Allegheny College senior Elyse Cinquino participated in the National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Pennsylvania program, a weeklong “leadership and public policy institute designed to educate and empower young women for future political participation and leadership,” in summer 2019. Throughout the week, participants in this non-partisan program discuss the role of women in politics and policymaking in Pennsylvania with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of women in politics.
The NEW Leadership Pennsylvania institute is hosted by the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics at Chatham University. Allegheny graduate Dana Brown, Ph.D., serves as the center’s executive director and an assistant professor of political science at Chatham.
Cinquino is double majoring in International Studies and Spanish with a political science minor. She shares reflections on her NEW Leadership Pennsylvania experience here:
“My experience at the NEW Leadership Program was a memorable one. I was able to interact and get to know many other collegiate Pennsylvania women who were interested in the prospect of being involved in politics. When I originally applied for the program, I was unsure if it would be something I would enjoy or would be applicable to my future career interests. However, I would recommend this program to any woman remotely interested in getting involved in politics or becoming more civically involved. Although I did not see myself running for a major elected office in the future, after completing this program I surely want to become more civically involved in local politics today and in the future. This program emphasizes the importance of women becoming in politics not only in higher-up positions but also locally. It taught me that getting involved in politics does not mean you have to be a U.S president or even a senator.
“One memorable quote I remember from the NEW Leadership Program was a modification to the quote by Shirley Chisholm — “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” At NEW Leadership, we came up with a new quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own table.” This quote and ideal resonated with me and many of the other women at the conference. In politics, women and especially women of color are underrepresented. As a result, an important demographic, as well as different life experiences and skillsets are left underutilized and not included in important conversations and decisions that affect women and our nation as a whole. I learned that sometimes when there’s no seat at the table for you or no designated place for you to be included in a conversation, you have to make room for yourself because your ideas and opinions matter.
“I am currently involved in Allegheny Student Government as vice president, and I believe the skills I was able to develop at NEW Leadership will assist me in this position as well as my other position on an executive board in my sorority. This program was also advantageous for networking as we had networking opportunities, and I even was able to meet Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin, who did a Fulbright in Zimbabwe that relates to what I’m interested in doing after graduation. This networking practice was very helpful, and we also had a networking and public speaking training to prepare us for our networking sessions.
“During the NEW Leadership Program, we visited Harrisburg, and it was very cool to see where and how state-level politics take place. The panels and general conduct and setup of NEW Leadership was diverse and non-partisan with different women, representatives and political leaders from different parties and backgrounds. This was great so many of the collegiate women had people they could relate to and receive advice from. Overall, the NEW Leadership Program would be something I would recommend and am proud to call myself an alumna of!”