Green River Hosts Future Women Leaders
By Beth Carter, International Student Advisor, August 4, 2023
For five weeks in June and July, Green River College had the honor of hosting a group of women from across Central Asia as part of the Study of the United States Institute’s Madeleine K Albright Young Women Leaders program.
This State Department grant-funded program has been hosted by Green River College since 2009 and was only this year renamed in honor of former Secretary of State Albright. The Green River College institute emphasizes the theme of environmental leadership, focusing on environmental justice and women’s leadership for a sustainable future.
The 20 Green River participants from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, kicked off the program by attending a one-week conference in Washington, DC, with participants from other SUSI programs from University of Kansas, University of Delaware, and St Mary’s College, before returning to Washington state for the next month. At GRC, they attended classroom courses on US history, culture, and gender studies with Dr. Lindsey Smith, public speaking with Dr. Elnaz Parviz, and environmental studies with Dr. Tim Scharks. Then they took what they learned in the classroom out into the field, volunteering with the Auburn Food Bank, Elk Run Farm, and the Green River Coalition.
Further emphasizing the environmental leadership theme, they also took field trips with Dr. Tim Scharks to the Pacific Ocean, Mt Rainier, the Duwamish River watershed, and Leavenworth. For many of them, it was their first time to see the ocean, which one participant described as “an astonishing moment...feeling the cold waves on my bare feet.” The field trips emphasized the importance of preserving our natural wild spaces and on properly managing the human impact in urban areas.
One unique aspect of the SUSI program is that participants can apply for a micro-grant after the program to implement a project in their home country. To encourage them to think deeply about their follow-on projects and help them successfully apply, they attend grant writing seminars to hone their applications and practice speaking about their ideas. This culminates in their final presentations at the closing banquet at the end of the program. Successful past follow-on projects have included starting a youth conflict management club, setting up women’s mentorship programs, holding women’s leadership seminars, and sexual and reproductive health education programs.
The ultimate purpose of this program is to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries and to elevate women’s global leadership. As one participant said, “This experience made me think about supporting all the women around me and how important it is as a woman to have other women by your side.