Sheila C. Johnson Leadership Fellowship

The Sheila C. Johnson Leadership Fellowship brings together diverse and talented emerging leaders based on their demonstrated leadership promise and demonstrated interest in reducing disparities in African-American communities through efforts in health care, education, economic development, public policy, criminal justice reform, social entrepreneurship, and a variety of other fields. The program connects fellows with highly accomplished national and international leaders and provides them with the skills to:

  • Foster sustainable change in communities,
  • Build cross-sector partnerships and collaborations, and
  • Inspire new ideas and innovative change in programs and policies that serve communities.

We need committed people working to achieve social change despite significant odds. We need emerging leaders who want to strengthen their ability to transform communities. We need you.


"The Sheila C. Johnson Fellowship provided me with a family that helped me find a power within me that I couldn't yet see. In clinical training I was taught to care for others, often forgetting to care for myself. With the SCJ family, I was always a conversation away from another fellow pushing deep self-exploration. Wednesday nights were filled with empowering accountability, inspiration, and comfort in a learning environment unlike anything I've ever known."
-Kyle Renard Burton, MPP/MD '19


Step 1: Apply to Harvard Kennedy School: Application deadline is Monday, December 3, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. EST.

Step 2: Apply for the Fellowship: Application deadline for the Sheila C. Johnson Fellowship is early February, 2019.

To apply for the Johnson Fellowship please visit the Student Financial Services web site.

Applicants must submit:

  1. A biographical profile, not to exceed 150 words. (This profile should be short, concise and in the third person.)  Please include the following highlights: an introductory sentence including your name; the degree you are pursuing at Harvard Kennedy School in addition to any joint degree at Harvard or concurrent degree program at another graduate or professional institution; where you are from and where you currently reside; an overview and highlights of your relevant work/professional experience; significant leadership achievements including awards or certifications; and educational credentials with the degrees earned and institutions attended.

  2. A document containing written responses to two essay prompts regarding your passion and interest in reducing disparities in African-American communities in the U.S., your interest in the fellowship and leadership goals.


Finalists for the Sheila C. Johnson Fellowship will be interviewed in early March, 2019 by members of the Sheila C. Johnson Fellowship Selection Committee.

Please visit our Fellows FAQs page for more information.

Program Information

  • Sheila C. Johnson Leadership Fellows are awarded a full tuition scholarship and health fees.

  • Fellows are eligible for a stipend up to $10,000.

  • Applicants will be considered based on their leadership promise and demonstrated interest in reducing disparities in African-American communities in the United States.

  • Fellows will participate in a robust cocurricular program offered by the Center for Public Leadership.

  • This fellowship is open to applicants entering their first year of study in any of the Harvard Kennedy School's masters' degree programs. Students pursuing a joint degree at HKS and another Harvard graduate or professional school or those in concurrent programs at other approved universities or schools may also apply. The fellowship is open to U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents only.

  • The fellowship will be open to all admitted master's degree program students and will not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, or national origin. Domestic students from under-represented groups are encouraged to apply.


Award decisions will be primarily merit based but with a consideration of financial need as determined by HKS Student Financial Services.

The Fellowship Experience

Fellows will participate in a yearlong cocurricular program designed by Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. This not-for-credit program is intended to inspire, to provide concrete opportunities for leadership skill-building, and to connect fellows with an interdisciplinary network of like-minded peers and mentors that will last a lifetime.

The Fellowship cocurricular program will include regaular dinners, an annual retreat, and robust field experiences grounded in discussions with visionary leaders whose work has had significant impacts in marginalized communities. The program will also focus on strengthening core competencies that are central to public leadership, such as promoting strong moral character and ethics, mastering the arts of persuasion and negotiation, and leading effective teams and organizations.

Sheila C. Johnson Leadership Fellows will create a vibrant network of students and alumni committed to advancing knowledge, collaborating on solutions to pressing problems, and building leadership capacity in their communities, their nation, and the world.

Commitment to Nondiscrimination 

As a matter of commitment, policy, and law, Harvard Kennedy School does not discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity, color, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, intellectual focus, disability, or veteran status. The School strongly believes diversity enhances the value of all its activities, from research and teaching to degree programs and public events. The School encourages applications from candidates traditionally underrepresented in public service leadership positions and acknowledges a special responsibility to train leaders from groups underrepresented in public policy and management.

Sheila C. Johnson is an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose accomplishments span the arenas of hospitality, sports, TV/film, the arts, education, women’s empowerment, and community development.

As Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Ms. Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties in Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana.

As Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Ms. Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, for which she serves as President and Managing Partner. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association.

In 2017, Ms. Johnson was named on Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 America’s Richest Self-Made Women. And in 2016, she co-founded WE Capital, a venture capital consortium to support and empower female-led enterprises that can advance transformational social change. She also serves on the board of the Greater Washington Partnership, which seeks to strengthen the region’s global position as a center for commerce and innovation.

Ms. Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, starting with her work as founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. She has served as executive producer for documentaries and a feature films. Ms. Johnson is founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival, an annual celebration of independent film.

A fervent supporter of education and the arts, Ms. Johnson serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York, and is a member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. She is also a board member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

A strong believer in the value of athletics as a vehicle for women’s empowerment, she also helped found Street Soccer USA’s Lady Salamanders program, which helps low-income and homeless young women find their inner strength through sport. Ms. Johnson served as global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that combats global poverty by empowering women. She also served as a member of Accordia Global Health Foundation’s International Council, rallying support for the foundation’s efforts to overcome the burden of infectious diseases in Africa. In recognition of her humanitarian efforts, she was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal in 2012.

Johnson was most recently presented with the Lincoln Medal by First Lady Melania Trump, an honor bestowed upon those who embody President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy through their work.