During the first weekend in August, motivated women enthusiastic about conservatism from chapters across the country subbed beach time and end-of-summer gatherings to travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to attend the NeW Leadership Retreat. Conservative young women had the opportunity to join with like-minded peers from other universities to learn how to successfully lead their chapters on campus. For many of the women coming from new chapters, this was a chance to gain the resources and find mentors to set up successful chapters this fall and learn how to effectively recruit members.
Kicking off the retreat on Friday afternoon, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke to attendees, encouraging them to remain true to their conservative beliefs and never be afraid of healthy and robust debate. Blackburn discussed America’s founding principles, which have allowed the United States to be a strong nation, and reminded the women to never stop fighting to protect our rights because “freedom is a precious commodity.” After the talk, participants networked and met women from other chapters with icebreaker exercises.
On Friday afternoon, the women boarded buses to the breathtaking Rock City Gardens. They explored the park’s winding paths, rickety rope bridges, stark cliffs, and a lookout from which you could see seven states! After returning from Rock City, the women gathered for dinner and an empowering talk from NeW President Karin Lips on how conservative women can lead the path forward for defining and messaging conservatism in 2021. Her talk inspired the women to think about a new type of feminism called Opportunity Feminism, an alternative to modern leftist feminism that truly empowers women to build meaningful lives. Day one concluded with a night of music trivia and prizes.
On Saturday, NeW alumnae Sophie Czerniecki and Madison Kutruff led breakout sessions explaining to chapter leaders how to effectively recruit members on campus and set their chapters up for success. Kathryn Alford, NeW Communications Manager, taught the women how to use the communications resources from NeW to empower conservative women on campus as well as how to use social media to have a positive presence online.
Attendees also heard from Professor Mary Kate Cary, Senior Fellow at The Miller Center, on how to make a compelling case for conservatism across issues. She discussed why conservatives need to be effective communicators as well as the skills needed to be successful leaders in politics, specifically within the conservative movement. On Saturday, she also spoke on the history and future of conservatism. Afterward, husband-and-wife duo, Emma and Cabot Phillips, took the floor to describe to the women the tools needed to effectively advocate for conservatism in op-eds and other media. They spoke on social media, print media, and television. They urged the women to educate themselves on issues to ensure they never lose credibility.
Attendees then had the chance to meet with their campus team representative so that they could begin to plan their first events and set their chapter up for success. This was a great opportunity for all leaders, but especially for the women launching their chapters, to start their year off on the right foot.
For the final session of the day, Alford guided the women through making eye-catching graphics and flyers. The women were able to get step-by-step guidance on how to promote their chapters online.
Saturday night concluded with dinner and chapter awards to honor and recognize women who have been strong and empowering conservative leaders. Chapter winners included American University, Indiana University, The Catholic University of America, and the University of South Carolina.
On the final day of the Leadership Retreat, attendees learned tips and tricks for hosting successful events on campus from Shannon Stillwell, NeW alumna, and Alexis Flowers, NeW Director of Programs. The women then engaged in policy discussions and articles covering current events, specifically the topic of the First Amendment and censorship. This gave them the opportunity to find common ground on areas in which they agreed as well as to engage in healthy and respectful debate.
To wrap up the weekend, Rachel Riley, consultant and Rhodes Scholar, spoke to the women about the skills needed to be an authentic leader. She encouraged them to be honest in their leadership and to stay true to themselves and who they are “because only then will you be a successful leader.”
“I really enjoyed the Retreat this year!” Indiana University chapter leader Loredana Lohan said of her experience. “It was wonderful meeting so many young conservative women from across the country and learning new ways to build up our chapters and communities. The Leadership Retreat is a perfect example of empowering all women.”
NeW leaders are energized and excited to bring conservatism to campus this fall!
This blog was written by Franchetta Groves, NeW Communications Intern.