The Undergraduate Social Action Award

Email the Social Action Committee Co-Chairs with any questions. Please put “Undergraduate Social Action Awards” as part of the subject line.

Co-Chairs of the Social Action Committee, Evonnia Woods, and Heather Hlavka:

Selection Subcommittee: Marley Olson and Melody Huslage

History and Overview

The Undergraduate Social Action Award is given annually to recognize a student or team of students making a substantial contribution to improving the lives of women in society through activism. SWS initiated this award in 2003. The work honored by this award is central to the SWS goal to foster activism for women.

Nature of the Award

SWS recognizes that action “for women” does not mean that the work was done “with women” or even “by women.” Substantial need exists for social action working with working with men, boys, LGBTQ communities and other groups where change will benefit women and can be understood as feminist action. Therefore, SWS recognizes work done in this spirit regardless of applicant gender identity.

The Award Reward

The Undergraduate Social Action Award includes roundtrip travel (up to $500) to attend the SWS Winter Meeting. In addition, awardees will have the Winter Meeting registration fee waived and may submit travel expenses to receive up to an additional $350 (via the cost share system) each to defray costs of travel and lodging. An award certificate also accompanies the award. The awardee(s) will be featured in the Winter Meeting Program, will receive a one-year SWS membership, and a select set of publications by SWS members. The SWS Social Action Committee may select up to three awardees each year.

Eligibility and Criteria for Selection

A candidate for the Undergraduate Social Action Award must be nominated by an SWS member.  The work for which the candidate is nominated must have been undertaken during the undergraduate career.  Nominations are acceptable for candidates up to one-year after they complete their BA.  The candidate is not required to be a member at the time of nomination.  A recipient may be honored for a collection of ongoing activism for women or for a substantial single action that has affected positively the lives of women.

At least one member of a social action team must attend the Winter Meeting to retain award eligibility.  The awardee will also be asked to prepare and share a short presentation about the activism recognized by the award.

Nomination and Application Procedures

An SWS member must nominate a candidate for the award via the SWS membership portal: where there is an Awards Submission Form.
Items to include are: a nomination letter, an overview document (e.g. curriculum vitae or resume, biography) and a 3-5 page essay written by the activist describing the activist contributions and their impact (see below).  Nominees may also include testimonials from those benefiting from or witnessing the activism and support documents such as newspaper clippings or an event program.
Guidelines for Essay
1) Describe the organization(s) and/or project(s) structure, goals and funding
2) Identify challenges in action work and any changes made to address challenges
3) Discusses connections between the action work and educational experience and knowledge
4) Report contribution to women’s lives and/or feminist social change
5) Reflect on experiences
The full awards submission package must be submitted at the same time in one file.

Committee Process

All materials must be submitted electronically by October 1, 2023 at 11:59 pm ET via the membership portal:

The Executive Office will communicate the selection process outcome to all nominees.  Award decisions will be made by December 1, 2022 allowing recipients adequate time to make plans for travel to the Winter Meeting.

The Award Presentation

The Undergraduate Social Action Award is presented annually by the Chair of the Awards Committee and/or Social Action Committee Co-Chairs at the SWS Winter Meeting.

Past Recipients

2023 Recipients
Kavya Subramaniam,
Tulane University
For her work involved in various aspects of reproductive justice work on Tulane’s campus, including serving as a peer advocate through Tulane’s Sexual Aggression and Peer Hotline Education Program (SAPHE) and as an Emergency Medical Technician through Tulane EMS.

2022 Recipients
Kelsie Joseph
, The University of the West Indies
For her work with IGDS Ignite which is a student activist group of The Institute of the Gender and Development Studies and her plans to initiate an IGDS Ignite project which will seek to draw on activities undertaken, and lessons learned to use these as the basis for a peer-led pedagogical, online approach to Caribbean feminist activism.

2021 Recipients
Alexandria Hernandez
, University of Texas at El Paso
For her work in founding Frontera Folx for Reproductive Justice, an on-campus organization working to provide a safer space for our community through educating, providing recourses and representation.
Molly Roach, Framingham State University
For her work with RacismFreeWPS, which recently shifted its focus to ending all forms of oppression in Worcester Public Schools.
Reagan Williams, The College of Charleston
For her work in co-founding a student organization, Mental Health in Melanin, in the Spring of 2019 in order to advocate for mental health care awareness and combat collective trauma often experienced in communities of color.

2018 Recipients
Rachel Litchman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
For her work with The Voices and Faces Project: The Stories We Tell Workshop on the topic of childhood trauma and sexual violence.
Joseline Tlacomulco, University of Connecticut
For her work as activist and community organizer for Connecticut students for Dream, a statewide organization led by undocumented youth to advocate for undocumented students and their families.

2017 Recipients
Kenetra Hinkins and Ade Ajao, Framingham State University
For their activist work in founding: We are BGMT: Black Girls Matter Too aka Brilliance Guidance Melanin Togetherness. Their organization was founded in 2015 in the wake of Sandra Bland’s death.
Alejandra Melgoza, University of California, Santa Barbara
For her activist work in addressing how UC Santa Barbara handles sexual violence. She has sought to improve the lives of women who are survivors of sexual violence in a way that acknowledges the differences that exist among women.

2016 Recipients
#Irate8 (Brittany Bibb, Ashley Nkadi, & Alissa Snoddy), University of Cincinnati
For their social media activism work as part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and for making a critical difference for students of color at the University of Cincinnati.
Mikka Mills, St. Ambrose University
For being an inclusive feminist leader on her campus and supporting women in the larger community, which includes raising funds for the local domestic violence shelter.
Itzel Padron Zuniga, Iowa State University
In recognition of her solidarity activism with survivors of sexual assault on her college campus at Iowa State University.

2015 Recipients
Chasity Thompson, Georgia Southern University
In recognition of her commitment to students of color, including her work with the University’s Multicultural Student Center, where, among other duties, she is a Minority Advisement Program (MAP) mentor to new college students, and a Women of Worth member.
Caroline Burkholder, Florida State University
In recognition of her commitment to women and politics on and off campus, including the development of youth programming and curriculum, gender, and American politics as part of the local Oasis Center for Women and Girls.

2014 Recipients
Colleen Fugate, Rice University
For her wide variety of activism, on efforts such as transnational migration, reproductive health, and conservation.
Sarah Rose Webber, Southern Utah University
For founding her university’s first feminist club and her commitment to anti-domestic violence work.
Christopher Guido, Florida Gulf Coast University
He founded the campus’ first reproductive rights group in conjunction with the local Planned Parenthood.

2013 Recipients
Marna Clowney-Robinson
For her work in developing the Eating Disorders Recovery and Support Network and a website for women struggling with eating disorders.
Emily Mumford
For creating an alternative spring break (ABS) service-learning option that sought to advance feminist action by making visible the continued deep-rooted social problems of racism, particularly in the Deep South.
Danielle M. Story, Morehead State University
For her work to revitalize the defunct gender equality student group on her campus.

2012 Recipients
Stephanie Bonvissuto: in recognition of her activist career, involvement with the LOFT: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, and her work as student coordinator of the UMass-Boston Queer Student Center
Alex Dao: for her work revitalizing the UC Davis Queer Student Union and her involvement in the Occupy social movement
Izzy Pellegrine: for her work with the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, a non-profit organization founded to create tangible change and make schools safer for Mississippi’s queer youth.

2011 Recipients

Jess Acosta, Colby College, Waterville, Maine
LGBTQI campus and regional leadership
Stephanie Elwood, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Community Gardening Projects
Abigail Lemay, Stetson University, Deland, Florida
AAUW & ACLU campus and national leadership