Institute aims at educating, empowering women leaders

For a second year, the Women’s Resource Center at Washington State University will welcome students June 4 – 8 to the 2003 National Education for Women’s Leadership Inland Northwest Summer Institute, a program dedicated to women and public leadership.

NEW Leadership focuses on women’s leadership education to empower them to become leaders who can make a difference. WSU Pullman is the host site for the Inland Northwest region. Students from community colleges and universities are invited to participate in the five-day residential institute. Approximately 36 college women will take part in the intensive training program.

During the institute, students will meet with women who are leaders in their communities, grassroots organizations, and in local and state government; develop and sharpen their leadership skills through workshops on public speaking, conflict resolution and advocacy; and discuss ways women can take on public leadership experiences during their college years and in their communities.

Some of the region’s most prominent women will participate in the event. “By giving students direct exposure and interaction with these women leaders, we hope to demystify the process of political empowerment,” said Alice Coil, director of the WSU Women’s Resource Center. “The program agenda is designed to empower students to use the political knowledge, leadership skills and inspiration they acquire in developing their own commitment to public leadership.”

Distinguished participants include Betty Buckley, co-founder of Stone Soup Foundation; Colleen Cawston, former chairwoman of the Colville Business Council; Barbara Chamberlain, former Idaho legislator; state Sen. Rosa Franklin, 29th District; Karen Kiessling, former mayor of Pullman; state Rep. Lynn Kessler, majority leader, 24th District; Patsy Martin, deputy director of Human Services, Yakama Nation; state Rep. Joyce McDonald, 25th District; state Rep. Mary Skinner, 14th District; and Monica Walters, executive director of the YWCA of Spokane.

Students describe their NEW Leadership experience as one that has a long-lasting impact on their lives. One student wrote in last year’s program evaluation, “I learned a lot about myself and what direction I want to go in terms of leadership, as well as my style of leadership.”

Most of the students felt that their most significant learning experience is to try new things and to step outside of their own comfort zones, said Coil. They also cited that their interest in politics has grown, and they are more inspired to take on public leadership positions.

While 1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman” in politics because women made major gains in Congress, significant progress has stalled over the past decade. “Women are not making progress in state legislatures,” Coil said. “Younger women are not entering the political field in numbers to guarantee gains. Politics is still a ‘dirty’ word. Public leaders are figures to be mocked, citizens rarely vote, and government is too frequently seen as an impediment to the nation’s business,” she said. “Educating and empowering the next generation of leaders and shaping leadership that breaks the mold of ‘politics as usual’ is central to the NEW Leadership program objectives.”

The award-winning program was developed by the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. In 2001, WSU was selected to become a regional site for the national program, becoming part of a national network that includes the University of Oklahoma, Ohio State University, University of Washington, Chatham College, University of Missouri, University of Pennsylvania, University of Nevada Las Vegas and the State University of New Jersey.

For a complete view of the program agenda, visit the Women’s Resource Center website at or call Alice Coil at 335-6849.

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