Kathryn Wypasek still has another year until graduation, but the Lander University senior criminology major is already on the path to her future, thanks in part to the National Education for Women's (NEW) Leadership conference this spring.
Held May 13-17 at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., the five-day conference fielded 21 college-age women to encourage them to become the next state leaders in elected office, government agencies, and both volunteer and not-for-profit organizations.
"This was our sixth NEW program at Winthrop," said Dr. Lynne Ford, professor of political science at the College of Charleston and co-implementer of NEW at Winthrop. "Ultimately, we aim to change the numbers of women serving in elected and appointed positions in South Carolina by preparing young women early."
Wypasek intends to be one of them as soon as she finishes Lander.
"I enjoyed the conference because of the networking skills we learned," she said. "And while much of it was about leadership in politics, I personally liked hearing the stories and speaking with those who had their Masters in Social Work, because that's the career path I am planning on."
Wypasek was one of three Lander students to attend the NEW conference, along with fellow seniors Courtney Cannon and Kaitlynn Strahl - thanks to a $350 sponsorship supplied by Duke Energy.
"Lander reached out to us to lend support to these students to attend the conference," said Duke Energy spokesman Theo Lane. "And we were pleased to assist with this exciting part of their educational experience."
Conference speakers included a candidate for state government, representatives of the S.C. House, a member of the Peace Corps, and the executive director for AmeriCorp Vista program.
"I attended the conference because I wanted to strengthen my leadership skills," said Cannon, a political science major. "But the most important thing I learned was how to properly network."
Begun at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1991, the NEW program is gradually spreading to all 50 states.
Ford said it is students like Cannon, Strahl and Wypasek who represent a better future for women in South Carolina.
"Women need to be presented with information and they need to practice certain skills," she said. "And NEW Leadership SC is designed to equip college women with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take on leadership roles in preparation for a life of public service."