This article originally appeared on our sister publication, Military Families Magazine.
The application period is now open for a leadership development program connecting military spouses to high-end training from reputable organizations like Harvard University and McChrystal Group.
In its second year, the Military Spouse Leadership Development Program (MSLDP) was designed by the Military Spouse Advocacy Network (MSAN) — a nonprofit with a mission to create stronger military families through education, empowerment, and support. The four months of virtual training enables participants to learn fundamentals of leadership, service, advocacy, and mentorship. Additionally, they will also earn a leadership certificate from Harvard, professional communications training from the McChrystal Group, and micro-certifications in mental health allyship from Psych HUB.
“Being a leader can be overwhelming, challenging and frustrating,” said Verenice Castillo, MSAN’s founder and president. “But what this leadership development program does is provide opportunities for military spouses to learn and grow as leaders, to gain the skills to lead our communities and families.”
The MSLDP application cycle closes on June 10. Castillo expects the competition to be fairly intense, as the program only accepts 50 spouses from roughly 500 applicants. In the biggest change from its inaugural year, the program is now open to all spouses of currently-serving military members — including the National Guard and reserves. It is also open to post 9/11 Gold Star spouses, surviving spouses, caregivers, and spouses of veterans and retirees.
There is no-cost for successful applicants, thanks in part to sponsorships from Defense Credit Union Council.
“I think this program is good for everybody, from brand-new spouses trying to get more experience within leadership, to someone who is already a leader or has a great idea but doesn’t know how to develop it,” said Castillo, a former Air Force key spouse and key spouse mentor. “It’s not just for someone who wants to do big things like introduce a bill or change policy; it’s also for someone who wants to support their local community.”
Carefully-selected judges from the MSAN board and influential military community members will whittle down the applicant pool to a top 100, then eventually the final 50. The first of the four modules will begin on Aug. 27, and graduation takes place on Nov. 19. All classes are held online and based in EST, allowing spouses from any location to participate.
Students will dedicate one to three hours a week for assignments, readings and team engagement on top of the five hours needed for monthly live virtual sessions. Topics covered include crisis leadership, high-impact collaboration, stakeholder support and engagement and more.
“Spouses often feel forgotten. We stand behind our spouses and, many times, forgo our dreams,” wrote a 2021 MSLDP graduate. “This program gives spouses hope, as well as an opportunity to dream big again.”
Limitless opportunities for the future
MSLDP finishers gain access to a diverse alumni network and the program’s library of recorded training videos for one year. Previous graduates have banded together to work on projects ranging from education to EFMP. Castillo, who will participate in sessions by sharing her experiences as a nonprofit founder, has already been asked for the required recommendation letters from several spouses.
“When you have someone who feels empowered and fulfilled, that reflects in your family, and that family is reflected within our mission in the military,” she said. “I love the potential that MSLDP has to give military spouses that platform and strong foundation to not only achieve their dreams and goals, not only empower future leaders, but improve the morale and welfare of our military.”
“It’s an unlimited thing, how we are providing military spouses with skills and knowledge and training for so many uses, even just to grow as an individual,” she added.