The Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Program for Women in Global Leadership prepares women for tomorrow's global challenges by offering a unique opportunity for international experiences, leadership development and community service. Universities and colleges across Pennsylvania participate in the VIH Program. Three young women from each institution are admitted into the program and receive a scholarship of at least $5,000 to put toward the cost of an international experience of their choosing.
The VIH Program has three principal components: the international experience, the Community Engagement Experience and two weekend-long, intensive leadership development retreats. During the spring semester prior to and the fall semester following their international experiences, the awardees meet in Pittsburgh, PA. These trainings provide the awardees with a foundation of skills necessary to maximize cultural learnings while abroad and to engage their leadership skills in their own communities upon their return.
The curriculum of the retreats is designed so that the participants explore the fundamentals of leadership: self-knowledge, integrity, accountability, valuing others and global perspectives. Participants learn to challenge current mental models and deeply held assumptions related to gender, race, class and religion, as well as to cultivate an in-depth understanding of how these vary in different regions and cultural settings. The VIH Program is guided by the following parameters: effective leadership requires intercultural competency; leadership development incorporates self-knowledge and personal growth; leadership competencies include knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are strengthened through experience and reflection; and, leadership development is a life-long endeavor.
While the objective of the first retreat is to enhance intercultural competencies and global perspectives, the focus of the second retreat is three-fold. First, students go through the process of reflecting on their international experiences to then transform them into developmental experiences. Second, students explore the intersection of gender and leadership. Third, VIH awardees are guided to embrace a personal ethic of social responsibility in diverse communities that will find its expression in the Community Engagement Experience (CEE).
VIH awardees are guided and mentored by their Campus Coordinators as they further develop their leadership skills and complete the components of the VIH Program. Ultimately, the goal of the VIH Program is to "Prepare women leaders for tomorrow's global challenges." This unique model creates global citizens by developing leadership and intercultural competency skills instilling passion for life-long learning and civil engagement. More importantly, it is shaping an annual cohort of young women whose decisions and actions as future leaders will have a far-reaching impact locally and potentially globally.