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PLEN: Public Leadership Education Network

About PLEN

The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) is the only national organization whose sole mission is preparing women for public leadership.

Each year, PLEN brings hundreds of women students from colleges and universities across the country to Washington, D.C. for a weekend, week, or an entire semester to experience first-hand how public policy is shaped and implemented at the national level. These students meet with and learn from women leaders making and influencing public policy at some of the highest levels in the Congress, courts, federal agencies, corporate sector, policy research and advocacy organizations, and the media.


PLEN was founded over twenty-five years ago at Wells College by its president Frances Tarlton (Sissy) Farenthold. An attorney, former state legislator and gubernatorial candidate in Texas, Sissy Farenthold earned national recognition as the founding president of the National Women's Political Caucus and for her nomination in 1972 for the vice presidency of the United States at the Democratic National Convention.

To realize her vision of a network of women's colleges educating women for leadership roles in the public arena, Sissy Farenthold turned to Ruth B. Mandel, then director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) and Betsey Wright, former head of the National Women's Education Fund (NWEF). Together they drafted a proposal that was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. PLEN was launched in 1978 when four other women's colleges joined with Wells College. Today PLEN's membership includes 17 colleges and universities. PLEN member institutions offer students opportunities to learn about and practice leadership as student government leaders, public policy interns, and community service volunteers. PLEN institutions offer courses on leadership and sponsor women's leadership institutes that serve women in their region.

PLEN's programs are open to women students at all colleges and universities.

For more information about PLEN, go to:

For more information about the PLEN program please email