LAWRENCE – Young women across the globe and even right here in America report facing limited educational and professional opportunities, gender inequality and isolation. Aiming to energize and empower these young women, the University of Kansas is hosting the sixth annual Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute (KWLI) this summer.
For six weeks beginning in June, KU will host 26 undergraduates from Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, Morocco, Pakistan and several Kansas counties for an academic program that will allow participants to explore women’s leadership and history; gain leadership skills; learn about civic engagement and volunteerism; and interact with peers on college campuses. Participants will begin their program in Washington, D.C., followed by study at the KU campus in Lawrence.
Initially started as program for international women, KWLI expanded to include women from Kansas in 2014. This commitment to serving women at home and abroad continues in 2015 with the selection of six Kansas women, including:
- Cameron McLaughlin, Colby, sophomore studying public relations and journalism, Kansas State University
- Casie Spangler, Tecumseh, sophomore studying history, Washburn University
- Crystal Bradshaw, Jetmore, sophomore studying English, KU
- Erin Taylor, Silver Lake, freshman studying political science, KU
- Margaret Dunning, Winfield, junior studying communication studies, Southwestern College
- Margarita Nuñez Arroyo, Emporia, sophomore studying journalism, KU
These women were selected from a wide pool based on application materials including short essay questions, letters of recommendation and a series of interviews. To be eligible, participants needed to be currently enrolled in an institute of higher education in Kansas.
“Our second cohort of Kansas women come from small and rural communities from around the state,” said Mary Banwart, KWLI program director and associate professor of communication studies. “The women selected are bringing a passion, excitement and commitment to improving their communities at multiple levels and across a wide variety of important issues.”
KWLI is one of the U.S. Department of State’s Study of U.S. Institute’s (SUSI) programs on Women’s Leadership, which is funded through the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Other programs supported by the bureau include the Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program. The goal of the programs overseen by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other countries.
Specifically, the KWLI provides the opportunity for women in Kansas to unite with women from around the world on topics that are most important to them. Participants engage in a curriculum designed to tackle challenges, elevate their voices, expand their leadership capacity, develop a powerful and lasting network of support, and change their communities for the better.