Determined Student Now Leads National Conservative Women’s Network

“Ten years ago, when a woman stepped on campus she found chapters of the National Organization for Women, women’s studies departments full of campus feminists, and women’s centers not open to supporting all women,” Network of Enlightened Women Founder Karin Agness said.  “At the time, there were no women’s groups specifically catering to conservative college women.”

That’s not the case anymore.

In 2004, with no help from her university and being turned away from The Women’s Center at the University of Virginia, Karin Agness decided to start the Network of Enlightened Women, a network for conservative university women that has grown into more than 20 chapters nationwide.

Karin formed the organization after spending the summer of 2004 interning in Washington, D.C.

“Rather than throwing out Republican and Democrat one-liners, my female colleagues (during my internship) were eager to talk about nuanced arguments behind legislative proposals and how the issues of the day affected women. It was exhilarating to hear speakers and staffers explain how a 500-page bill would affect me as a young woman,” Karin said. “I returned to the University of Virginia for my third year of college, and I set about to find some semblance of the environment from which I’d just come.”

Unfortunately, Karin’s search came up empty.

“All of the women’s college groups at UVA were dedicated to promoting a liberal agenda,” Karin said. 

So she went to The Women’s Center on UVA’s campus for help starting the first conservative women’s club.

“I asked, ‘Would the women’s center be interested in cosponsoring a group for conservative young women?’ The women’s center faculty member looked at me like I was crazy, chuckled and said, ‘Not here’,” Karin said.

But that didn’t stop her.

Karin went on to create the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) in September 2004. The organization, which was started as a book club, aims to advance the intellect and leadership abilities of conservative university women while adding to intellectual diversity on campus.

Now, Karin gives her expertise back to aspiring young conservative leaders as faculty at the Leadership Institute.

She’s taught at six LI trainings, including the Youth Leadership School (YLS), which she took herself in 2006.

Through the six trainings she’s taught at—the YLS in Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas as well as at two Future Candidate Schools in Arlington, Virginia— Karin has taught 165 young conservatives.

Most recently, NeW hired former LI Intern Coordinator Alyssa Condrey as their director of programs.

"We were pleased to hire Alyssa, who not only founded a chapter of NeW at James Madison University, but also had experience in student programming through her job at the Leadership Institute. She had the opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility (at LI) and grow professionally. Her work with students has helped prepare her for this role,” Karin said.

Alyssa said, “I hold the Leadership Institute in high regards because I am so thankful to have started my career at such a principled organization. LI staff truly follows Morton’s principle of building a conservative movement and not an empire. The Leadership Institute is a vital component of the conservative movement as they are willing to collaborate with other organizations to advance conservative principles more so than their own agenda.”

Karin believes that conservatives must make reaching women a priority.

“Those running national campaigns and leading issue groups on the right should be rethinking how to reach women. The left has a seemingly endless supply of cash, organizations and leadership feeder programs,” Karin said. “And we must identify a local niche that is not being filled and fill it.”

To join NeW and become a part of their network, please go here.

Please congratulate Karin Agness for her determination to start a conservative women’s network and advance conservative thought among young women, and please applaud her for receiving LI’s Conservative Leader Award.


To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day, at