Posts Tagged ‘student government’

Elect Her was a major factor in me deciding to run [for office],” says Western Washington University student Carly Roberts, who is the newly elected vice president for activities for the Associated Students (AS) at WWU. Thanks to the encouragement and training she received during WWU’s Elect Her–Campus Women Win workshop, the junior human services major is ready to make a difference on her campus this fall. She took a moment to share her campaigning experience with AAUW Dialog.

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for campus office?

Cade Schmidt, AS WWURoberts: I have always been passionate about being involved in my community and taking full advantage of the opportunities available to me. After two years of working as an AS employee, I felt this was the best way for me to continue serving students, and running for office was an excellent opportunity that I could not pass up.

AAUW: What were some of your successful campaign strategies?

Roberts: My main focus during my campaign was delivering a cohesive message. I chose two main focus issues for my campaign: addressing the accessibility of the AS to students at large and reforming leadership and resource training for club leaders. By picking two main issues, I was able to deliver a concise, repetitive message that students could easily identify. Another thing that I found important while campaigning was being realistic. I acknowledged real issues and offered realistic responses. It is easy to get sucked into trying to find solutions to every issue while you’re campaigning — to be the “I have all of the answers!” candidate. But in reality, people appreciate hearing the truth. Sometimes the truth is that you don’t have the answers, and that is OK. The important thing is that you have a plan to find these answers and are committed to it.

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Roberts: I want make the Associated Students more approachable. Students are paying for the services and programs the AS offers, so we owe it to students to ensure that they know what these services are and how to access them. I also plan to increase and improve the training available to club leaders. I want to move beyond facilitating club activities and really empower students to take hold of their passions and build transferrable skills that they can take beyond their college experience.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Roberts: I do not have any specific plans, but I know that I will be an empowered individual and pursue excellence in whatever I do. Eventually, I would like to be involved in local politics.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are questioning whether they should run or not?

Roberts: Run. Put yourself out there. It’s scary, but it’s worth it! Even if you don’t win, the process of running for office is a great learning experience. You learn about yourself, people in general, and the democratic process. If you don’t run, who will? Don’t depend on others to speak for you — speak for yourself, and while you’re at it, give others a voice too!

AAUW: Why do you think Elect Her–Campus Women Win is a valuable program for your campus?

Roberts: Elect Her was a major factor in me deciding to run. I was one of only three female candidates out of 13. The other two were running against each other, so if I had not run, there would only be one woman on a board of seven people representing a school where women make up more than half of the students. Elect Her is important because it shows women that they have a powerful voice that is important — a voice that needs to be heard. I am extremely grateful that I was able to experience Elect Her.

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Last year, Stefani Jones helped transform the student government at Duke University by winning a seat in the campus senate. Along with several Elect Her alumnae, Jones increased the number of women in student office at Duke to record levels. This spring, after serving for a year in the Duke Student Government (DSG) Senate and going through a second Elect Her–Campus Women Win training, Jones ran for vice president of equity and outreach, and she won! Here’s what she had to say about her campaign.

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for campus office?

Jones: I first decided to run for DSG Senate after completing the Elect Her program. I was nervous about putting myself out there and competing with those who might have more experience than I did. The program encouraged me to jump right in, be confident, and take a shot at being a campus leader.

AAUW: What were some of your successful campaign strategies?

Jones: You can’t be afraid to get out there and make yourself known. Survey the issues that students are talking about, and make sure you’re approachable and friendly. People want campus leaders whom they respect, but they don’t want people who aren’t relatable.

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Jones: I’m so excited to work next year on a multitude of student issues at Duke. I’ve already started lobbying with other student groups to change our campus sexual misconduct policy to provide a larger window in which students, faculty, and staff can report sexual harassment. I’m also going to work to connect student groups together to enable better advocacy efforts on campus and tackle gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues for Duke students.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Jones: I want to work in government for a couple of years before possibly pursuing law or public policy school. Whether it’s through public service or policy work, I want a career that will let me give back to my community. Through student government, I have become a better advocate who feels confident fighting on behalf of those who need support. I’d love to use the skills I’ve gained to actually make a difference.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are questioning whether they should run or not?

Jones: Don’t second-guess yourself — you’ve got a lot to say. If you don’t put your voice out there, no one else will. No one will ever fault you for trying, and you’ll make a lot of great friends and gain incredible experience along the way.

AAUW: Why do you think Elect Her–Campus Women Win is a valuable program for your campus?

Jones: Until we break the cycle of women questioning their place in higher office, we’ll never see real change. Getting women to feel confident in their leadership abilities in college is the first step toward shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

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Shaila Schmidt is a rising junior at Boise State University, where she is majoring in theater arts and dramatic writing. She is also a recent alumna of Elect Her–Campus Women Win. This spring, she was inspired to run for secretary of academic affairs of the Associated Students of Boise State University, and thanks to her training at Elect Her, she won! Schmidt took a few minutes to talk to us about her campaign experience.

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for campus office?

Schmidt: Last year, I began working for my university as an academic adviser to incoming students. I had the chance to work with students from all sorts of educational backgrounds, each with her or his own unique academic interests, goals, and hardships. I had been involved in student government since freshman year, and I felt that my experiences as an adviser made me the perfect candidate for secretary of academic affairs.

AAUW: What were some of your successful campaign strategies?

Schmidt: I utilized my resources. I had the benefit of working on a team of candidates for a variety of positions within the organization, which broadened my networking circles and provided me with stronger support. I talked with students, faculty, and administrators to fully understand what everyone needed from this position.

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Schmidt: I want to help foster a stronger relationship among students, administrators, and faculty. Students interact with professors on a regular basis, of course, but many don’t take advantage of the wonderful opportunities to hone a relationship with the dean of their college or the chair of their department. Also, our campus currently offers no 24-hour study facilities for students. This has been a growing concern, and I hope to get the ball rolling to fix it.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Schmidt: After graduation, I plan to go to graduate school for theater history and criticism. My ultimate goal would be to work on Broadway or with a local theater company.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are questioning whether they should run or not?

Schmidt: There is a reason you think you should run. Don’t wait for someone to tell you you’re good enough. I’ve found that more often than not, when I’m hesitant about something I’ve chosen to do, I share it with my peers or mentors. And to them, it instantly makes sense that I would want to pursue it because I’m passionate about it. Passion is all the proof you need!

AAUW: Why do you think Elect Her–Campus Women Win is a valuable program for your campus?

Schmidt: Participating in Elect Her helped me gain a broader perspective on how my passions and achievements can fall in line and bring me to new experiences. I was able to meet some incredible women who had been in my position before and create connections with them to help me succeed in my future endeavors.

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.


Nothing Can Stop Elect Her at NMU!  — Northern Michigan University

We were very fortunate to have a wide variety of speakers this year. Sheri Davie, former aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), had a wealth of experience to share. Through her connections, we received a special video correspondence from the senator herself, which was unforgettable.

Mardi Gras and Gumbo — Loyola University, New Orleans

The tasteful and talented Judge Regina Bartholomew candidly shared the realities of running for office as a woman in Louisiana. She laughed at the audacity of people who judged her status as an unmarried woman and sighed while describing naysayers who wrote her off because she lacked political clout at the time. She shared with the attendees how she developed a coalition of supporters and how she believed in herself.

Inspiration + Media Math + Determination = Victory — Mount San Jacinto College

Our media expert, Mount San Jacinto College Director of Public Information and Marketing Karin Marriott, focused on how to craft and communicate an effective message. She highlighted the importance of remembering “media math” when conveying a message — you can deliver three points three times and reasonably expect your audience to remember one of them. “So, be concise, be clear, and repeat,” she said.

Teamwork Wins Votes — Georgian Court University

Before the event, Wilsar Johnson, the student organizer of the training, had warned me that GCU women are “pretty competitive.” Once the campaign simulation began, I saw exactly what she was talking about. After I explained the exercise to the group, students wasted no time in forming their teams and devising their strategies. The winning candidate — Melissa Farley, who earned 27 votes — appointed a driver, a campaign manager, and a number of field officers to create the most efficient system for collecting votes.

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.

The New South — Georgia State University

Student Government Association Vice President of Student Services Grace Lee’s story not only empowered participants to consider running for office on campus themselves but also to start thinking strategically about electing the university’s first woman SGA president. Many of the young women left the training with new ideas about how they can lead and serve!

Making the Decision to Run — Stony Brook University

It was no coincidence that the date of the training was also the filing deadline to run for this year’s student government elections. We know that this Elect Her was a success because at least five students who were on the fence about running for office at the beginning of the training filed for their campaigns by the end of the day!

West Indies Women Win  — University of the West Indies

Student Services and Development Manager Nadeen Spence set the perfect tone for the day by talking about the impact that Elect Her has had on the student government at UWI. When the trainings began three years ago, the university had not elected a woman student body president in 12 years. This is especially shocking because almost 80 percent of the students are women! After the 2010 Elect Her training, a woman was elected student body president, and today both the president and the vice president are women.

Expanding On-campus Traditions with Elect Her  — Washington and Lee University

From the moment I walked onto the Washington and Lee campus, I could tell that I was dealing with a different breed of students. They expect each other to behave ethically and honorably and understand that they also must uphold these standards themselves. With such a proven capacity to meet and exceed expectations, I couldn’t help but wish that the campus held such rigorous standards for gender equity in student leadership opportunities.


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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.

Students Learn to Nurture, Encourage, Inspire, and Empower Others through Leadership  — Denison University

Hannah Frank, Denison’s  current student government president, is the first woman to hold that position in seven years. An education and English major, she likens her experience as a teacher to her role as president: Her duty is “to nurture, encourage, inspire, and empower others.”

Women Rise to the Challenge of Leadership  — Pacific Lutheran University

Kate Pritchard, who won the workshop’s simulated campaign, remarked, “My favorite part of Elect Her was hearing from the politicians who spoke. I’ve heard that the more you see something, the more true it becomes for you, so simply seeing successful women in politics makes it seem more possible, more realistic, for me as a woman to consider working in politics. And they were just awesome people, so it was an honor to hear from them.”

Ready, Set, Go! Preparing a Generation of Women in Politics  — University of North Carolina, Wilmington

North Carolina state Rep. Susi Hamilton began her speech by talking about “starting with a purpose.” She was very energetic and excited about seeing so many young women interested in politics. She opened with a series of short video clips that told of the harsh realities many women in North Carolina politics face, including negative interactions with their male counterparts. Participants were shocked to learn about the ways in which women are still being treated in politics today.

University of North Carolina, Wilmington, students share their elevator speeches during their Elect Her training.

The Women of Willamette Are Ready to Run!  — Willamette University

As the training progressed, I was impressed by how acutely aware participants were of the challenges women in politics face. We talked about how female candidates are covered by the media and perceived by voters and how they are often treated by their colleagues. We also talked about how to overcome these challenges, and I reminded students that if they want to change the system, they have to get in the game and just run!

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Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a collaboration between AAUW and Running Start, encourages and trains college women to run for student government. Follow the links below to read highlights from this spring’s trainings.

Adding More Women’s Voices to Eliminate the Wage Gap — University of Wyoming

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) emphasized that Wyoming has the highest pay gap in the United States and that more women need to run for office to address this problem. In Wyoming, women earn 65 cents, on average, for every dollar men earn. Nationally, the figure is 77 cents.

Don’t Be Afraid to Throw Up … and Other Lessons — Idaho State University

Sharon Parry, an Idaho Falls City Council member, gave a fantastic speech about her political leadership on the council. When she ran for office, she was opposed by a female incumbent and two men, and she did not sugarcoat how hard that experience was. She was told when she announced her candidacy that “we do not need another woman on city council.”

Wright State Women Prepare to Lead  — Wright State University

Participants had the opportunity to reflect on both local and national issues that recently inspired them to take action. From tuition hikes on campus to attempts to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, students spoke about the issues that affected them and discussed solutions to address those issues.

We’re Half the Population, So Why Aren’t We Half the Government?”  — Boise State University

Madison Hansen, who participated in the training, said, “I’ve always been a proponent of women holding office — we’re half the population, so why aren’t we half the government? But I hadn’t really considered running for anything myself. However, after participating in Elect Her, I am planning on running for office on campus next year. Elect Her taught me not only that I should do it, but I can do it.”

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Many organizations, including AAUW, sing the praises of mentoring and all the great things it can do for women. And rightly so — mentoring can help women learn negotiating skills, break into certain professions, and understand how to navigate different situations.

Taking advantage of mentoring opportunities in professional organizations and in the workplace is an effective way to both find and become a mentor, but these opportunities can also be found in another place — within your own family.

Mentoring can start with your sister, cousin, or friend. Many of us have women in our lives to whom we are already very close who could use a role model and a mentor. Remember not to overlook the women right under your nose. You can teach the young women you already know about sexual harassment at school; inspire them to go into science, technology, engineering, and math fields; encourage them to run for student government; and educate them — long before they are 18 — about the importance of voting.

After learning about how valuable mentoring can be to women’s future successes, I began to mentor my cousin’s daughter, Jadine. Although she is only 3 years old, I take every opportunity I have to tell her how smart she is and that she is going to do amazing things with her life — and one day become an AAUW member like me!

Though I joke with my family that I am trying to turn her into a “mini-me,” I do truly hope that I can use my successes and strengths to give her more opportunities. I want her to be a feminist, go to college, speak her mind, and have self-confidence. I also want to help her avoid the difficulties I have faced and reassure her that I will always be there to support her and advocate for her.

As her mentor, not only do I look forward to helping with homework, assisting with her college search, and giving her connections in the workforce, I also plan to teach her about how politics affect her, how to combat discrimination, and how important it is to help others. I look forward to seeing her mentoring her younger cousins later!

Of course, women should continue to mentor their colleagues, local students, and community members, but do not forget about the women closest to you who could also benefit from your guidance and knowledge.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Samantha Abril.

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Since the numbers remain grim for women in Congress and state legislatures, where can we train the next generation of women political leaders? AAUW and Running Start collaborate on Elect Her–Campus Women Win, the only nationwide program that trains college women to run for student government, to answer that question. Elect Her–Campus Women Win will reach 30 sites in 2012, spreading across the country from George Washington University to the University of Cincinnati to Willamette University. With campaign experience in college, we can count on these women to be our political future.

Women make up approximately 52 percent of all student government representatives but only 43 percent of student government presidents (according to data collected from nearly 5,100 institutions for 2011–12 by the American Student Government Association). These figures align with a Princeton University study that revealed that women on their campus do not take on high-profile leadership roles, particularly in student government.

On October 18, AAUW and Running Start hosted two events to launch the 2012 Elect Her training sites and provide an update on the status of women in political leadership, from college to Congress. The first event, a women’s leadership “dial-in discussion,” featured Kate Farrar, director of leadership programs at AAUW; Jessica Grounds, executive director at Running Start; Krystal Ball, political analyst at MSNBC and former congressional candidate; and Ebonie Simpson, Elect Her alumna and vice president of student life at Duke University.

Ball praised AAUW and Running Start for training women to run for office in college because the sooner women gain the confidence, skills, and practice the better! She decided to run for Congress at the age of 27. At that time, there were only two women in all of Congress under the age of 40. Ball lost her race, but said, “The day after the election, life went on. I have all the opportunities now that I could not have imagined … none of it possible without facing down my fears of running.”

Simpson was instrumental in bringing Elect Her to Duke last year, where — out of 40 senators — there were only 12 women, and the executive board and cabinet were dominated by men. Simpson credits the training with her decision to run for the high-level position of vice president of student life. She knows she now has the practice and skills to make a future run for Congress!

On the same day as the launch events, AAUW also hosted Cocktails and Convos, a monthly happy hour in the Washington, D.C., area designed to spark conversation on women’s issues. The event was dedicated to Elect Her this month and brought together women of all ages — as an attendee, I was able to talk to women who managed political campaigns in the ‘90s and young women who are just now thinking about starting their political careers.

This year, Elect Her–Campus Women Win will train hundreds of college women to run and win on their campuses. We want you to follow their stories and support their campaigns! Stay connected with Elect Her on Facebook, and look out for blog posts with highlights as trainings happen this spring.

This blog was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Jessica Kelly.

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Exciting, inspiring, life-changing, and necessary — these are some of the words that come to mind while reading the latest installment of the Elect Her–Campus Women Win blogs.

Wendy Matheny, AAUW grassroots leadership coordinator, reported from the Mt. Saint Jacinto College event: Former mayor and current Lake Elsinore, California, Councilwoman Melissa Melendez spoke candidly about the challenges of running for public office — from the negative stereotypes women face to the struggle to raise campaign funds as a little-known candidate. She discussed her efforts to balance personal, professional, and community commitments and encouraged Elect Her participants to reach out to her about their own political aspirations.

Read Matheny’s full post.

AAUW Leadership Programs Director Kate Farrar went to the University of the West Indies, Mona, for the second year in a row and found a wealth of inspiration again. UWI, Mona is a unique campus where close to 80 percent of students are women, and yet women make up only 40 percent of the student government. There have only been three women presidents in the history of the student government, but this may be the year for the fourth. The current vice president of the student government, Stephanie Abrams, is running for president on campus. She has run for many positions, starting from her years in high school and her involvement in Rotary International. Her mentality going into every election is that “even when you lose, you are not defeated.” She maintains her composure in any situation and aims to be calm in the face of opposition.

Read Farrar’s full post.

Congratulations to Elect Her campaign simulation winners Daniel Tripp, aspiring student government president from MSJC, and Judy-Ann Z. Gordon from UWI, Mona.

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