The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Women's Leadership and Student Engagement at MSMU

Grant Information
Categories Community , Education
Location United States
Cycle Year 2019
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Mount Saint Mary's University
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Matthew Meyer
Phone 213-477-2899
10 Chester Place
Building 8
Los Angeles
Additional Information
Used for Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) is requesting $10,000 from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation to expand civic engagement opportunities for young women. Since 1975, MSMU’s Women’s Leadership Program has empowered women from diverse backgrounds to become strong and effective leaders who are committed to improving their communities. Grant funds will support a range of new and expanded opportunities for students focused on increasing their engagement with the political system both locally and nationally.
Benefits MSMU serves a population that is often marginalized: ethnically diverse, female, first-generation college students, largely from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. MSMU’s Women’s Leadership and Student Engagement Department strengthens the voice of these young women, empowering them by facilitating access to the halls of power and equipping them with the knowledge, skills and character to be effective. Inspired by their experiences, these students go on to use their unique talents and perspectives to improve their communities and the world through careers in healthcare, education, business, politics, social services, and other public service roles.
Proposal Description Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) has been a leader in women’s education since our founding in 1925 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, and stands today as the only Catholic women’s college in the western United States. MSMU launched the first college Women’s Leadership Program in the western U.S. more than 40 years ago, supporting our students to become women of influence, prepared to view professional life as a service to the broader society.

Today, MSMU’s Women’s Leadership and Student Engagement Department encompasses an array of programs to foster the leadership capacities of young women. The hallmark of our offerings has been the intensive Leadership Scholars Program, a comprehensive, cohort-based experience with an emphasis on students working together to accomplish change and make a difference for the common good. First- and second-year students are selected for the program based on their commitment to contribute to their campus, their community, and their own personal development through service and leadership activities. Leadership Scholars are supported by close peer relationships with their cohort and staff mentors during their four years at MSMU, and serve as role models for academic success and ethical behavior on campus.

Students do not need to participate in the Leadership Scholars Program to grow as leaders at MSMU, however. In 2016, we launched Mount Leads as a framework to unify the leadership experience for all students. Mount Leads provides a common language of leadership centered around Four Core Principles: Awareness of Self & Personal Wellness; Ethical Decision Making & Integrity; Critical Thinking & Communication Skills; and, Active Citizenship. Through exploration of the Four Core Principles, students can realize their leadership potential, connect the skills they learn through various leadership experiences, and articulate who they are as leaders.

With the 2020 election cycle heating up, we seek to build on student interest in politics and civic engagement with an array of enhanced activities over the next year. These include:

• Congress to Campus program. We would like to become a host site for this program, which was created by the United States Association of Former Members of Congress “to improve college students’ understanding of Congress and the American government and to encourage them to consider careers in public service.” Through the program, two former members of Congress (one Democrat and one Republican) will visit campus for two days of classes, forums, and informal meetings with students and faculty. Host institutions are responsible for the cost of meals, lodging and ground transportation for the visiting representatives, as well as the cost of any special events. Estimated cost: $3,000.

• MSMU Votes. Historically, the MSMU student constituency (i.e., young adults, predominantly Latina) has had among the nation’s lowest voter participation rates. Recognizing the importance of our students’ voice in our democracy, we have made voting a focal point of our engagement efforts. Last year, we became part of the All-In Democracy Challenge and received a Gold Seal for increasing the MSMU student voting rate from 13.8% in 2014 to 48.4% in the 2018 midterm elections. We were also one of only five institutions in California to receive a Voter Friendly Campus designation. We seek to ramp up non-partisan voter registration and education activities on both of our campuses, so that we can exceed our participation rates from the last election cycle. Estimated cost: $1,500.

• Alternative Spring Break. To give students deeper hands-on experience at the nexus of community service and public policy, we have created a week-long program over the traditional spring break. The experience includes training/educational sessions, three days of service, and a day of political advocacy meetings with local officials at Los Angeles City Hall. In 2020, with Los Angeles facing a homelessness crisis, we are planning to partner with the Downtown Women’s Center, the city’s only organization focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women. The program will serve up to 20 students, for whom we must provide transportation, meals and other associated expenses. Estimated cost: $1,500.

• Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) Annual Meeting. The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) is a powerful experience that brings thousands of women from across the country to Washington, D.C. to explore careers in public policy and connect with women leaders. The Mount has been a member of the PLEN consortium for over 20 years, and is one of the most active participants. Every year, MSMU awards scholarships for undergraduate students to attend PLEN seminars, which provide them new knowledge about how policy is made and increased confidence in their ability to enter public policy careers. Last year, MSMU sent 14 students to PLEN seminars in Washington, and we hope to send at least that many this year to attend sessions on Women and Law, Legal Advocacy, Health Policy, STEM Policy, Global Policy and other issues. Estimated cost: $4,000.

A $10,000 grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation to support these efforts would be an important contribution to building our students’ capacity to make a difference in the world. We are deeply grateful for the past support the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation has provided for the Women’s Leadership at Mount Saint Mary’s, and we appreciate your confidence and investment in our students.