Leadership organization chooses five NKU students to attend conference

As the 2006 elections approach, political ads on our televisions are surfacing at an ever-fluid pace, but NEW (National Education for Women’s Leadership) Leadership Kentucky is attempting to change some of the faces you’ll be seeing in these ads in following years.

NEW Leadership hopes to encourage and empower female undergraduate college students to pursue political careers and leadership roles.

A residential program was held Sept. 15 to 17, in Erlanger, Ky., where 23 women nominees from eight universities attended, including five NKU students. Attendees discussed challenges they may face, discovered skills they already have and learned about subjects such as leadership skills, speech-making, political etiquette and strategic communication through various workshops and lectures. Cincinnati city council member Laketa Cole, Fort Thomas Mayor Mary Brown and president of the University of Cincinnati Nancy Zimpher were just a few of the political figures who spoke at the event.

The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University developed the national NEW Leadership program. NEW Leadership Kentucky, led by former mayor of Cincinnati Roxanne Qualls and sponsored by the Institute for Public Leadership and Public Affairs at NKU, was designated as a partner of the national program in spring 2005.

According to CAWP, while women make up 52 percent of the voting population, they held only 15.1 percent of U.S. congressional seats in 2006. They also held only 24.8 percent of statewide elective executive offices and 22.8 percent of state legislatures. CAWP research indicates “women bring different perspectives, experiences and priorities to public life.”

“The mission of the institute is to improve local governance within metropolitan regions,” Qualls said. She said one goal is to educate youth continuing into adulthood to serve in political office and leadership in public policy.

“My personal favorite was council member Laketa Cole, who made such an impact on me because she is a woman in a leadership position who refuses to give into the women stereotype and go soft on any issue because people believe she should,” participant Alex Kindell said. “She is called a ‘pit bull’ and ‘bulldog,’ but really she is just a strong woman. I can relate to that.”

Kindell was nominated for the event because of her involvement at NKU- she is the founder and president of NKU Students for Choice, the voice for women’s reproductive rights on campus. She is also an editor for The Lost Cause Review, a publication that focuses on free speech issues on NKU’s campus. Kindell considers herself a protestor, but after completing the program, feels she would run for a leadership position if it would help her provoke change.

“The biggest impact [the program] had on me was realizing that there are other women out there my own age who are exceptionally driven to change the world, and who do believe that the world can be changed,” Kindell said. “We don’t doubt that we can change it. We are itching for our chance to.”

Attendee Katie Henderson, president of College Democrats at NKU, has been attracted to politics since a young age. She volunteered for two campaigns in 2004 and has continued to do campaign work since then by participating in literature drops, door-to-door walking, fundraisers, phone banking, walking in parades and more. Henderson said the NEW Leadership event was a motivating experience. She would like to work for the government some day, but is not sure what role she will play.

“I just know that whatever I do, I would like for it to be based upon changing public policies and having a good amount of political involvement,” she said.

Blaire Estes has never been interested in politics, but attended the event as a way to learn more. She considers herself a women’s rights activist and is also concerned with the cost of prescription medicine. She feels the residential program has armed her with the knowledge to become successful in whichever career she decides to pursue. Estes would like to finish her degree in psychology and eventually get a position in religious counseling.

Participant Rachele Vogelpohl was interested in the leadership aspect of the education, which she feels relates more to her than the political viewpoint. She plans to obtain a master’s degree in advanced athletic training.

Lauren Petrzilka, political science major, partook in the program to strengthen her leadership skills and meet women who have been influential locally. She hopes to pursue a master’s of in public administration and seek a job with a civic engagement or non-profit group or office on a college campus.

At the program, she learned “women are making great strides in the region and world, but we need to continue to push to make our presence known and empower ourselves to be represented in politics and public policy.”

Qualls considers the program successful for a number of reasons including the large numbers of students and presenters that participated, the number of schools represented, the positive evaluations of the program completed by participants, the sponsorships by the schools involved and the money that was raised to help provide scholarships for the program fees.