Leveraging Communication, Social Media & Technology Scholarship Blog| March 2014

Nine students received scholarships to attend PLEN’s Leveraging Communication, Social Media & Technology For Policymaking Seminar in Washington, D.C. March 21- 22, 2014

Funding by Women in Technology Education Foundation WITEF made it possible for nine women to attend the seminar. 

Tabitha Bennet, PLEN Scholarship Recipient 007-2

 Junior, West Virginia Wesleyan College

When I first heard about the PLEN Leveraging Communication & Technology for Policymaking Seminar, I knew it was an experience I wanted to be a part of. I just entered the communications department this fall as a junior after changing my major, and knew I needed to gain some experiences and knowledge that would help me figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

The PLEN seminar exceeded all of my expectations. Not only did I take away a huge amount of knowledge about communications, public relations, and policy, but I also learned new skills such as resume writing, salary negotiating, networking, and the proper use of LinkedIn. I discovered the importance of women’s impact in the workforce, and I discovered some new things about myself.

I came to the seminar with the expectation of learning some new skills, and the hope of gathering a more concrete idea about what kind of career I wanted to pursue. I left with more knowledge and skills than I imagined, which I will be able to share on my campus. I also left with a firm idea of the direction I want to go in the future.

I am so grateful to everyone involved in PLEN, the women who took the time out of their day to speak with us, and the Women in Technology Education Foundation for providing me with the means to attend the seminar. This was truly a wonderful opportunity, and I encourage everyone who is thinking about attending a PLEN seminar to do it.


Nkongho Beteck, PLEN Scholarship Recipient419567_2293969488212_1882917475_n (1)

Junior, The University of Maryland, College Park

I first heard about the PLEN workshop after receiving an email from my university’s internship coordinator. The merging of technology and social media intrigued me as a journalism student because journalists apply different technologies to the way we tell stories. The public policy aspect intrigued me because I was curious as to how new media such as Twitter can form new ideas and possibly influence politicians and policy. Social media is all about audience participation, and one of the most valuable things I learned at PLEN was consistency in identifying my audience and using their language and the way they interact to meet their marketing needs.

As an aspiring journalist, this seminar was incredibly relevant to my interests and provided me with new ideas in the public policy and the leadership sector. This seminar taught me that networking and higher education can be my greatest tools in the professional world. PLEN also opened my eyes to the public relations industry and how there are really no limitations for me as an individual as long as I am willing to learn and possess a positive sense of identity and purpose.

I would like to thank WITEF for sponsoring my attendance to this instructive seminar and the presenters and planners who worked diligently to execute it.


Maia Bix, PLEN Scholarship Recipient IMG_0946

Freshman, Barnard College (PLEN Member School)

I’m a first year at Barnard College, which means I’m lucky enough to be in an environment that empowers women leaders each and every day. I learned about PLEN through Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies, the existence of which is on its own a testament to nature of my school. As it turns out, PLEN seminars are essentially a concentrated, instructive presentation of the same values that make me proud to be a Barnard woman.

At the PLEN seminar I had the opportunity to listen to several panels composed of capable, driven, and successful Washington women. Unlike many of my fellow attendees, I’m not confident that I want to work in Washington, or even in a strictly policy or media centric field. Before attending, I was worried that the dissonance between my own professional ambitions (vague and changeable though they may be) and the careers of most of the panelists would be reflected in what I took away from the seminar. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Though similar careers were certainly a commonality among the women I was exposed to, far more significant to me, were the personal traits they so clearly shared: ambition, intelligence, eloquence, professionalism, and a genuine interest in extending a word and a hand to the twenty-something young women eagerly hanging on to their every word. Many if not all of the speakers addressed the challenges they’d faced along their career paths, and those they still juggle in their present jobs. Hearing those stories from such impressive women was incredibly affirming – for me, their job titles or fields were secondary to their perseverance and successes that followed.

I took away a lot more than business cards from this seminar, and I’m so grateful to WITEF and PLEN for making it financially possible for me to attend. I’d also like to thank Jillian and Dawn, who scheduled a phenomenal two days and made me feel so welcome. I’ll be back!


Kaila Burch, PLEN Scholarship Recipient 1455108_10151833807504926_736336323_n

Senior, West Virginia Wesleyan College

I learned about the PLEN Leveraging Communication, Social Media & Technology for Policymaking Seminar through one of my professors in the Communications Department at West Virginia Wesleyan. As I learned more about the seminar, I was thrilled to find that it was located in Washington D.C. and I was even more thrilled to be a PLEN Scholarship recipient. I am thankful to WITEF for sponsoring such an amazing opportunity. I chose to attend the seminar mainly because of its location and purpose. It is my dream to develop a career in Washington D.C. and this seminar served as an opportunity for me to learn more about the communications field in the big city!

The seminar was extremely inspiring as women from various positions spoke about their leadership roles in their careers in communications and their influences on public policy. As a senior, I was feeling nervous about graduation because I felt unprepared. The panels, presentations, icebreakers and networking at PLEN’s seminar were very beneficial, and the advice I received was very reassuring. Some of the speakers gave valuable advice on how to search for your dream job and how to succeed in general.

The PLEN seminar affirmed that I am on the right path to a successful career that I will love. When I left D.C., I felt prepared and more motivated than ever to kick-start my career upon graduation. I feel that I am more determined to achieve my goals thanks to the incredible advice I received at the seminar. I am so proud to be a PLEN Alumna and am eager to spread my knowledge gained from the seminar to students at my academic institution.


Ceirra Coon, PLEN Scholarship Recipient Ceirra Coon

Junior, West Virginia Wesleyan College

For me, the PLEN Seminar was more than I could have imagined. I went into it expecting to sharpen some skills and perfect my resume, but what I got out of it was so much more. Not only did I get to hear inspiring stories of women who had started out like me (a scared college student with no connections but with big dreams), but I also got to learn how they succeeded and how I could too. I got to expand my knowledge of social media beyond personal use and learn how it can be used to make a difference. I created a LinkedIn profile, learned how to conduct myself professionally during an interview and how to build a network in D.C. (an essential), and became more confident in my strengths and myself.

I also got to make connections with the other girls in the seminar. These are connections I know I will not lose. PLEN girls stick together, whether it be through LinkedIn, social media, cell phones, or even visiting each other’s campus, we all have the common goal of making women successful and aspire to build each other up in any way that we can. 

The stories you hear are real. They do not glamorize their experiences; you hear the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens and that was really eye opening for me. I am truly grateful that I got to have this experience and I would like to extend a thank you to my sponsors at WITEF.  I now know what I want to do with my career, and I have made connections that will help me succeed and have learned skills that will help me along the way. 


Jessica Fugate, PLEN Scholarship RecipientPLEN

 2011 Graduate, Goucher College 

I was delighted to be chosen as a PLEN scholar for the Leveraging Communication, Social Media and Technology for Policymaking Seminar. Without the generous support of my sponsor WITEF, I would not have had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many successful women within their respective fields. As a woman with ten years of legal experience, I was looking to make a career transition into the field of public relations and communications. Following the sound advice of former PLEN Board Member Anne DeSeta Darconte, I applied for the scholarship hoping to gain some resume-writing skills, networking, and general ideas from individuals within the field. While I had many years of full-time work experience and a BA, I found that various prospective employers would place too much focus on my legal experience while almost ignoring my grass roots and political experience.

Through PLEN I was able to gain some great networking skills following a speed networking event and some helpful information on how to manage and market myself when applying for jobs through LinkedIn. A highlight of the program for me was the career coach Gloria Chan who provided helpful advice on how to negotiate salary increases and other benefits when applying to non-profit organizations. I also found panelist Danielle Belton highly motivating following her discussion about her own personal struggle with her career in print media that she transformed into a successful blog called “The Black Snob.”  Her marketing capabilities really inspired me to get out there and carve a name for myself.

Overall, the two-day seminar boosted my motivation and persuaded me to advocate for change on behalf of young female undergraduates. I have not only been encouraged to make a career change, but to also urge Goucher College to once again join PLEN as a member institution to afford future young college women the opportunity to gain crucial networking and career advice so vital in today’s job search.

Looking ahead, two key points come to mind that best describe my time at PLEN: developing lasting coalitions with individuals and advocating a belief that will transform thoughts into actions.


Dannia Guzman, PLEN Scholarship Recipientphoto 1

Junior, Smith College (PLEN Member School)

Allowing your curiosity to be the compass guiding you through life can reveal opportunities and connections you did not know existed. It was my curiosity for learning about public policy and my desire to be energized by other women that led me to apply for the PLEN scholarship. I am honored and grateful for being chosen as a recipient, since this opportunity increased my awareness of the important role of public policy in all career fields. Participating in this seminar allowed me to identify the connection between my various personal interests and the needs of the larger community. Now I know that I can be an influential figure shaping public policy for the betterment of our communities regardless of my career path.

The insightful conversations during each panel sparked new ideas and clarified my career goals and vision for the future. There was no escaping the empowering dialogues among the participants and dedicated PLEN staff—we are each other’s advocates.  Everyone’s eagerness to connect and to be a resource for each other was evident, and I know that the seeds for influential and reciprocal professional friendships have been planted by PLEN in all participants. Each of the panelists demonstrated that as long as we pursue our interests without fear of being too great, we will be able to contribute to society in ways which may seem unimaginable to us in the present.

Thank you PLEN for creating a safe space for growth and for lighting a new spark within all of us. I encourage all women, with and without knowledge about public policy, to follow their curiosity and reach out to PLEN—you won’t regret it!  


Addie Lewis, PLEN Scholarship Recipient  IMG_20140313_170607

Freshman, West Virginia Wesleyan College

I was honored to have the opportunity to attend the PLEN Seminar and was inspired by all the strong women involved in policy, communications, and public relations that I had the opportunity to hear from.  I feel more confident in my choice of major and the direction I am headed. Career opportunities are available for me that I did not even know about.  I was always afraid to move to a big city, but I learned more about D.C. and what it has to offer for me and now I am excited for the myriad possibilities my future holds in terms of where I can be successful and what field I can be successful in.

I have made so many connections because of PLEN by engaging with the panelists and the fellow young women who attended the seminar. I took away so many great things from PLEN.  I learned a lot of great lessons on how to work my way up in the world. Now I am confident in how to obtain a job that I love. There are many opportunities in policy, communications, and public relations and I need to follow my passion in choosing a possible career. This was an amazing, life changing experience for me.  Thanks to the Women in Technology Education Foundation and the support from the West Virginia Wesleyan College Communications Department for making this trip possible for me!


Apekshya Prasai, PLEN Scholarship Recipient Apekshya Prasai

Sophomore, Bowdoin College

Despite the growing use of technology in all realms of life, women’s inability to engage with technology remains prevalent in popular belief. Having lived through this era of technology and embraced it, I have often struggled to fathom the underlying assumptions of such beliefs.  The PLEN seminar was a gathering of young, empowered and technologically equipped women who were, similarly, seeking ways to debunk popular myths that portray technology as a men’s domain.

While our interests and backgrounds varied, the women who attended the seminar shared a strong common interest in the use of technology in public policy. Over the course of two days we learned extensively from the collective wealth of our (the PLEN seminar participants) varied experiences and interests, and from the expertise of the panelists. The panelists’ careers ranged from journalists to social media experts and lobbyists. Interacting with them helped us develop a broad understanding of possible career options in related fields and make valuable connections. The panelists offered insights and advice on the rapidly evolving job market and ways to navigate through it, with a special focus on D.C.

Career workshops, salary negotiations or speed networking, PLEN had it all. In two days, the seminar left us participants confident and willing to go beyond our comfort zones to explore the opportunities available to us.  As discussions proceeded, novel ideas emerged. By the end of the seminar I felt enriched with new knowledge, enthusiasm and an extremely supportive network of ambitious women. I left the seminar with renewed confidence and motivation to realize the dreams I came to PLEN with.