Training Topics

From Harvard Square to the Oval Office offers 8 skills-training sessions throughout the academic year in which students learn how to run for office, be the candidate and survive an election. These sessions are made possible by the Barbara Lee Women in U.S. Politics Training Program and Lecture Series Endowment Fund.

In addition, the cohort meets for “off-the-record” sessions with elected officials and other leaders who speak candidly about their experiences in political life. Students also organize and attend networking events for cohort members and alumnae.

Training 1: Running for Public Office: Your Personal Journey from a Global Perspective

Students will discuss political goals, gender, and the political landscape, as well as examine their own personal path to elected office.

Training 2: Making the Decision

In this session, we explore the political factors critical to making a successful decision to run. We will cover effectively formulating a campaign message, defining your platforms, and achieving a comprehensive understanding of both your constituency and the current political atmosphere. Students will examine how to address the advantages and challenges of female candidacy with a keen understanding of what you have to offer as a candidate.

Training 3: Public Speaking

Develop public speaking techniques, and prepare for campaign trail Q&A. We will discuss campaign speeches and slogans, as well as how wardrobe and body language can affect your message. Each student will present a prepared 3-4 minute speech and receive advice on creating a focused approach on message development and campaign strategy.

Training 4: Getting out the Women’s Vote in 2012

Training 5: Fundraising

Money can make or break a political campaign. In this training, we will focus on the design and implementation of an effective campaign finance plan. We will tackle the big challenges: who to ask and how to ask for campaign contributions. Students will develop a method to classify donors and learn the essential tools to make the ask effective. This session will also cover the evolving and complex arena of campaign finance law.

Training 6: Navigating Political Parties

The complex world of party politics and constituency groups proves vital to a campaign’s success. This session will provide a model for navigating interest groups and the traditional party framework. Students will examine how to secure endorsements and how to forge the political partnerships that are critical to the mobilization of constituency groups in order to gain votes.

Training 7: Campaign Media

The media plays a vital role in your campaign; it is the conduit for your message, and consumes the largest part of your budget. Learn how to develop your strategy, implement it and keep control of it. We will cover everything from message development to television advertising.

Training 8: Next Steps: 10 things you need to get going!

Learn how to position yourself in your community as a potential elected. We will cover how to get a public appointment, effectively advocate for your issue, getting involved in local campaigns, creating a strong web strategy and how to make the right connections.


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Students discussing topics during an Oval Office session.


“Meeting experts and practitioners opened my eyes to many of the aspects of running and serving in elected office, and the supports I can tap into when I choose to run and serve as a community’s representative. Going through this experience with my peers reminded me that we are a strong, growing group of women with aspirations to serve through elected office, and that we need to support and push one another to achieve these goals.”

-Linda Adamson, MPP ’07 and Cohort 2006



Kate Coyne-McCoy, WAPPP Fellow and Oval Office trainer speaking with elected guest Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Sheriff Suffolk County, MA and Victoria Budson, Executive Director, WAPPP.