HomepagePolitics and International RelationsPolitics & International Relations Students Participate in the National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Pennsylvania

Politics & International Relations Students Participate in the National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Pennsylvania

The program addresses the underrepresentation of women in the political arena by focusing on the role of women in politics and policy-making in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In early June, Katherine Hein ’25 (Politics) and Jessica Pizzo ’26 (International Relations) participated in the National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Pennsylvania, an intensive, nonpartisan, six-day leadership and public policy institute designed to educate and empower young women for future political participation and leadership.

By taking part in several networking sessions, panel discussions, and presentations around women’s leadership, Katherine and Jessica were able to walk away with a greater understanding of a broad range of topics as well as reflect on how the four open questions that the Quest curriculum is built around — what should matter to me? how should we live together? how can we understand the world? what will I do? — impacted their experience.

What should matter to me?

“Before attending NEW Leadership PA, what mattered to me was putting this experience on my resume,” said Katherine. “I was always interested in politics, erring on the side of international relations rather than American politics, especially local politics. My thoughts changed after meeting with several women leaders throughout the Pennsylvania community. Now, I want to know how I can help my community with the lessons I took away. Our Practitioner-in-Residence, Former Mayor Marita Garrett chose to run for city council in Wilkinsburg Borough to help her community. She saw changes that needed to be made and achieved them during her time as a councilwoman. Then, she decided to run for mayor to further achieve her goals for Wilkinsburg. Even after her time in office, Ms. Garrett still works with her community promoting civic engagement as the Founder & President of CIVICALLY, INC. What matters to Ms. Garrett is helping her community and encouraging those around her to engage politically. Like many other speakers at the conference, her story inspired me to care more about local politics and my municipality. While American politics may not be my desired career choice, I certainly care more about who is on my ballot and how I can support my town now.”

How should we live together?

Katherine also gained valuable insight into relationship building and service to one another through her interactions with guest speakers, noting “the first female Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, Joanna McClinton, negotiates with her colleagues on a daily basis to protect her constituents. Throughout our Q&A in Harrisburg, Speaker McClinton spoke about how important relationships are in politics. Even if you are on opposing ends of the ideological spectrum, Representatives and Senators are still people who are trying to represent their constituents to the best of their ability. We should live together by helping each other and listening to each other. Other speakers present at NEW Leadership PA represented all sides of the political spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans to advocates for NGOs. Each speaker agreed that we should live through service and help others along the way. By voting in elections, speaking up for our neighbors, or even running for office, we are trying to help those around us, ensuring a more supported community.”

What Will I Do?

Through her participation in the event, Jessica expanded her view on possible career paths in politics. “The NEW Leadership PA introduced the participants to over twenty speakers who each shared their educational and life stories that led them to the careers they hold today,” said Jessica. “This insight into their choices and daily lifestyles is invaluable to students like me as they act as role models for our future jobs. For example, councilwoman Erika Strassburger shared that her career began in advocacy for environmental justice. She grew close with her community as she heard the concerns of her constituents, leading her to run for the city council. Councilwoman Strassburger advised us to find a way to get involved at the local level as we will get to know your community, aiding your career if you choose to run for office. I previously believed one had to vigorously study politics to hold a political career. Councilwoman Strassburger’s story proves otherwise, as her desire to convene with others to solve community issues landed her the career she has today. Reading a job description online can only provide basic information but hearing the experiences of councilwomen and state representatives firsthand aids me as I ask the Ursinus core question, “What will I do?”. Besides Councilwoman Strassburger, these speakers demonstrated numerous opportunities to work in politics beyond running for office, some of which I had never heard of. Carol Lastowka found a career in politics through advocacy, as her devotion to ending gun violence and ability to speak up led her to a job with a coalition to end gun violence. I gained a new understanding of different political career paths and what my life may look like if I pursue any of the careers the speakers discussed.”

How Can We Understand the World?

Jessica also observed that the speakers at NEW Leadership PA shared diverse backgrounds and perspectives, showing how issues impact certain groups more than others. “It is crucial to understand the various opinions and stories of the constituents as a politician to create the best legislation and solutions to pressing issues,” said Jessica. “Councilwoman Olivia Bennett had a traumatic childhood as gang violence tore her community apart. When her city council failed to address this issue, she began to stand up for the injustices herself as she called for reform. Today she is the only African American woman on the city council where her experiences educate people and her fellow council people to understand issues the same way she does. As I learned through Councilwoman Bennett, one person cannot understand the world independently. People must share their different opinions and experiences as their environment affects their perspective on political issues. It is the job of politicians, advocates, and other people with political careers to consider this fact to aid these people as best as possible. With inclusion and representation of marginalized groups, a better understanding of political issues can be achieved and better solutions will be found.”

Politics and International Relations Home