University of Minnesota
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The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy


Professional Development for Elected Women


ParticipantsFor example, in 2007, over half (37) of Minnesota’s women legislators gathered in Chaska for a bi-partisan overnight retreat sponsored by the Center on Women and Public Policy, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota. Twenty-one House Democrats, 4 House Republicans and 11 Senate Democrats and 1 Senate Republic participated. By all indicators the retreat was a resounding success. Most legislators rated the overall value of the retreat 5 out of 5 (average 4.6) and most said they were highly likely to participate in future retreats.

The Center on Women and Public Policy, with leadership from Speaker Margaret Kelliher and Senator Tarryl Clark, designed the program based on the advice of a bi-partisan planning group. Planning group participants included: Representative Tina Liebling, Representative Kathy Tinglestad, Senator Sandy Pappas, Representative Erin Murphy and Representative Carol McFarlane. The goals of the retreat were to build relationships and skills.

On day one, the retreat focused on being an authentic and credible woman leader in a climate that is always competitive and sometimes gender-biased. In a lively, interactive format using lectures, group exercises, and dialogue, dynamic and award winning speaker and educator Delorese Ambrose facilitated a highly rated session (4.8 out of 5, median score 5 out of 5) that allowed participants to deepen their relationships with each other as they strengthened their leadership skills. Together, the group explored participants’ experiences as women legislators and the latest thinking on leadership development and personal mastery.

Particpants practice speechesOn day two, communication coaches helped participants work on getting their message across on camera. This session gave legislators an opportunity to be in front of a camera while practicing pivoting. Pivoting is a communication technique designed to steer the conversation in a new direction. Participants used stories and values to get their key message heard. This approach allowed participants to deepen their knowledge of each others lives and their relationships with each other, while also practicing communication skills on camera. Four experienced coaches from the non-partisan White House Project led the critique/feedback discussions, which were also highly rated (4.7 out of 5, median score 5).


  • Delorese Ambrose: An award-winning educator, Dr. Delorese Ambrose lectures worldwide on contemporary workplace issues and on the “use of self” as an agent of change. She earned a doctorate from Columbia University and served on the graduate faculty of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy and Management for 18 years. In 1987 Delorese founded Ambrose Consulting & Training, LLC a firm dedicated to personal and organizational effectiveness. Her clients include the Council of State Governments.  Delorese has served on the State of Pennsylvania Commission on Women, on former PA Governor Carey’s PRIME Council for the Reinvention of Government, and was named one of the City’s 25 Most Powerful Women by Pittsburgh Magazine in 1995. She is also a recipient of the national Athena Award for “women who attain and personify the highest level of professional excellence.”
  • The White House Project Communication Team includes Catherine Gray, Midwest Associate Director and sought-after communication coach; Barbara Wiener, Founder and Executive Director, TVbyGirls; Amy Cram Helwich, Development Director, Women's Foundation of Minnesota and Dave Cram Helwich, Director of Debate, University of Minnesota.  The team conducts a highly rated Debate Boot Camp: intensive communication training for women candidates, elected officials, and organizational leaders. Together, the coaches work on honing communications skills that help with public speaking engagements, stump speeches, debates, and responding to the media.  The White House Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors—up to the U.S. presidency—by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women.