2020 Polk School Information

The Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference is pleased to announce that the Women in Power Leadership Certificate program, an opportunity for alumni of the Polk program, will be offered online for 2020-2021.

 The purpose of this 7-month program is to help Polk alumni identify leadership goals.

Applications are due August 15, 2020.

Apply Here

Women and Power 2020-21 brochure

The program will take place from October 2020-April 2021.

The cohort will work collaboratively –
learning new skills, sharing ideas and experiences, and building a sustainable bond that will offer both practical and emotional support as they transition into the next phase of leadership within the union, organization, and/or community.


Classes Included:

Labor History
Understanding Politics
Understanding the Economy
Research Skills
Defining Your
Leadership Trajectory
Planning & Running Meetings

Women & Work in a Pandemic

Nearly 150  people logged in to attend our three-day online forum series Women & Work in a Pandemic,  Thank you to all of our amazing speakers who shared information about front-line women workers in Chicago, how the pandemic is impacting women workers globally, and how women workers can protect their own well-being during this global health crisis.

You can learn more about these forums here.



Polk 2020 is CANCELLED May 13-17


After careful consideration we have decided to cancel the scheduled Polk Conference for this May. The University of Illinois, which coordinates this conference, has established guidelines for dealing with the Coronavirus that include cancelling in-person education this Spring. In order to prioritize the health and safety of our community we are following this guideline, and cancelling Polk for this May.

We will keep all applications for the May conference, and they will receive top priority consideration the next time we are able to hold Polk.

One thing that has been made clear over the past few weeks is how essential the work is that our Polk applicants and alumni do every day. Polk sisters are health care workers and transportation workers. You are educators and work in social and safety services. You move our mail. You are trades workers that build our communities and manufacturing workers who make the products we use every day. You are service workers that keep our buildings clean and keep our families fed.

Thank you for the work you do and for your efforts to build a more just and fair world for working people.


Polk Program Description

The Regina V. Polk Women’s Labor Leadership Conference is a multi-day participatory conference run by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Labor Education Program for working women that creates an open & invigorating space for rank and file women union activists & community leaders to learn from skilled instructors and one another.

The goal of the program is to learn the nuts and bolts of contract enforcement while also developing your skills as a leader. The curriculum is developed for women who are just beginning their training as well as those with more experience. This mix allows us to learn from one another.

During the four days, you will learn from over 30 women workers from Illinois and the Midwest representing all kinds of jobs. Courses are taught by university labor educators, experienced labor lawyers, staff of unions and worker organizations, and former Polk students.

By the end of the training, you will join the ranks of over 500 women workers who have attended The Polk School before you and have gone on to elected union leadership, union staff positions, returned to school, and so much more.