Public Leadership Education Network

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Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)
FounderFrances Tartlon (Sissy) Farenthold
FocusWomen's leadership, Education
  • Washington, D.C.
Key people
Dana Brown, Executive Director;Lisa Kaenzig, Chair; Margaret Darling, Secretary/Treasurer; Marianne Alexander, President Emerita

Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., with the sole focus of preparing college women for leadership in the public policy arena. Through introducing college women to role models, career paths, and skills trainings before they enter the workforce, PLEN's mission is to increase the number of women in top leadership positions influencing all aspects of the public policy process. PLEN's current Executive Director is Sarah Bruno.[1]


PLEN was founded in 1978 by Frances Farenthold, President of Wells College.[2] Sissy brought her experiences as a Texas state legislator and candidate for governor to her new role as president of a women's college, proposing that women's colleges work together to educate women for public leadership.

With national recognition because her name was placed in nomination for the Vice Presidency at the Democratic National Convention in 1972 and her election as the founding president of the bi-partisan National Women's Political Caucus, Sissy gained key support for her vision from Ruth Mandel who directed the Center for American Women and Politics and Betsey Wright who headed the National Women's Education Fund.[3][4] Ruth and Betsey worked with Sissy to turn her idea into a successful proposal to the Carnegie Corporation of New York. With this major foundation support, PLEN was established in 1978. Programs aimed at preparing women students for leadership in the public arena were initially campus-based.

PLEN created its first Washington-based seminar in 1983 and moved its headquarters to Washington, DC in 1989 to expand its program offerings that bring women students to the Nation's Capital to learn from women leaders about the public policy process.


Today PLEN offers seven annual seminars and a summer public policy internship program.

Women in Global Policy: Students meet with women from the international policy field, including women leaders from the State Department and other international organizations.[5][6] Women, Law & Public Policy: Students considering careers in the law meet with legal professionals, ranging Supreme Court of the United States Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to members of the Department of Justice, and other public service lawyers. Women & STEM Policy: College women interested in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics policy attend this seminar held each January.[7] Women & Public Policy: Students meet with women from a variety of public policy backgrounds. The program has historically included policy specific tracks focusing on education policy, environmental policies, etc. Notable speakers for this program have included Christine Todd Whitman of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003.[8] Women & Congress: Students meet with female members of the House and Senate, members of their staff, advocates, and other leaders in government relations. Notable speakers include Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Senator Mary Landrieu, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and Congresswoman Judy Biggert.[9] Women in Business Policy: Students meet with female members of the House and Senate, members of their staff, advocates, and other leaders in government relations. Notable speakers include Laura Lane President of Global Affairs at UPS, Director of Federal Government Affairs at the American Express Company Ellie Shaw, and others [10] Women Unlocking Nonprofits: Students meet with female leaders from nonprofit organizations and advocates doing policy work in and around DC. Notable speakers include Director of Diversity & Inclusion at the Human Rights Campaign Nicole Cozier, Director of Advocacy and Legislative Affairs at Goodwill Laura Walling, and others.[11]


PLEN membership is open to all colleges and universities and subsets within them such as political science departments, women's studies programs, women's centers, and career development centers. The annual fee for member institutions is $3,150. Membership fees are paid in the summer, which provides students with discounted prices throughout the academic year. Students from PLEN member institutions receive discounts on all PLEN seminars.

Member Institutions[edit]


  1. ^ "Elect Her in Alabama, South Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming". American Association of University Women. 2011-03-03. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  2. ^ MELODY BELCHER Special to the Statesman (2012-05-10). "Local Democrats attend protest against 'war on women'". The Chandler & Brownsboro Statesman. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  3. ^ "History". National Women's Political Caucus. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  4. ^ "A Guide to the Frances Tarlton Farenthold Papers, 1913-2013". Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  5. ^ "Public Leadership Education Network Visits the Department". U.S. Department of State. 2010-05-29. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  6. ^ Roberts, Craig (2012-04-04). "The Public Leadership Education Network-DC Event May 21–25". Craig Roberts Jobs Distribution List. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  7. ^ "NASHP Meets Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) Students". National Academy for State Health Policy. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  8. ^ Christine Todd Whitman (2003-01-09). "Speech: Public Leadership Education Network's Women and Public Policy Seminar, Washington, D.C". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2013-11-19.
  9. ^ [1] Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ [2] Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ [3] Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]