Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute creates first alumni chapter at USM

OSWLI Executive Director Christina McAnuff and Gina Guadagnino, chief of staff to the USM president, display a newly signed charter establishing USM's first alumni chapter of the Olympia Snowe Women's Leadership Institute.
Christina McAnuff (right) of the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute signed a charter establishing an alumni chapter at the University of Southern Maine.

The Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute signed a charter March 6 with the University of Southern Maine to create its first alumni chapter, broadening its work to raise confidence, aspirations, and leadership skills of girls and young women in Maine.

“By completing this agreement today, we are giving a nod to our shared values and we are cementing our commitment to a continuum of shared opportunities for Olympia’s leaders,” said Christina McAnuff, the Institute’s executive director.

A panel of students and mentors discuss the benefits of opening an alumni chapter of the Olympia Snowe Women's Leadership Institute at USM.
A panel discussion at the McGoldrick Center explained the Institute’s mission.

The Institute was the creation of its namesake, Olympia Snowe. In 1979, when she was only 31 years old, Snowe became the youngest Republican woman ever to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She continued to serve in Congress until 1995, when she succeeded George Mitchell in the U.S. Senate. She announced the creation of the Institute shortly after her retirement from the Senate in early 2013.

The Institute began its work two years later with 45 girls in Androscoggin County. It has since grown into a statewide organization and graduated more than 700 students.

“More than 10 percent of them have matriculated to the University of Southern Maine,” McAnuff said.

Idella Glenn, USM’s Vice President of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact, serves as a mentor to girls at Westbrook High School and has joined the Institute’s board of directors. She led a discussion among students and mentors who attended the event at the McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Success on the Portland Campus.

Two current USM students and alumni of the Institute, Gabrielle Wilson and Emma Brearley, spoke about how the Institute helped them ease shyness and develop faith in themselves.

Gabrielle Wilson talks about the skills she gained by participating in the Olympia Snowe Women's Leadership Institute as the program expands to open its first alumni chapter at USM.
Gabrielle Wilson said that her work with the Institute made her more confident.

“You gain confidence in what you can do in the future and in how you can make change in this community and the world in general,” said Wilson, who is studying Biology as well as Tourism and Hospitality. “Eight years ago I was very shy. I am grateful that I have been exposed to many different opportunities.

Brearly, a Communication major, echoed Wilson’s remarks.

“It’s helped me become super confident in my ability to communicate professionally,” she said.

USM President Jacqueline Edmondson was unable to attend the event but said in a prepared statement that the alumni make a valuable contribution to the University.

“It is sincerely an honor for USM to host the inaugural alumni chapter of this prestigious program, and I look forward to welcoming more Institute alumni to our University. They have such a bright future, and their experiences with the Institute have clearly set them on a path to success.”