About NEW Leadership® Mississippi

NEW Leadership® is a national, bi-partisan program developed by Rutgers University to address the under-representation of women in American politics. The summer institute educates college students about the important role that politics plays in their lives, provides them with a network of professional political women, and encourages them to become effective leaders in the political arena. In 2013, Mississippi University for Women brought NEW Leadership to our state as part of its historic mission to expand women’s opportunities and cultivate their leadership.

Now in its 12th year, the program remains the only of its kind in Mississippi and one of only four NEW Leadership® partner programs in the South. An intensive residential program that emphasizes mentorship, networking, and experiential learning, the institute is designed to empower women's equitable representation in politics and hone their leadership skills. During the program, students will meet women leaders, learn about women in American politics, and practice leadership through panel discussions, workshops, and hands-on projects. Participants earn two college credits in women's studies or political science that may be transferred to the institution they attend.

Learning from Women Leaders

In addition to scholarly experts in women’s history and politics, NEW Leadership® Mississippi participants engage with professional women who are shaping public policy every day as elected and appointed officials, campaign managers, public servants, lobbyists, journalists, community leaders, and nonprofit advocates. These women serve as role models and mentors, illustrating the challenges that women leaders face as well as the opportunities they encounter to make a difference.

Each year is different, but we have always been proud of the tremendous support provided by retired and current political professionals. Because of their generous investments of time and expertise, program alumnae have enjoyed amazing access to leaders in every branch of Mississippi government as well as insights from advocates and political correspondents.

Sandy Ray speaks to NEW MS

Nurturing Networks

NEW MS participants and faculty in the rotunda of the State Capitol

Living together for this immersive program builds a sense of community and encourages long-term professional relationships among Mississippi's most ambitious young women. In addition, women political leaders serve as Faculty in Residence (FIRs), staying on campus with the students for the duration of the program. This allows for a unique mentoring experience in which learning extends beyond scheduled sessions as informal conversations continue over meals and in residence halls. Participants are encouraged to share ideas, challenge opinions they heard during the day, and reflect in a way that could not occur in non-residential programs. This atmosphere is further enriched by nonpartisan nature of programming. Guest speakers and Faculty in Residence represent a diverse range of ideological persuasions and political backgrounds.

Developing Leadership Skills

Many NEW Leadership® Mississippi sessions are interactive workshops and hands-on exercises that encourage participants to practice their leadership skills. Learning takes place via a range of pedagogical techniques, including interactive presentations and panels, small group discussions, hands-on workshops, and an “Action Project” in which students present testimony in a mock legislative committee hearing.

For the Action Project, participants are divided into small groups and tasked with representing a fictional (but realistic) coalition of Mississippi interest groups that has been invited to testify before a committee of the state legislature on some issue. Each group is led by both a peer mentor and one of the Faculty in Residence (FIRs) who guide their groups in research and rehearsal sessions throughout the institute. Issues are typically of particular interest to women and have been the subject of failed proposals in the most recent legislative session, and each FIR usually arranges for their group to speak with a state official who has been closely involved in these legislative efforts. This provides exceptional preparation for students to engage in subsequent legislative sessions, whether as outside advocates or as legislative aides or interns.

NEW MS participant and young girl in State Capitol

Addressing Issues of Diversity

NEW MS participants in Mississppi House of Representatives

Leadership in the 21st century will require the ability to work with diverse groups and constituencies.

NEW Leadership® Mississippi brings together college women from across the political spectrum and from a wide range of racial, ethnic, educational, political and economic backgrounds to discuss the roles of women in leadership and politics. The program exposes participants to new ideas and opportunities as they consider their future careers and provides a safe space where they can respectfully address issues of diversity and discuss the difficulties associated with leadership in a diverse society.

Participants are undergraduates representing a wide range of socioeconomic, ethnic, racial and educational backgrounds. We strongly encourage women of all backgrounds to apply and are committed to diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, political ideology, and sexual orientation. Any undergraduate student enrolled in a Mississippi college or university--public or private--is eligible to apply, as are Mississippi residents enrolled in out-of-state schools. We seek applications from all who aspire to be a woman leader!

For More Information

If you'd like to learn more about NEW Leadership® Mississippi, feel free to email newleadership@muw.edu or call (662) 329-7173.