A group of women wearing "GW Alternative Breaks" electric blue t-shirts


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In the Women’s Leadership Program, we take time to examine different configurations of leadership as they appear in society and culture, thinking about how leadership depends not only on more traditional notions of a single, strong, inspirational figure, but also on a whole set of relationships that encompass creativity, co-operation, and consent.

We also analyze how self-possession and self-awareness is crucial in developing the ability to lead others. This is something we learn in the texts we study and through the phenomenal women and those who support the advancement of women, who visit our program to recount their paths to successful leadership and offer advice and encouragement to students. While we promote leadership and provide excellent role models for leadership success, we are also careful to recognize that valorizing leadership without acknowledging its potential ethical, moral, and philosophical pitfalls is wrong.

Leadership occurs in a world where class, gender, and race still impact one’s future. As we examine leadership, we also think about those who may be left behind in leadership narratives. This is part of our intellectual grounding at the Women’s Leadership Program, where we endorse leadership, while at the same time we always seek to question and learn more.

two women presenting


Leadership Theory

During the year, students will be introduced to theories of leadership which provide a foundation for ideas, discussions and writing. As each leadership theory is reviewed, students perform a self-analysis to determine how their personal strengths align with the leadership practice. The weekly symposia offers students the ability to reflect on their growing understanding of leadership and awareness of their own personal leadership style. The symposia also introduces students to a variety of leaders, allowing students to develop an understanding of and appreciation for each presenter's style of leadership. A community service project expands the leadership seminar experience, giving students the opportunity to connect with a particular community and practice leadership skills while volunteering

Symposium Class

The WLP Speaker Series, Leadership Workshops, Student led Symposium Events, and Community Service Projects are all part of the WLP Symposium class. Students work together collaboratively and support each other as they embark on these leadership learning experiences. 

Leadership Events

The EJS Women’s Leadership Program, with the support of H.E. Ambassador Hunaina Sultan Ahmed Al Mughairy, hosted ambassadors to an evening symposium and discussion. The event, “Diplomatic Leadership by Women: Benefits and Challenge” was moderated by Ms. Tara Sonenshine, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Obama Administration.  The distinguished panelists shared stories about their work, identifying the complexities of diplomacy and the importance of exchanging ideas and perspectives across different cultural environments. We feel it is particularly important to stress the value of diplomacy in today’s fractured world and we intentionally bring our students into a meaningful dialogue about these issues. The evening symposium began with an informal reception where students had a chance to interact at small tables with individual ambassadors. 

Each fall, the SHM cohort organize and host Women's Health Night, an event designed to bring the WLP together to discuss important issues in women's health. Started by the initiative of an SHM student in 2014, this annual event is an opportunity for student-led conversation and brainstorming about how to effect change around issues such as body image, mental health, reproductive care, and sexual health. The topics are chosen by students each year, and expert guests are invited to lend their voices to the conversation. 

Yearly, the WLP hosts a Founder’s Day celebration that honors our namesake Elizabeth J Somers and recognizes the Mount Vernon College legacy. We invite past WLP students to participate in a panel discussion with our current students, centered on the themes of mentorship, scholarship, internships, and research. The upper-class WLP students highlight some of their active investment in the GW community and their leadership work on campus, showing our current students possible opportunities to consider. We also open the conversation to study abroad, research work, and internships. There is a massive network opportunity during the second hour where many WLP alumnae return to connect with our current students. The GW undergraduate fellowship office introduces their work with WLP, and we present our Mentor/Mentee program at the event. This exciting community platform introduces our students to the many achievements of our WLP alumnae and they begin to see themselves as a part of this larger WLP community.

Every year the Women's Leadership Program holds a successful and well-established Research Conference. Following a rigorous selection process by their peers and professors, twelve students get to share their writing and research on a wide range of topics. Past conferences have included papers analyzing the role of Islamic feminists in pro-democracy movements, the African diaspora, music, politics, and celebrity culture and last (but not least), Jane Austen.The conference heralds an intellectually stimulating evening, where students engage in academic discussions in a setting that manages to be simultaneously professional and convivial. In the past, research and writing carried out by WLP students has led to their success in the Eckles Competition, a university-wide writing contest that awards excellence in academic writing and research.

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"It is very encouraging to be surrounded by likeminded students who hope to enact societal change through their studies and careers. After completing WLP, I am more prepared for my upper level classes, especially for presentations and research activities."

-Breesa Bennett
Class of 2020, Public Health/Pre-Medicine