Women’s Leadership Institute Celebrates Growth in Second Year of Student Cohort Program

October 28, 2022

The Women’s Leadership Institute kicked off the beginning of the school year, and the second year of the cohort program’s existence, last month with its ‘No Club’ Book Club event with Lise Vesterlund. What was most apparent at the event, the Institute’s first in-person gathering since last spring, was the growth the group has experienced since its inception. 

In addition to its many supporters, Executive Board members, and faculty leaders, the WLI’s student cohort grew from 15 members to over 40 in the span of a year. The growth was spurred by the successes of the first student cohort in the 2021-22 academic year. The WLI sought to create a unique opportunity for students to take part in the Institute in a more collaborative and involved way. 

“We wanted to include programming that took emerging leaders deeper, and gave them more opportunities and more support and education around the leadership journey,” Amanda Guinot Talbot, Director of the WLI, explained. “We were looking at leadership with a sort of ‘life course’ model. Starting with asking students about their ‘Why,’ their passions, and we kept building from there, working on how to get your foot in the door, interview, negotiate and so on.”

The success of the cohort’s first year, despite the majority of the programming taking place virtually, saw an increase in student interest for more activities and a resounding agreement by the Executive Board that the addition of a cohort was beneficial in more ways than one.

“Our pilot year, we got great feedback from the students that they really got a lot out of what we had offered them,” Guinot Talbot said. “We also got a lot of feedback on how we could grow. And that [feedback] essentially created the blueprint for year two.”

WLI brunchDr. Lise Vesterlund, an Economist at the University of Pittsburgh, spoke about her book at a brunch sponsored by the Women's Leadership Institute. Many students from the WLI cohort attended the brunch. (Photo credit Jacqueline Hawthorne)

The buzz about the WLI and student cohort was so great that the group saw a massive increase in interest and applications for the 2022-23 school year. More students were interested in coming on board, and several students wanted to return for another year on the cohort. One such returning member is Izza Peeran, a sophomore studying psychology. 

“In my first year, there were so many things I enjoyed and valuable experiences I gained,” Peeran said. “At the time, I was a freshman and was struggling to meet people. The cohort was a great place for me to meet some brilliant women and start the process of networking.”

The influx of new members has brought more diversity to the organization, with students from several colleges joining together for conversations around women’s leadership. Aubree Muethel is one such new member. A junior studying microbiology, Muethel is most looking forward to gaining confidence and the tools needed for success as she navigates a male-dominated career path. 

“I hope to learn some valuable techniques for using [my] voice and to gain confidence in myself, specifically as a woman in STEM,” Muethel explained. “I also want to learn how to support women as leaders and encourage more young girls to pursue careers in STEM in a safe space where we can enjoy learning about science and be respected for our opinions.”

The WLI ultimately thrives on these interactions between students, board members and faculty. “The students are the heartbeat of this organization,” Guinot Talbot commented. “They’re 100 percent why these fantastic women leaders give their time, money, energy, and passion, it is for the students.”

The benefits extend beyond the reach of just the students, with the executive board members being equally affected by the drive and enthusiasm of students to learn how to navigate the professional world. The executive board of women leaders exists in the first place as a way to educate, support and ignite the next generation of successful women.   

“The return given to all of us is immeasurable, because we want to support this next generation of awesome leaders,” Guinot Talbot said. “At the end of the day, I can confidently say that I’ve been ignited and supported myself by this institute. This is a wonderful thing that Michigan State does. It makes me proud to be a Spartan.”

Learn more about the WLI and the 2022-23 Student Cohort here