COLUMBUS, Miss. — Preparing women for leadership roles from the local to the national level is the focus of a new program being launched in May by Mississippi University for Women.
In partnership with the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service, based in Starkville, MUW is establishing NEW Leadership Mississippi, a nonpartisan program designed to develop foundational leadership skills for college women who participate. The national program, an acronym for National Education for Women’s Leadership, was developed by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and now is at 17 universities nationwide.
“Given the heritage of our university, we feel it is especially important to provide college women the knowledge, confidence and role models that can inspire them to public service,” said MUW President Jim Borsig. “We hope to see this program grow and make an impact on opportunities available to women in Mississippi.”
The first such effort in the state, the May 20-24 residential program at MUW will involve approximately 24 female students from Mississippi’s public, private and community colleges in leadership training. Those participating may receive two hours of college credit in leadership.
Heading the program are Bridget Pieschel, director of MUW’s Center for Women’s Research and Public Policy; Kate Brown, director of MUW’s Center for Creative Learning; and Brother Rogers, associate director of the Stennis Center for Public Service. All attended the Rutgers program in 2012 to witness its operation firsthand.
“NEW Leadership Mississippi both inspires and trains young women to think of themselves as public servants for the common good, whether as a school board member or as a member of the state Legislature or as a lobbyist for a special cause,” said Pieschel. “Young women are looking for a way to make our state a better place, and programs like ours provide the direction and mentoring they crave.”
A unique feature of the program is that outstanding women leaders serve as Faculty-in-Residence and live side-by-side with participants. Two confirmed faculty members are from the ranks of state and national politics. Others will be added.
Heather McTeer Toney was the first African-American and first female to serve as the mayor of Greenville and is a national spokeswoman for She Should Run!–an organization dedicated to increasing the number of women who run for office. McTeer has appeared on news outlets such as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-Span. She has been recognized by Essence magazine as one of the “50 Most Remarkable Women in the World,” and by Marie Claire magazine in 2011 as the “Top Politician” in their annual “Women on Top” awards.
A faculty member at Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Political Management, Nancy Bocskor is a noted consultant, speaker and adviser whose work has been highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR and other major national media outlets.
She is the author of “Go Fish: How to Catch (and Keep) Contributors: A Practical Guide to Fundraising” and helped produce “Dreams for Nigeria,” a documentary to inspire more women to run for office in that country in the 2011 elections. As a senior adviser for the Center for Liberty in the Middle East, she helped launch its Online Activism Institute, the first of its kind in Arabic, among many other activities.
Both formal and informal interactions will allow the exploration and discussion of wide-ranging ideas, as well as opening possibilities for leadership in participants’ lives, organizers said.
“NEW Leadership Mississippi challenges women to consider a life of service, and in doing so to create change in their communities, state, and nation,” Brown said. “The commitment of MUW and the Stennis Center to provide funding for the program demonstrates that women’s leadership issues are at the heart of our organizational missions.”
Rogers said the Stennis Center has sponsored an annual Southern Women in Public Service Conference and considers women’s leadership issues one of its core missions.
“It is not a matter of equality as much as it is a matter of quality,” he said. “We simply cannot achieve the greatness we seek in our communities, state and nation without tapping more deeply into the tremendous resource of leadership available among women.”
For more information about the NEW Leadership Mississippi, see http://www.muw.edu/newleadership.