Founded in 1992, the vision of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics was to provide a place for the intersection of leadership and politics. To help fund the renovation of Catt Hall during 1994, the Catt Center sponsored the creation of the Plaza of Heroines located at the south entrance of Catt Hall. The Catt Center began its first year of operation at Iowa State in 1995. Named in honor of Carrie Chapman Catt, the center “provides leadership development and educational opportunities for women and men interested in politics and public service through programs blending the resources and scholarship of the academic environment with the actual experiences of individuals in the public and private sectors.”
Catt Hall Houses the Catt Center
Despite the short history the center has on campus, the center has provided numerous opportunities for both men and women as students, faculty, staff, and Ames community members. High school students began participating in annual “Making a Difference: Focus on Tomorrow’s Leaders” summer workshop in 1992. Sophomores, juniors and seniors who attended the workshop learned about politics and developed their leadership skills.
The Catt Center emphasizes international leadership by supporting fellows, visiting, scholars, and distinguished speakers from across the world. The research completed by these scholars offers importance to women. By encouraging scholars to share their research at Iowa State, the center brings together scholars and public officials to discuss current national and international issues of concern to women. Those scholars in turn serve as role models for young women to enter careers in politics and public service.
One distinguished speaker series is the Mary Louise Smith Chair for Women and Politics. Created by Mary Louise Smith, a leader in American politics for over forty years and the first and only woman to serve as National Chair for the Republican Party, the chair supports a biannual speakers series. Notable speakers to come to Iowa State through this fund include Soledad O’Brien, Elizabeth Dole, Hillary Clinton, and Carly Fiorina, the former CEO and Chair of Hewitt-Packard.
In addition to hosting a distinguished speakers series, the Catt Center also focuses on the political education of women and men on campus and in the Ames community. In November, 1995 the Catt Center, in cooperation with the Iowa Women’s Political Caucus and the League of Woman Voters, hosted a campaign training workshop. It was the second workshop of its kind, and thirty participants experienced intensive individual training about the politics of election campaigns. These efforts continue today, as the Catt Center will hold a campaign training workshop for women called “Ready to Run” in the spring 2009.
Finally, the Catt Center provides leadership classes for students at Iowa State. The “Axel Leadership Series” consists of three courses entitled “Leadership Styles and Strategies in a Diverse Society," "Women in Leadership and Public Policy," and ""Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Women and Leadership." The series is taught by the staff of the Catt Center in its efforts to educate Iowa State students about women and leadership.
Taking a Break to Play Cards, ca. 1950s