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Leadership program empowers Stockton students – News

Galloway, New Jersey – Did you know that New Jersey has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate? Or that New Jersey ranks 23rd out of the 50 states in terms of the proportion of women serving in the legislature?

To address the underrepresentation of women in politics, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), located on the campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, hosts the Susan N. Wilson NEW Leadership residency program, which introduces female students to the world of politics and successful women in the field to encourage them to consider the role the political process plays in their daily lives.

Two Stockton University students, Rachel Dunlap of Newark and Detty-Maidanove Exantus of Pleasantville, received funding from the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy to participate in the program in June.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Dunlap.

“The William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton is pleased to support students who wish to participate in this unique leadership program designed to increase women’s representation in politics,” said Tina Zappile, director of the center. “Through this powerful training, our students learn how to become more engaged in the political process, whether through a career in public service, private sector work, or community involvement. The voices of Detta and Rachel, as well as those of other Stockton NEWL graduates, are critical to a thriving democracy.”

For Dunlap, an Africana studies major, the program was a “welcoming environment” that allowed her to learn about perspectives different from her own in an inspiring atmosphere.

“We were accepted from the moment we got there until the very end. It was an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded women who were constantly encouraging and supporting other women, even though we didn’t know each other,” Dunlap said. “In some ways, I think my personal experiences and backgrounds allowed me to have a different perspective on the various political and global issues we discussed. But our differences in perspective were unifying and understood on an intellectual level, allowing us to support each other to become better scholars and activists.”

Photo courtesy of Detty-Maidanove Exantus.

Exantus felt a mix of “excitement and nervousness” about the program, but was ultimately interested in collaborating with other political science students and bringing a unique perspective with her international relations major and two minors: French and global studies.

“I was excited to be among a group of talented and ambitious women at the beginning of their journey, although I felt a little intimidated,” she said. “Still, I wanted to learn from them and share my insights. It was very reassuring to know that each of us had been specially chosen to be in that room.”

The group of students was the first to experience a typical seven-day residential program in an accelerated manner over three days. During those three days, students participated in workshops on topics such as public speaking and self-reflection on their leadership path, and networked and met leading women in politics.

Both Dunlap and Exantus plan to bring what they learned up north to Stockton.

“I plan to help other students understand that our daily lives are affected by politics, so we need to start taking on leadership roles, no matter how big or small, that will allow us to make that change,” Dunlap said. “Also, as a board member of the club, I want to pass on everything I’ve learned to my club, encouraging them to become actively engaged global citizens who are able to advocate for themselves and lobby for the issues they believe in.”

“The things I learned were incredibly useful to the point that I believe they are and will continue to influence everything I do,” Exantus said. “For example, the feedback I received during the public speaking sessions will be something I will refer to as I prepare for class presentations and meetings with my organization. It will undoubtedly help me present myself better as a speaker and improve my overall communication skills.”

A group taking a selfie. Photo courtesy of Exantus.

Rachel during the presentation. Photo courtesy of Dunlap.

Detty poses for a photo with his certificate. Photo courtesy of Exantus.

A group takes a selfie. Photo courtesy of Dunlap.

Detty poses with instructors on the show. Photo courtesy of Exantus.

Photos courtesy of Dunlap and Exantus.

– Story by Loukaia Taylor