Announcing the Launch of the WIIS-Pittsburgh Chapter

By Kelsey Brennan, Rachel McGrath, and Jessica Sprouse 

WIIS Members, Co-Founders of WIIS-Pitt

November 5, 2019

International security does not just happen in Washington or New York. It is happening right here in Pittsburgh. Issues such as refugee resettlement, cybersecurity, terrorism, and human trafficking directly impact our community. Drawing on the University of Pittsburgh’s emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration, we were inspired to help create the WIIS-Pittsburgh Chapter to address the pressing issues facing our community and communities globally.

We know that women’s inclusion improves decision-making processes and outcomes; this is especially true in international peace and security. As we know from WIIS’s Gender Scorecard Initiative, women are consistently underrepresented in the international security workforce, including as senior civil servants, ambassadors, heads of think tanks, and more. While WIIS attracted us for different reasons, we share a commitment to advancing women’s leadership and creating opportunities for future generations of female leaders.

Mentoring and Networking Opportunities

WIIS Pittsburgh seeks to promote mentoring and networking opportunities with prominent women leaders. Establishing these connections is especially important as we transition from students to young professionals. In an effort to help expand these opportunities to our peers, and engage successful women in the workforce, we are dedicated to creating leadership training and networking opportunities.

“We believe engaging women across the international security workforce to help guide and lift the next generation of women entering the field will have lasting local and global impacts.” – Kelsey Brennan (MPIA, Security and Intelligence Studies 2020).

Multidisciplinary Approaches to Security Issues

WIIS-Pittsburgh aims to attract women from all disciplines in order to collaborate and share varying perspectives on prominent security issues. Providing an open environment to share diverse ideas and perspectives from women of all backgrounds can cultivate new approaches and effect change concerning prominent security issues that impact all of us. This chapter hopes to establish a diverse membership, which will significantly expand the horizons for a future in international security and peace.

“As an undergraduate nursing student, I have already seen the impact this organization has had on shaping my future, and I can only hope to provide the same opportunities for other young women like me.” – Jessica Sprouse (BS in Nursing 2020)

Commitment to Diversity and Empowerment

Issues to international security impact people all around the world of every race, creed, ethnicity, and gender. By increasing diversity in decision-making in international security issues, we also increase the perspectives we see in policy options. As one of many underrepresented groups in international security, increasing women’s participation in this field increases the richness in discussions of world leaders.

“Moreover, when we increase diversity and visibility of minorities, we also increase efficacy and empowerment. WIIS creates an international community in which women can lift each other up and increase our own visibility.” Rachel McGrath (MPIA, Security and Intelligence Studies 2020)


WIIS-Pitt was founded in part by Kelsey Brennan, Rachel McGrath, and Jessica Sprouse, three women pursuing higher education at the University of Pittsburgh in unique fields. Kelsey, driven by a passion for combating human trafficking and gender-based violence, is pursuing her master’s in public and international affairs. She hopes to continue working on these issues, combining her interests in policy, collaboration, and working with communities impacted by violence to enact change. Rachel is pursuing her master’s degree in public and international affairs, focusing on conflict zones, organized crime, and political violence. She hopes to lessen conflict, corruption, and violence through a career in law enforcement or as an intelligence analyst. Jessica is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing with hopes of pursuing a degree in public health after graduation. Her passions lie with working on public and health policies to decrease health inequities, while increasing safe health access nationally and internationally.