths. Lead Forward allows students to hone these abilities now, while making a meaningful impact on campus or beyond.

Through dynamic classes, insightful speakers, and tailored coaching, program participants will learn the theory and actions behind social impact leadership. Through the Lead Forward Fellowship Grant, John Martinson Honors College students may receive a seed grant of up to $5,000 to implement their own social impact initiative. The Lead Forward Fellowship also provides a pathway for completing the JMHC scholarly project.

Students who complete the coursework and fellowship will be recognized with the Lead Forward credential, including a leadership portfolio.

Preparing to Lead Forward

In the first stage of the Lead Forward pathway, students may choose from several options that provide an introduction to leadership development. While distinct in many ways, these options provide students an entry point into their development that allows them to explore different approaches to leadership, define their own leadership identity, and clarify the commitments they want to pursue through their leadership moving forward. These options include:

Students will also take two courses that will prepare students to develop and enact a leadership vision that benefits others. HONR 299: Lead for Social Impact (1 cr) uses a case-study approach to help students engage concepts for social impact leadership in context and imagine possibilities for their own leadership vision. HONR 299: Social Impact in Action (2 cr) adopts a workshop format that allows students to put concepts and strategies into practice. Students will also engage with community service opportunities and explore ethical approaches to social impact leadership.

Students who complete this coursework will receive special consideration for the Lead Forward Fellowship Grant.

Lead Forward Fellowship Grant

The Lead Forward Fellowship is a competitive grant that provides student leadership teams of two to five with resources and coaching needed to enact their leadership vision. The fellowship includes a seed grant of up to $5,000, as well as participation in single credit courses in the Fall and Spring semesters, where leadership teams will receive further instruction on social impact leadership and allow for collaborative learning between fellows. Lead Forward Fellows will also receive personalized mentorship opportunities from Lead Forward Luminaries (visiting speakers) and Lead Forward Mentors (Purdue faculty and/or staff) with experience in visionary leadership, social impact, community engagement, social entrepreneurship, organizational leadership, etc.

Lead Forward Fellowship Grants are competitive and will be awarded based on the viability and potential impact of the leadership vision as well as the efforts of the student leadership team to prepare themselves for enacting their leadership vision. The grant application for the 2024-2025 academic year will open in January of 2024. Here is a copy of the 2023-2024 APPLICATION FORM. Contact Dr. Adam Watkins at to gain access to this BrightSpace application portal or for further information.

Lead Forward Luminaries

Each academic year, four to six Lead Forward Luminaries will be brought to campus to provide additional instruction and inspiration to program participants. Luminaries will include leaders who have had success making change for a greater good, whether through social movements, social entrepreneurship, non-profit organization, etc. Responsibilities will include mentoring fellowship teams, visiting a Lead Forward Theory or Practice class, and/or participating in a talk or workshop open to program participants and other interested students.

Lead Forward Mentors

Lead Forward Mentors will consist of faculty and staff at Purdue with expertise related to envisioning and enacting social impact leadership, many of whom will likely have preexisting connections with fellowship teams. Responsibilities will include providing support to one of the fellowship teams and, if interested, participating in talks, workshops, or other leadership learning opportunities within the program. Mentors will be awarded stipends based on their level of involvement with the program.

Faculty and staff at Purdue may propose social impact initiatives connected to programs or research they oversee, provided they are open to allowing student teams to take on leadership roles. To propose an initiative, contact Dr. Adam Watkins at

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