Cameron University students Bethany Willis Jones, who graduated in May with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, and Ann Rollf, a freshman majoring in psychology, recently participated in the National Education for Women's (N.E.W.) Leadership-Oklahoma, a five-day residential summer institute for undergraduate women designed to education, inspire and empower participants to consider careers in politics and public service. Rollf, a native of Whitehall, Montana, and Jones both live in Lawton. They hope to start an organization for young professionals in the Lawton/Fort Sill area.
"By participating in N.E.W. Leadership, Bethany and Ann gained a broader perspective about public service," says Jennifer Holland, Vice President for Student Services. "Acceptance into the program is a distinct honor. They join 19 other Cameron students who have participated in the program since it began in 2002."
"I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this program," said Rollf, whose motivation to apply for the program was guided by a passionate interest in politics and her role as organizer of a neighborhood watch program. She relates that she found the experience, "informative, empowering and encouraging to see so many women in political office." Saying she "didn't expect to see such a variety of women in leadership positions," Rollf enjoyed the networking opportunities and the "sisterhood that has been created." In particular, she was inspired by Lt. Governor Jari Askins, Senator Nancy Riley and Mayor Cindy Rosenthal of Norman.
Buoyed by the networking opportunities she enjoyed during the Institute, Rollf will apply what she learned to her goal of making a difference in the lives of those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"N.E.W. proved me an opportunity to get connected to our community, including the State of Oklahoma," said Jones, a military spouse. "I learned a lot about the political atmosphere in Oklahoma, and the experience has inspired me to be more involved in politics. I was honored to be selected. This was an absolutely incredible experience."
Jones, who participates in the Army Family Action Plan as an advocate for Army families, relates that she "got advice on how to go forward even more to promote further change for Army families" while attending the Institute.
She was particularly impacted by Senator Riley, a former educator who decided to go into politics. "She made us aware that if we have passion and want to better our community, we have it within us to do that," Jones says.
The goal of N.E.W. Leadership is to address the historic under-representation of women in politics and positions of leadership by providing Oklahoma undergraduate students with skill-building workshops, group projects and opportunities to interact and network with others who share their interest in politics and public service. The program will provide participants with information about how they can help shape Oklahoma's political and policy landscape while discovering the many opportunities and careers available to them as future leaders.
Approximately 30 students from across Oklahoma are selected to participate. Selection is based upon numerous factors, including individual leadership potential, maturity, ability to deal with challenges, capacity to reflect on one's personal strengths and weaknesses, special interests, unique characteristics or diverse experiences that contribute to the NEW Leadership learning goals, interest in politics, public service or public policy, and a commitment to participate fully in the NEW Leadership institute.
The N.E.W. Leadership program, a flagship program of the Carl Albert Center, is affiliated with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
June 4, 2010