The Stennis Center in 2010 created Lifting Leaders, a pilot mentoring program for college women interested in becoming leaders in public service. The first program is being conducted in Arkansas, matching exceptional women political leaders with young women who are emerging as leaders on college campuses in the state. The concept of this program came through the Stennis Center’s work with women political leaders in 14 Southern states over the past two decades. We hope that the Lifting Leaders program in Arkansas will be a model for similar programs in other states.
While Southern states occupy six of the bottom ten spots in a ranking of the percentage of women in state legislators, Arkansas is a respectable 31st. Women leaders in Arkansas, such as State Representative Johnnie Roebuck and former State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher, pledged their support and encouraged the Stennis Center to establish the program in their state.
The goal of the Lifting Leaders program is to inspire and prepare young women to pursue careers in public service through a relationship with mentors who are already accomplished leaders. The program will create a network of women leaders and young women who have a similar desire to make a difference through public service.
The inaugural Lifting Leaders program matched 18 students from nine colleges with 18 mentors, nine of whom are state legislators. The group met for an orientation session on September 26-27, 2010 in Little Rock. Each student met her mentor, but in addition, each student met all the other students and mentors in the program. The mentors had the opportunity to share their personal stories of public service leadership and to help guide and provide support for young women to pursue their own path in public service.
The primary responsibility of mentors in the program is to spend some time over the course of the school year with their mentee, sharing experiences from public service leadership and offering advice and counsel related to the mentee’s public service leadership aspirations. While the Stennis Center provided some guidelines and suggestions, mentors and mentees determine how often they get together.
The second meeting of the Lifting Leaders program took place on February 17, 2011, at the State Capitol in Little Rock. The students had breakfast and lunch with women legislators in the Arkansas Women’s Caucus, attended hearings, toured the Capitol building, watched the House and Senate from the galleries, and met with Arkansas State Treasurer Martha Shoffner and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. Afterwards, the students indicated that they liked the camaraderie they witnessed between Democratic and Republican women. They also enjoyed listening to women legislators tell about obstacles they overcame on the road to political success.
Pairings of Mentees and Mentors
Brittany Brantley, University of the Ozarks
Mentor: Melissa Moody, Partner, Capitol Partners
Sarah Davis, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
Mentor: Tracy Pennartz, State Representative
Sharnea Diggs, Arkansas State University
Mentor: Kathy Webb, State Representative
Hannah Ellis, Lyon College
Mentor: Jane English, State Representative
Francennett Herrera, Philander Smith College
Mentor: Lisa Ferrell, Project Coordinator, Arkansas Energy Sector Partnership Department of Workforce Services
Morgan Hill, Hendrix College
Mentor: Alice F. Lightle, Judge – Little Rock District Court, Criminal Division
Brittany Horn, University of Central Arkansas
Mentor: Janie Huddleston, Deputy Director, Department of Human Services
Hannah Hudspeth, Hendrix College
Mentor: Tiffany Rogers, State Representative
Tammy Lippert, University of Arkansas School of Law
Mentor: Megan Witnoski, Superintendent for Elkins School District
Tabitha Haley McCool, University of Central Arkansas
Mentor: Ann Clemmer, State Representative
Brittany McMahan, Harding University
Mentor: Mary Spencer McGowan, Judge – Sixth Judicial Circuit
Molly Miller, Hendrix College
Mentor: Linda Tyler, State Representative
Scharla Rose Paryzek, University of the Ozarks
Mentor: Becky Thompson, Deputy Director, Global Business Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Kelly Rappe’, Hendrix College
Mentor: Elizabeth (Beth) Stewart, South Conway County School, School Improvement Specialist
Katherine Raymond, Hendrix College
Mentor: Rita W. Gruber, Judge – AR Court of Appeals
Hannah Sintek, Hendrix College
Mentor: Johnnie Roebuck, State Representative
Sarah Slocum, University of Arkansas Law School
Mentor: Sue Madison, State Senator
Caroline Snell, Harding University
Mentor: Donna Hutchinson, State Representative