The Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute is one of the U.S. Department of State’s Study of US Institute’s (SUSI) programs on Women’s Leadership. SUSI programs for Student Leaders are five-week academic programs for foreign undergraduate leaders sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Hosted by U.S. academic institutions throughout the United States, all Institutes include an intensive academic component, an educational tour of other regions of the country, local community service activities, leadership skill building, and a unique opportunity for participants to get to know their American peers.
The first SUSI Women’s Leadership Institute was hosted by the University of Kansas in 2010, and included women from the countries of Egypt and Morocco. In the summer of 2011, the KU WLI hosted women from Egypt, India, Morocco, Pakistan, and Sudan. The winter 2012 institute hosted women from Bahrain, Egypt, and Yemen. The summer 2012 institute again hosted women from Egypt, India, Morocco, Pakistan, and Sudan. The summer 2013 added the country of Mongolia, and in the summer of 2014 added the country of Zambia.
The Addition of Kansas Women
The population of rural Kansas is declining at an alarming rate. Fifty-one of the 54 counties west of Reno County are projected to lose population through the year 2040. Furthermore, the populations of four rural Kansas counties are projected to shrink to under 1,000 people by 2040.
In addition to a general population decline, many of these rural communities are experiencing an exodus of young people, who often leave these communities for more populated and urban areas. As a result, these rural communities are struggling to maintain and preserve local businesses, governments, schools, as well as the spirit of the communities themselves.
Young women in rural communities across America often report facing a unique set of issues, including limited educational and professional opportunities, difficulty accessing health care, gender inequality and isolation.
Therefore, there is a tremendous need to activate, energize and empower the young people of rural Kansas to tackle the challenges facing their communities and in the process, strengthen community ties while strengthening the communities themselves. Through the generosity of visionary donors, in the summer of 2014, the Women’s Leadership Institute welcomed the addition of six pioneering Kansas women who are eager to make a difference in their communities and our state.
The KWLI Today
Beginning in 2014, the KWLI is a uniquely funded program supported by both the Department of State SUSI program and donor gifts to the KU Endowment Association. At the core of our program, we are still dedicated to providing a transformative experience that develops leadership competencies, cultivates a spirit of collaboration, and elevates the power of women’s voices. We are committed to providing that experience not only to international women, but also to the women of our Kansas communities.