Women in Public Service Project Institute To Be Cohosted by Smith

Olivia Goodman ’14
News Editor

Smith and Mount Holyoke recently announced that they will cohost a two-week institute of the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP), “Reconstructing Societies in the Wake of Conflict: Transitional Justice and Economic Development.”  The program, which is cosponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is scheduled to run from May 25 to June 6, 2014.

The intensive institute will bring together emerging early and mid-career women leaders from post-conflict societies in Asia, who are working to re-build their communities and develop viable economic livelihoods.  The institute’s program will include visits by invited scholars, policymakers, and government and non-government representatives, including Smith and Mount Holyoke alumnae.  Invitees will participate in various activities such as panel discussions, debates, and workshops with the aim of cultivating the participants’ work through developing communication skills, bettering use of social media, and forming networks on regional, national, and international platforms.

The institute’s focus on the advancement of its participants’ careers in government and public service reflects the central mission of WPSP to cultivate a world where 50 percent of civic and political leadership positions are held by women by the year 2050 – the goal often denoted by WPSP as 50×50 – through working to increase the breadth, efficacy and prominence of the work female leaders worldwide.

Smith Professor of Government and Director of the Lewis Global Studies Center (GSC), Gregory White, is one of the faculty leaders for the project.  “As you can imagine, there are many people here at Smith and at Mount Holyoke participating in the planning,” said White.  “At Smith this includes the GSC, the Executive Education for Women Program, the Kahn Institute, the Project on Women and Social Change, as well as many faculty and staff.  We’re excited about the 2014 institute.  It follows on successful institutes conducted by others – notably, Wellesley’s in the summer of 2012; Smith’s in Paris last fall; Scripps and Mount St. Mary’s last spring; and Bryn Mawr’s last summer.  This is an excellent opportunity to work with our Mount Holyoke colleagues.”    

The WPSP website features various questions delegates will grapple with during their time at the institute, including, “How can women effectively mobilize their communities to respond to conflict and repair the damage done?  What strategies exist for reconciling divided societies and addressing the needs of the victims?  What are the different ways to document, remember, and memorialize atrocity; deter future human rights violations; and amplify the role women play in the process?” among others.  The questions, both central to female leadership as well as broadly concerned with the human condition in places in need of great institutional reforms and economic development, speak to the work of WPSP as an organization and the institute’s focus on Asia.

“We’re going to focus on Asia and the challenges posed by reconstructing post-conflict societies,” said White, “but delegates from other parts of the world may be elected to participate, too.  The institute for next summer will provide travel and accommodation for the elected participants.  It will be a busy time for delegates, with a combination of workshops, planned filed trips to Boston and Holyoke, a possible trip to NYC and opportunities for reflection and networking.

“Additionally, student participation will include selected student delegates from Smith and Mount Holyoke.  That will be crucial, yes.  But the focus of the institute is not on current undergraduate student participation per se.  WPSP’s goal is to provide opportunities for women from around the world – to increase their efficacy and participation in public service.”

For more information about the “Reconstructing Societies in the Wake of Conflict: Transitional Justice and Economic Development” institute, visit www.smith.edu/wpsp/.

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