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$1.5 Million Endowment Awarded Simmons College to Encourage Women to Pursue Politics

Gift from Barbara Lee Family Foundation Pairs Women in Massachusetts Legislature with Simmons Women Students

BOSTON (June 11, 2007) — Young women often don't see themselves as politicians, political leaders, or policymakers, research shows.

But the Barbara Lee Family Foundation has awarded Simmons College a $1.5 million endowment for a program to change that.

The gift to the Barbara Lee Political Intern Fellowship Program will provide stipends for up to twenty Simmons female undergraduate students each year to serve as interns for Massachusetts women legislators and statewide elected officials. In turn, these women will serve as mentors to the students and encourage them to envision themselves as future political leaders and policymakers.

The gift will also fund a speaker series on women in American politics, and the Simmons students' attendance at women's non-partisan political training workshops.

"Working side-by-side with women who are successful in government and politics helps students become deeply invested in the political process and gain both the confidence and the know-how to run for office," says Barbara Lee, Principal of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and a 1967 Simmons College graduate.

Lee made the gift during her 40th reunion weekend at Simmons June 2, in honor of  Simmons College President Susan Scrimshaw, who began her presidency last July.   Of the $1.5 million, $1 million is from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Donor Advised Fund at the Boston Foundation, and $500,000 is from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation.

The endowment expands the reach of the Barbara Lee Political Intern Fellowship Program, a highly successful program at Simmons College that began three years ago.  Barbara Lee Family Foundation seed money has been used to encourage young women to explore careers in politics and public policy.  Since graduating from Simmons, a number of the program participants have gone on to work in government, politics, advocacy, and law.

Under the program, Simmons College students are matched with Massachusetts women legislators and work as interns on projects including legislative research, budget analysis, writing news releases, handling constituent duties and attending hearings.  

Students must take a course on Massachusetts politics taught by Political Science Professor Leanne Doherty, program director.

"By offering our students direct mentoring experience with women officeholders," Doherty says, "the program helps students see successful women working on important social issues, helps them recognize that they also can be successful in politics, and encourages women to enter the political pipeline."

"I'm very fortunate to have been a student at Simmons," says Lee.  "Simmons' emphasis on educating women for the professions impacted who I am today.  I learned that girls can become anything they want and that women can and should play an important role in our society."

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation supports progressive initiatives in two program areas: women in politics, and the contemporary arts. The Women in Politics program area is dedicated to engaging women in the American democratic process and promoting their participation at all levels of government.

Simmons College is a nationally ranked, pioneering private university in Boston, founded more than a century ago. It includes an undergraduate college for women, and co-educational graduate programs in social work, health, management, library and information science, and liberal arts.