PLEN Showed Me I Can Make a Difference

Charlene ValdezCharlene Valdez, Junior, Trinity Washington University 

In late December, Trinity Washington University’s Dean told me about a science and public policy seminar, the PLEN “Women in STEM Policy.” As an undergraduate Biology major who plans to pursue this field, I was immediately interested in attending.

Since the university is not a PLEN member school, I was unaware that opportunities like these were available. I have often found myself thinking about how to use my scientific knowledge as a tool for policy development in the United States. Before attending the seminar, I didn’t know what steps I could take to reach this goal. After receiving my acceptance letter I felt nervous, yet incredibly excited to have the chance to attend. I knew that learning from people who have real-life experience in this field would be beneficial to me. As it turns out, I made a great decision. I will remember this experience for the rest of my academic and professional career.

The seminar series included speakers working on Capitol Hill, Government Organizations, Think Tanks, and technology based companies. These women shared their experiences with us, as well as their full engagement on STEM policy. They discussed various topics related to policy-making and its impact on communities nationwide. They also discussed the lack of women in sciences and the importance of creating inclusive learning environments to help them thrive in this field. In addition to networking with the speakers, I met students from across the country who share my scientific curiosity and have passions similar to my own. Interacting with them taught me about the importance of diversity, friendship, collaboration, and networking.

One of the most exciting parts for me was learning about the AAAS fellowships, which are available to students who intend to pursue careers in public policy. Knowing that these types of resources exist made me realize that students like me do have a chance to make an impact in this field. My hope is that more women can gain access to similar opportunities. All in all, the seminar helped to cement my commitment to dedicate my career to the betterment of society. By the end of it, I was brimming with ideas on how to combine my doctoral studies with my interest in public policy. I now feel more confident in my academic choices and the direction I need to take to make my dream career a reality. As a previous participant; I definitely recommend this experience to my fellow students.