Women Supporting Women
Last weekend, I had the honor of serving as the Elect Her facilitator at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY. From the moment I arrived on campus, it was evident that there was a great deal of support for the training and for young women in leadership at the university. From the Dean of Students Office to the local AAUW chapter, there were countless women (and men) who helped make the weekend possible. As a second year trainer I’ve had the opportunity to travel to numerous colleges and universities on behalf of Elect Her, and by far, this was one of my favorite trainings yet!
We began the day discussing the importance of young women running for student government and elected office. With over 15,000 students on campus about 47% of Stony Brook’s University Student Government (USG) representatives and 55% of their executive positions are held by women. Anna Lubitz, a 21 year old Biology major from Setauket, NY, who was also instrumental in bringing Elect Her to campus, currently serves as USG President. “Feedback from the second annual Elect Her training has been wonderful. I’m happy to inspire young women leaders on campus and to encourage them to get involved in college and after graduation”.
The keynote speaker was recently elected, 26 year old State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic who spoke about the challenges she faced as a young candidate and her years of experience as a former legislative staffer. Her inspiring remarks provided the women with an opportunity to see firsthand that if you work hard (Nily knocked on over 5,000 doors in her district) anything is possible. One of the highlights of the day included a panel of current campus leaders whose involvement ranged from student government to an organization dedicated to Haiti relief. The young women spoke about the demands of balancing busy course loads with the challenges of leading student organizations (their advice: invest in a planner) and how many of the skills covered during Elect Her are relevant outside of the realm of politics. Ciara Ward, a 20 year old Junior Business major from Brooklyn, NY said, “I never thought about running (for student government) and still don’t. This training isn’t just about running for office. I can take these skills to start my own business or can apply them to my leadership role now.” Ward is currently involved with Hairitage, an organization on campus that promotes healthy hair.
After learning about how to develop a campaign strategy, the participants learned about the importance of developing a message from former head of CBS News and Associate Dean of the School of Journalism, Marcy McGinnis. Not only did she speak about how she worked her way up from a secretary to head of the company, but she provided the women with tips on everything from how to dress for an interview to how to effectively speak with reporters. Additionally, a student news crew from Stony Brooks campus TV station covered the training and a number of participants were able to practice their new interview skills right away.
To close the day, participants practiced developing elevator speeches and put those skills to the test as they participated in a campaign simulation that challenged them to introduce themselves, describe the work their involved with, and to make an ask (either for a vote or for support) – in under 30 seconds. After numerous rounds of voting, Grace Drewez, a 21 year old senior Women’s Studies/Political Science Major from West Babylon, NY was selected as the 2013 ElectHer campaign simulation winner. Drewez said, “Because I’m writing my senior thesis on women and politics it was great to hear about real examples from real women about their experiences as opposed to reading about it in a book”.
As a former student body president, I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to share wisdom with current and former SGA leaders. As we wrap up the last few ElectHer trainings this spring, I can’t wait to (hopefully) visit Stony Brook again next year!
This post was written by Elect Her facilitator Rebecca Thompson