ATHENA® Connections

Supporting, Honoring and Developing Women Leaders


ATHENA International
College Leadership Initiative

~Where Emerging Women Leaders Develop~

The ATHENA International College Leadership Initiative is designed to prepare college women for leadership in higher education and beyond. Ideal for use by university administrators and faculty in working with students, the ATHENA College Leadership Initiative engages and inspires young women to not only see themselves as leaders, but to gain skills necessary for successful leadership in the 21st Century.

Martha Mertz, ATHENA founder, set out to demonstrate that time-tested “women’s ways” of leading have become the standard for great leaders, regardless of gender. As a result, she created the ATHENA Award, named for the strong, enlightened Greek goddess. In more than 500 U.S. cities and six countries, over 7,000 ATHENA recipients have been honored.

Learning Outcomes for participants


  • learn how to “be” a leader with a focus on quality and character
  • gain leadership competence necessary for success in college and beyond
  • explore personal leadership attributes relative to the ATHENA Leadership Model
  • apply ATHENA leadership principles through experiential learning
  • map out a pathway for leadership growth in college and career
  • have the opportunity to build bridges across professional sectors and generations

Benefits for institutional participants

Colleges and Universities…

  • enhance the growth and development of campus leaders through an internationally recognized leadership model for the 21st century
  • identify emerging campus leaders for programs, memberships, board positions, and awards through involvement with the program
  • engage with community members and leaders through mentorship, service, and guest speakers in delivering the ATHENA Leadership Model
  • partner with an international organization, ATHENA International

Women students who are learning about leadership and those already practicing it through involvement in Greek organizations, student senate, housing, women and gender studies, etc.


The ATHENA Leadership Model, developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was developed by leadership experts and based on surveys of hundreds of ATHENA Award Recipients. It identifies eight distinct principles that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership: Authentic Self, Relationships, Giving Back, Collaboration, Courageous Acts, Learning, Fierce Advocacy, Celebration and Joy. These principles are also the building blocks for success in today’s global society.

We know the value of emerging and transformative styles of leadership that are closely tied to the intuitive strengths that women bring to leadership. The ATHENA Leadership Model captures these principles for use in contemporary settings, while acknowledging that they have been handed down from women across the world and over generations. In short, the ATHENA Leadership Model® meets the needs of emerging leaders and speaks convincingly to women leaders who will head the organizations of the future.

The program includes the ATHENA Leadership Model curriculum, three design formats, and implementation training.

Grounded in research, the ATHENA Leadership Model is based on eight core principles that inspire women to reach their potential. The curriculum provides definitions of each of the principles, examples for gaining a deeper understanding, and exercises so students can apply what is learned. The principles include: authenticity and lifelong learning, courage and fierce advocacy, collaboration and relationship-building, giving back to and celebrating with those around us.

Three separate design formats have been created to provide participants opportunities to engage in discussions around leadership, to explore their leadership identity and to connect with other faculty, staff, student and community leaders. Important to these design formats is the opportunity for bridging the theoretical constructs of the principles with practice on campus and in the community. The design formats include: ATHENA Connections, the ATHENA Leadership Summit, and the ATHENA Book Club.

The implementation training allows ATHENA International to work with an individual or team to teach the principles and, more importantly, come to understand the campus culture to help determine the best design models for implementation. In addition to the three design formats that are presented, there is tremendous potential for use in a variety of others settings and these will be explored (i.e. as the basis for a for-credit leadership class, the foundation for an all-female living/learning unit, the curriculum for a service-learning initiative, a certificate program, etc.). The training is three hours in length.

Pilot an ATHENA Connections program in your community today!
Contact ATHENA International: 312-580--0111 or
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