Casandra Vasquez, second year political science student at Brookhaven College, has been accepted into the prestigious NEW Leadership Texas program this summer at the University of Texas at Austin.
NEW Leadership Texas is an expense-free, six-day program for female undergraduates who share an interest in politics and women’s leadership. The first and only program of its kind in the state of Texas, approximately 25-30 women are selected to attend each year. The program teaches the diversity of women’s historical and contemporary participation in politics and policy making, and allows women to meet and network with successful women leaders and participate in skills-building workshops on public speaking and strategic communication.
Casandra first discovered the program through her former government teacher, Ahad Hayaud-Din, who sent an email to his female students who are interested in the field of political science. Seeing that it was specifically designed for college women and helping them to blossom and succeed within the field, Casandra decided to apply.
“I think it being directed towards women is a big issue, with women being unrepresented,” she said. “I think that was a big decision in me applying to the program.”
The application process was straightforward and concise. Entirely online, applicants were asked for background information, references, recommendation letters and essay responses to two questions: Name one issue that interests you, and Which woman do you look up to right now?
Casandra was particularly drawn to the first question asked, and her answer seems to have been well-received by the selection committee -- immigration was her topic. Casandra is an immigrant herself and is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico. She and her family became legal US residents, but Casandra believes the process could use some work.
“The very last step for us becoming US residents was going to Ciudad Juarez for the final interview,” she said. “Having to visit this city, and going along with my mother, was one of my main concerns with the process. That they would have us go to such an unsafe place, especially for women.”
The NEW Leadership Texas program will run from May 30-June 4. During the program, Casandra is hoping to gain an insider’s perspective into politics. The idea of having a woman on the inside in a male-dominated world is fascinating to her, and she hopes to take away an experience that will help her in the future.
Casandra is looking to transfer to the University of Texas at Dallas where she plans to study political science. She eventually would like to obtain a master’s degree in the subject, as well.