About NEW Leadership®

Mission and Rationale

NEW Leadership® is CAWP’s national initiative to educate and empower the next generation of women leaders. This multi-day residential program teaches college women the value of civic engagement and helps them develop the skills to become more involved in their campuses and communities. NEW Leadership® inspires students to see themselves as empowered leaders who can effectively participate in politics and public policy. Although women constitute over 50% of the population and have outvoted men in every national election since 1980, women have made only modest gains in representation in our state and national decision making bodies over the past three decades.

CAWP’s research indicates that women bring different priorities and experiences to public life and provide perspectives that are often under-represented in political decision-making (Dittmar, et.al. 2017). While many college women indicate an interest in public service and are active in community and volunteer organizations, studies have shown that young women are significantly less likely than young men to be interested in politics or to view political involvement as a priority (Lawless and Fox 2013).


NEW Leadership® was created by CAWP in 1991 to encourage college women to become civically engaged and to consider careers in politics—such as becoming campaign workers, non-profit organizers, government appointees, lobbyists, aides and advisors, staffers for elected officials, and/or as elected officials themselves. The six-day residential summer institute educates college women about politics and policy-making and helps them develop the skills and confidence necessary to join the rising vanguard of public leaders that we need.

In an era where partisan gridlock and rancor and scandal are front and center in the media, young people often confront a very negative view of politics and politicians. At NEW Leadership™ students interact with political women who are dedicated public servants and represent a wide range of backgrounds, political perspectives and experiences. The students learn first-hand that many of the negative stereotypes they hold about politicians are inaccurate.

NEW Leadership® participants are undergraduate women representing a wide range of socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, educational backgrounds, academic majors, and ideological perspectives. During the NEW Leadership® summer institute, students meet with women in a variety of roles in the public sphere, learn about the history of women’s political participation, explore ideas about women, leadership and politics and participate in hands-on skills-building exercises. After the institute, students are encouraged to take the skills they learned and put them into action on their campuses and in their communities. 

Since 1999, the Center for American Women and Politics has expanded the NEW Leadership® National Network across the country by selecting up to three educational institutions each year to join the National Network as partners. The NEW Leadership® Network offers partner institutions a unique opportunity for building and strengthening connections to political women in the region. Without exception, the NEW Leadership® programs in each successful partner school have garnered strong commitments from women leaders in the area.

Participation in the NEW Leadership® Network creates an opportunity for partner schools to expand their institutions’ leadership education programming and outreach to women. NEW Leadership® can help develop the institutional capacities of partner schools; some partners have established centers and institutes for women and politics with NEW Leadership® as their keystone program.


The six-point curriculum establishes a pedagogical foundation for the NEW Leadership® programs. This curriculum can be adapted to accommodate a wide range of political cultures, geographic regions, populations and institutions. Network partners implement the curriculum in their own way to incorporate state and regional issues and institutional strengths. 

The six-point NEW Leadership® curriculum:

  • Teach about women's historical and contemporary contribution to American politics and policymaking.
  • Connect students with women leaders who make a difference in the public sphere.
  • Help participants explore concepts of leadership in a diverse society.
  • Cultivate participants’ leadership skills.
  • Encourage students to practice leadership through action.
  • Engage students in activities that will enhance their career development and expand their career opportunities.

Key Components of NEW Leadership®

Living in Residence

NEW Leadership® participants are required to live on campus throughout the summer institute; we consider the residential nature of the program an integral component of the NEW Leadership® experience. The residential requirement creates an intensive learning experience that is impossible to replicate with a series of one-day programs. Living together for several nights builds a sense of community among the group and encourages friendly interaction among the participants. At NEW Leadership® the learning experience extends beyond the formal sessions of the day and continues in the dorms, where students can share ideas, challenge opinions they heard during sessions, reflect and discuss in a way that would not occur if they went their separate ways after the day’s formal program ended.

Connecting with Women Leaders

Strong role models can serve as powerful sources of inspiration. At NEW Leadership®, students hear from women leaders with a variety of perspectives, roles and experiences. In addition to the political women who serve as speakers or panelists, each NEW Leadership® program invites three women leaders to stay for the entire six-day program to serve as Faculty in Residence (FIRs). The participation of these political women, living on campus and interacting with the participants throughout the program, is critical to the success of NEW Leadership®. The FIRs serve as mentors and role models. Through their own experiences, these women illustrate some of the challenges and experiences that women leaders face in both their public and private lives. They provide insight into different styles of leadership and help the students overcome cynicism about politicians and government.

Building Diverse and Inclusive Leaders

As we are seeing the country become more diverse, it is essential for future leaders to receive an education in environments that reflect the populations they will be serving. Nevertheless, on most college campuses and neighborhoods, students often spend their time with people who look and think like them. We believe that in order to prepare a generation of leaders for the 21st century, it is essential to be inclusive and help students learn about and develop language around their own identities and those of their peers.

During the summer institute, students interact with people who have different ideas, backgrounds, and life experiences. We strive to ensure that each NEW Leadership® program includes students, speakers and staff who exemplify a broad range of socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, educational backgrounds, academic majors, and ideological perspectives. Throughout the program, students engage the students in discussions about social justice and explore the impact of public policy on diverse populations. NEW Leadership® aims to provide students with a safe space where they can respectfully address issues of difference and discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with leadership in a diverse society.

Leadership through Action

NEW Leadership® minimizes the use of panels and speakers in order to engage the participants in hands-on exercises that encourage them to practice their leadership skills. The majority of the program sessions are interactive and student driven. During the summer institute, students participate in workshops to develop skills such as public speaking, networking and advocacy training. They are given the opportunity to practice these skills throughout the program.

After attending the summer institute, participants are urged to continue honing these skills by seeking out leadership experiences on their campuses and communities. Experiences NEW Leadership® programs encourage students to get involved in include: running for office in a campus organization, organizing a student group, working on a campaign, or organizing around a political issue on their campuses or in their communities.