UT set to host the first LBJ Women’s Campaign School this June

Nataleah Small

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs will host UT’s first Women’s Campaign School this summer, a training program for women wanting to learn how to run for office or manage a campaign this summer.

From June 9-13, women from across the country will participate in the training program, according to the campaign school’s website. Amy Kroll, founder and executive director of the campaign school, said there is not a set number of participants, but she is anticipating about 20 to 40 women will attend. Kroll, a public affairs graduate student, said those who are interested can apply online or nominate someone who they believe is a good candidate for the program from now through April 6.

“Our target is somebody who really is serious about running for office or becoming a campaign manager,” Kroll said.

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, assistant dean for civic engagement and lecturer at the LBJ school, said it is important to have women in elected positions to provide for greater representation of women's voices.

Although barriers such as income and social stereotypes have held women back from participating in politics, Soto said once a woman decides to run for office, her chance at getting elected is similar to that of a man. 

“It’s important to provide women the tools to get ready to run because there is the need to fill that representational gap,” Soto said. “And it’s a pretty blatant gap.”

Kroll said women will learn practical skills such as fundraising and how to speak on camera during the program.

There will also be a session on the last day where families will learn how to support a family member running for office, Kroll said. Family members of previous candidates will share their stories on what to expect when a spouse or daughter runs for office, she said. 

“When a woman runs for office, it impacts her entire family and her community,” Kroll said. 

Because the campaign school is meant to be bipartisan, Kroll said leaders with Democratic and Republican ties developed the curriculum for the program.

“We can learn so much from one another if we put aside the ideological labels and really focus on the mechanics of running a good campaign,” said Jenifer Sarver, campaign school board member and Republican curriculum lead. 

Proficiencies such as developing a campaign finance plan and recruiting a campaign staff are nonpartisan, Sarver said. Participants can apply their ideological lens once they leave the campaign school, but she said the focus of the program is developing practical skills and techniques. 

Sarver said she is excited that the program is taking place in the middle of the country because similar campaign programs often take place on the east coast. 

“I love that we’re bringing the program to Austin so women from Texas and from surrounding states can easily get to the campaign school, so we’re making it accessible to them,” Sarver said. 

Despite her excitement, Sarver said it may be challenging to recruit people from both sides of the aisle. 

“It’s not always common that there are bipartisan schools like this and so, as a conservative, I want to make sure that we have a real balance in participation because I think that’s going to be important to the integrity of the program,” Sarver said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarfiy a quotation and correct the spelling of a name. The Texan regrets this error.