NEW Leadership Illinois

NEW Leadership Illinois provides college students and recent graduates from across Illinois with the fundamentals of leadership.


NEW Leadership® Illinois provides college students and recent graduates from across Illinois with the fundamentals of leadership. Participants engage in an intensive week-long program geared to prepare them to enter the public service arena. NEW Leadership® provides training in leadership, professionalism and networking, political communication, and public policy. The program emphasizes experiential learning through direct interaction with political professionals and project-based activities. NEW Leadership® is a non-partisan program and women leaders from the state, including Illinois women legislators from both the Republican and Democrat parties, serve as mentors in the program. The Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) co-sponsors the program with the Conference of Women Legislators of the Illinois General Assembly (COWL).

NEW Leadership® Illinois is a non-partisan, week-long residential program for college students designed to increase women’s representation in all elements of public life, including elected office. The program challenges our brightest students to think critically and creatively about public policy and encourages them to make a commitment to public leadership early in their careers. The program is held annually. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 program to be canceled.

The Curriculum 

Leadership Training
Participants will examine the fundamentals of leadership. They will discuss such questions as:

  • What is leadership?
  • What are the qualities of effective leaders?
  • How do cultural values shape how we view leaders, as well as our own leadership potential?

Different leadership styles will be examined, and participants will consider ways to cultivate their unique skills and personal attributes to become confident and competent leaders.

Professionalism and Networking

Students learn first-hand what it means to serve in public office and how to get there through networking, relationship-building, and professionalism. Women leaders, including current and former legislators, other elected and appointed officials, lobbyists, and political campaign staff, serve as mentors in the program, speaking in keynotes, panels, and roundtable discussions. Students also see policy in action by visiting government offices during the week.

Policy Analysis and Advocacy

Throughout the week, participants will work in small groups to develop a policy solution to a particular public problem. Policy problems will be assigned on the first day and will be chosen from contemporary local, state, or national-level issues. Participants are given materials that explain the policy and the political environment and have the opportunity to interact with policy experts from the University of Illinois-Springfield and policy practitioners from all levels of government. Students then present their solutions to their peers, as well as professional policymakers, on the final day of the program. 

Political Communication

Students will learn how to communicate effectively, work in diverse environments, and handle ethical dilemmas that arise in the course of campaigning for public office and serving in government. Participants will explore how technology and social media are used in campaigns and elections, and also how elected officials use social media to communicate with their constituents. Emerging technologies and privacy issues will be discussed.

Active Learning 

The program is structured for active learning. Activities throughout the sessions allow students to engage with the material and with the faculty and speakers in a fun and collegial atmosphere. This culminates in a group policy analysis project, in which students demonstrate their new skills by presenting a policy proposal that they develop throughout the week in response to a local, state, or national policy problem.

For more information, contact the NEW Leadership® Illinois program at or (217) 265-7144.

“Participating in the NEW Leadership Program was an incredibly rewarding experience for me. I not only gained valuable skills both professionally and personally, but I met incredible women who share the same passion for public service as I do, many of whom are my colleagues today. I was challenged to look at policy issues through a different lens, and gained a new confidence in myself as a woman in politics”

State Representative Barbara Hernandez, NEW Leadership® Illinois Class of 2014
NEW Leadership Illinois taught me the importance of understanding all sides of a particular public policy. I learned that dedicated women legislators on both sides of the aisle want to do what is best to resolve a particular issue even if they have differing opinions on how to do so. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to learn from real women, on a personal level, about the challenges they face in their daily lives and how they have overcome them. I felt supported, included and encouraged to occupy spaces that I may have otherwise felt were not for people like me, and I walked away with a refreshed sense of confidence to take on whatever life throws at me.

Karin Machalova, National Immigrant Justice Center, NEW Leadership® Illinois Class of 2017


The National



The NEW Leadership® National Network was developed by the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, to address the underrepresentation of women in American politics. There are NEW Leadership® programs in 18 states and New England, from Maine to North Dakota to Texas to California. A CAWP survey of more than 800 NEW Leadership® alumnae confirms the success of the program. Alumnae report that participating in NEW Leadership® encouraged them to become more involved in politics, educated them about the political process, and increased their overall self-confidence and leadership skills.

CAWP is nationally recognized as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about American women’s political participation. Its mission is to promote greater knowledge and understanding about women’s participation in politics and government and to enhance women’s influence and leadership in public life. CAWP’s education and outreach programs translate research findings into action, addressing women’s underrepresentation in political leadership with effective, imaginative programs serving a variety of audiences. As the world has watched Americans considering female candidates for the nation’s highest offices, CAWP’s over four decades of analyzing and interpreting women’s participation in American politics have provided a foundation and context for the discussion. Learn more about CAWP and the NEW Leadership® National Network at



Alumni report that participating in NEW Leadership® encouraged them to become more involved in politics, educated them about the political process and increased their overall self-confidence and leadership skills.

Contact Us

For more information, contact the NEW Leadership® Illinois program at:


More than ever, Illinois needs leaders who can address problems squarely and solve them by cooperating across party, regional and ethnic lines for the good of the state.

We need your help to establish a solid financial future that will allow the Edgar Fellows Program to continue developing leaders for generations to come. The endowment we raise will keep the program independent of political pressures, conflicts of interest, and state budget cutbacks, ensuring that Governor Jim Edgar’s legacy lives long and Illinois’ future remains bright.

Contact Sue Grace Rominger at (217) 244-5871