PULLMAN, Wash. — Political observers say young women rarely consider a future that includes political involvement, either as elected officials or grassroots activists. This summer Washington State University will be among nine institutions nationally that plan to change that trend.

WSU will provide a five-day program June 12-16 on the Pullman campus to encourage young women to become politically active.

Women are 52 percent of the voting population, yet they are scarce in the nation’s policy-making and decision-making bodies, said Kathy Zeches, one of the WSU program organizers and director of Women’s Resource Center. In 2001, women held only 22.4 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Only five women served as governors.

WSU’s WRC was selected by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University as a National Education for Women’s Leadership (NEW Leadership) partner. The national program hopes to counteract the historical and contemporary under-representation of women in politics and public leadership.

Zeches said students from WSU, Gonzaga University, North Idaho College, Whitworth College, Heritage College, Lewis-Clark State College, University of Idaho, Blue Mountain Community College and Spokane Falls Community College plan to participate in the program.

Three women will serve as faculty-in-residence: Jane Yung Dennie, assistant director of Government Relations at WSU; Margarita Mendoza de Sugiyama, director of the state Attorney General Office’s Consumer Protection Division; and Libby Walker, associate dean of the WSU Honors College.

Conference speakers include state Sen. Lisa Brown of Spokane; Colleen F. Cawston, chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Kimberly Craven, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs; state Sen. Rosa Franklin of Tacoma; and Felicia Gaskins, WSU associate vice provost for Human Relations and Diversity.

Also on the conference speaker list is Patti Gora of Safe Air for Everyone (SAFE); state Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney of Seattle; Ellie Kimaro of the Northwest Network; Patsy Martin, Yakama Nation Tribal member; Rebecca Miles-Williams of the Lapwai School District; state Rep. Val Ogden of Vancouver; and Sasha Paterson, Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.

The speaker list also includes Terrie Scott, director of WSU Spokane’s MESA Program; Julie Shah, Third Wave Foundation; state Rep. Mary Skinner of Yakima; Virginia Thomas, director of Student Involvement at WSU; and Karen Wynkopp with WSU Human Relations and Diversity.

The Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, the Women’s Studies Department and the Coalition for Women Students are partnering with the Women’s Resource Center to present NEW Leadership Inland Northwest.

Sponsors for the conference include Cooperative Extension, the Department of Political Science, General Education, Graduate and Professional Student Association, Native American Advisory Council, University Honors College, WSU Vancouver and the Washington Federation of State Employees. The conference attendees’ colleges and universities are helping with conference fees.