Young Women’s Leadership Institute

Sunday, June 25 - Monday, July 3, 2017

Applications for the 2017 Young Women's Leadership Institute are open now! Click here to get started.

Future Leaders Start Here.

More than thirty years after the second wave of the women's movement, girls and women in the United States have made great strides. Today's young women imagine a life full of possibilities and free of barriers. But there is a long way to go. Women still occupy only a small fraction of the top leadership positions in government and the corporate world.

You can help to make a difference.

The Young Women's Leadership Institute takes the complex relationship between gender and leadership as its focus. Students will develop action-oriented leadership plans during the session.

Barnard College has itself been a distinguished leader in the higher education of women since its founding in 1889, and Barnard has produced graduates who go on to extraordinary leadership roles in a wide range of fields.

Leadership Institute Curriculum

Young Women's Leadership Institute participants should be curious, passionate, and willing to take risks. The Young Women's Leadership Institute will allow you to develop those qualities and push you in new directions as you explore leadership through a feminist lens. You will have a unique opportunity to learn from college faculty and staff, current students, alumnae, and other professional facilitators. Reading and writing assignments, along with off-campus site visits in New York City, will all be part of your experience.

Academic Foundation

The academic foundation of the institute will focus on gender issues, social change, and leadership in the form of a morning class. Students will choose from one of the following morning courses:

Women's Studies 101 (Laura Ciolkowski)

This course serves as an introduction to the field of Women’s Studies, focusing in particular on how women create and relate their own history in the face of traditions that have disempowered their storytelling.  The class begins with an interrogation of the term feminism, and broadens into a three-part inquiry: an exploration of women’s history, an introduction to some important concepts of Women’s Studies, and an appraisal of some contemporary issues including studies of women in the arts, business and law, politics, journalism, education and healthcare. We will bring our class’s unique perspective to bear on the Young Women’s Leadership Institute’s broader themes, through dialogue with our sister class and the joint viewing of a film, and will create our own narrative of what it is to be young female scholars and leaders.


Lean In or Dig Deep: Varieties of Feminist Leadership (Michelle Smith)

In this course, we explore the theory and practice of two “models” of feminist leadership:  liberal-individualist and radical-collective.  Advocates of both models seek women’s empowerment.  However, they disagree over the means and ends of women’s activism.  Broadly, liberal feminists seek equal power in political institutions and corporations, as well as equal access to the means for social and economic advancement.  Liberal feminists may pursue “reproductive rights” and consider gender equality the mark of feminist success.  Social justice feminists seek nothing less than the end of sexism and all forms of subjugation (racial, class, sexual orientation) which sustain existing inegalitarian, sexist, racist and heteronormative structures.  Radical-collective feminists may pursue “reproductive justice” and consider the transformation of existing gender, social and economic relations success.  Lean in or Dig Deep is not an historical survey course.  Instead, we examine various contemporary representatives of each political orientation.

After morning class, students move on to full afternoons of workshops, seminars, and discussions.

Leadership Lab

Finally, you will apply what you've learned in class by participating in a Leadership Lab project. Working in small groups, you will design and execute a project to improve the pre-college community, and share what you have accomplished at a student-run conference.

Past leadership groups have:

  • Hosted an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Awareness Night to raise funds for ALS
  • Created a pamphlet to educate young girls about issues concerning positive body image
  • Developed a campaign to raise awareness for several organizations such as Amnesty International
  • Conducted research on the college experience and produced a handout to help high school students with college planning

Speaking Fellows: Leadership Lab groups will have the opportunity to meet with the esteemed Barnard Speaking Fellows during their week of YWLI to perfect their public speaking skills and group presentations.

Leaders in Action

And as if that weren't enough, Leadership Institute students will meet with Barnard alumnae in their workplaces. These sessions introduce you to different fields and the education or professional training they require.

In past summers, students have met with professionals from organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the Third Wave Foundation, the Women's Bureau of the US Department of Labor, Global Citizen, film centers, photo studios, and Seventeen Magazine.







The Residential Experience

The intensive nature of the Young Women's Leadership Institute program will build a strong sense of community among its participants. While much learning will take place in traditional classroom settings, the residence hall will also be an important site for intellectual and social development, so all Leadership Institute students must live on campus in air-conditioned housing.