Kate Ross reports:
Women in Leadership, now in its 9th year, is a flagship program of the YWCA of the University of Illinois. The program pairs small groups of students with local nonprofits for a one-year consulting contract. Nonprofits submit several broad challenges they are facing (e.g. they need more awareness of their organization on campus) and students collaborate to create and implement solutions. Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to attend conferences and workshops that focus on developing their leadership skills, from self awareness to networking and beyond.
This program began during a time when there were few opportunities for leadership development and student group consulting projects, now both popular offerings across campus. However, for many students, real-world professional experience of this nature can still be elusive. For example, traditional internships are not always accessible to low-income and first generation students, due to their need for paid work. The YWCA’s program, however, offers the chance to gain resume-worthy experience while still leaving many hours in the week for work, class, and extracurriculars. In addition, none of the current groups and departments on campus that offer group consulting internships gear their programming to the unique challenges of women in the modern workforce. Therefore, nearly a decade after its creation, Women in Leadership still fills an essential spot for women and women-identifying students to gain experience in a respectful, supportive environment.
This year’s cohort met for the first time at our kick-off conference at the Asian American Cultural Center on Saturday, September 28th. The participants learned about nonprofit basics from our Executive Director, Andrea Rundell, and explored their personality strengths with Marcus Kelley, Assistant Director of the Illinois Leadership Center. Since then, they’ve: met with representatives from their assigned nonprofits; begun weekly meetings with their groups; and attended a workshop on mental health stress management. The year is off to a great start and the YWCA staff is excited to see the current teamwork and upcoming creative solutions! We will continue to update you with the students’ progress.