Women in Public Service Project Institute to be Held at Smith

Anya Gruber '16 News Editor 

From May 25 to June 6, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Simmons College will all come together on Smith’s campus to participate in an institute called “Reconstructing Societies in the Wake of Conflict: Transitional Justice and Economic Development,” organized by the Women in Public Service Project.

The student ambassadors from Smith include June Cadenhead ’16, Marie Jones ‘14, Katie Paulson-Smith ‘14, and Chelsea Villareal ‘14J. This is the second WPSP institute that Smith has been involved with; the college also helped sponsor a conference in the fall of 2012 in Paris.

“This 2014 summer institute focuses on the 50 women delegates who have been selected to participate,” Professor of government Greg White, who was closely involved in the organization of this year’s conference, said.

Along with student representatives from Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Simmons, these delegates include women from all around the world. “The applicant pool was highly competitive – more than 650 women applied,” added White. “Our 50 delegates are drawn primarily from Asia, with African and Latin American representation, too…[including countries such as] Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Uganda, Colombia.”

The applicant pool was reviewed with great care. White said that “in selecting the delegates, the committee focuse[d] on the applicants’ background, their future plans, and their demonstrated efficacy within their respective communities and countries.”

“I decided to apply for the WPSP institute because I interned with the WPSP last spring and learned so much from doing research for the organization…I learned that the institutes are tremendously impactful for the participants and wanted to be a part of one,” Jones said.

“I wanted to be involved with the WPSP Institute because I believe in its mission of achieving gender equality in governments around the world,” Paulson-Smith said. “I am excited to be a part of the process of bringing together 50 emerging leaders…to have important conversations about affirming women’s presence in politics and women’s rights at large.

The women may be diverse in nationality, but “they are all young, mid-career professionals working in public service within the government, non-profit and private sectors,” White said.

The institute will include discussions focusing on a number of different topics very relevant to women everywhere, no matter their origin. “[The work of the delegates] involves a mix of issues: governance, education, health, economic development, environment, and communications,” commented White. “Yet they all focus keenly on post-conflict transition and sustainable, economic development.”

According to the WPSP website, the “institute will create an interactive and participatory forum in which delegates will acquire new knowledge, engage in training and expand their networks.” The Smith student ambassadors expressed excitement and interest in the opportunity to hold discussions and problem-solve with the other delegates.

Jones added, “I am looking forward to meeting many amazing people and working as part of an incredible team of students, faculty and staff.”

“I’m excited to interact with the people who are going to be part of the conference,” commented Cadenhead.

The institute also offers opportunities to meet fascinating women from around the world, but some who themselves graduated from Smith. “We’re excited about the array of programming we’re offering,” said White. “Gloria Steinem will speak one morning.  Another morning will feature Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who’ll screen ‘Saving Face,’ the 2012 Academy award winner for best documentary short as well as a new film, ‘Humaira: The Dream Catcher.’”