The Emily Couric Leadership Forum (ECLF) is pleased to announce that Ayoade Balogun, a senior at Albemarle High School, has won the 17th annual Emily Couric Leadership Scholarship.  Ayoade will receive a $30,000 scholarship.  Ayoade and her fellow nominees will be recognized at the ECLF’s annual luncheon on Monday, April 24, 2017 at the Omni Hotel.

The scholarships are awarded annually to encourage young women to adopt an active role in government, public issues, and policy debates affecting their communities; and to inspire them to pursue activities that will enable them to become effective leaders.  Each public or private high school in Charlottesville and Albemarle may nominate one senior girl who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in her school and community.  A committee of community leaders selects the winner.  This year the ECLF is awarding a total of $80,000 in scholarships.  In addition to Ms. Balogun’s winning scholarship, Kate Dean-McKinney of Tandem Friends School will receive a discretionary merit scholarship of $10,000 and each nominee will receive a $5,000 scholarship.  These scholarships are meant to offset costs of the recipient’s college education or another approved leadership endeavor.

The following criteria were important in the selection:  sense of initiative, problem-solving ability, creativity, motivational effectiveness, communication skills, listening capacity, team building style, proven follow-through performance, and effective interpersonal skills.  The selection committee felt that Ayoade demonstrates a great potential for future leadership and influence/impact on society.

Ayoade Balogun is a gifted scientist, musician, and civic leader.  She served as a summer intern at NASA where she worked with a team to develop software for the CALIPSO satellite.  In 2016 she was the first place winner of the Virginia Piedmont Regional Science Fair in Materials and Bioengineering for building a device for people with high risk of glaucoma to track eye pressure at home. In 2015 she interned at UVA researching the effects of stress and stimulation of the vagus nerve using optogenetics on ischemia reperfusion injury of the kidneys.  She then co-authored an article in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.  Ms. Balogun has also interned at the Charlottesville branch of Northrop Grumman where she helped design and build a submersible buoy that could measure the extent of ocean acidification.  The White House invited Ms. Balogun to discuss improving STEM education for girls after she founded the MESA Bridge Camp.  At this camp, high school students teach math and physics to middle school girls while designing and building pedestrian bridges on the Rivanna Trail.  Ms. Balogun is principal cellist for the Youth Symphony and plays tenor saxophone in the Albemarle High School Jazz Band.  She will attend Stanford University next Fall.

This year’s featured speaker and recipient of the Emily Couric Women’s Leadership Award is Val Ackerman .From being a dominant player on the basketball court at the University of Virginia to serving as Commissioner of the Big East Athletic Conference, Val Ackerman has risen to the pinnacle at every level of sports. She was one of the first UVA female athletes to receive a scholarship under Title IX. After graduating from UVA, she earned a law degree and rose through the ranks of the NBA, before becoming the first president of the WNBA. Today, Ackerman leads the Big East as Commissioner of ten universities where she has repositioned a once in-flux organization into a national powerhouse. A 2016 winner of the Billie Jean King Contribution Award, Ackerman continues to empower women and girls to pursue sports, not just as players on the field, but also as leaders in business and beyond.

The Women’s Leadership Award acknowledges an exceptional woman who exemplifies leadership in her profession and her community, with Emily Couric herself receiving the first honor in 2001.  Honored speakers in the past have included Katie Couric, Rita Dove, Sandra Day O’Connor, Caroline Kennedy, Donna Brazille, Anna Quindlen, Olympia Snow, Tina Brown, and Sylvia Earle.

For more information about the Emily Couric Leadership Forum or to purchase tickets for the luncheon, please visit our website at