Unlocking Nonprofits Scholarship Blog | March 2015

Five students received scholarships to attend PLEN’s Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers Seminar in Washington, DC March 5 – 7, 2015.

Katie Peterson, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Ellie Shaw, PLEN Board of Directors
Junior, Luther College

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In early October, I was sitting in the Career Center at Luther College. I had just found out that I had been accepted into the Lutheran College Washington Semester program. Dan, a career counselor mentioned PLEN to me. Since I’d be in DC for the spring semester, I could attend. I told him I was interested, but didn’t think much of it after I left the office that day.

Fast forward to February. I received an email from Carol, another career counselor whom also said that I might be interested in PLEN. Because of my internship, I was uncertain if I’d be able to attend all the seminars. However, that turned out not to be the case. Soon enough I was in contact with Ellie Shaw and not long after that, I was registered for the seminar, Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers.

When I attend seminars, I never know what I am getting myself into. However, PLEN’s seminars have helped me make connections. Because of those connections, I have a better understanding of the path I want to take. I also have the support of like-minded individuals who share similar passions. Further, I have the resources to help me figure out where I’m going and what I’m going to do.

I learned a lot of valuable information at PLEN’s seminar. Some of this information is already in practice even two weeks after the conference.

Seminars are places where an individual learns about certain topics that are of interest to them. I learned information about a career in the nonprofit world. I also learned a lot about myself too. For the longest time, I believed that I had to complete a predetermined list of activities to get me to where I want to be. By attending PLEN’s seminar, I learned that there is no predetermined list because everyone has their own path. Further, there’s no such thing as a wrong path.

Rest assured, I am not checking off activities from a long list. Instead, I am chasing after opportunities that I want in life. I am not going after opportunities because others are, I am going after opportunities because I have a genuine interest. I am doing things my way because it’s the best approach that I know.

Caroline Lanford, PLEN Scholarship Recipient
Senior, Tulane University (PLEN Member School)

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My first experience with PLEN was attending a seminar during the second semester of my freshman year.  After four days of eye-opening panels, workshops, and networking events with a variety of women working in international policy, I felt so much more confident in my newly-declared political science major. More importantly I felt like I had a vision of what I could do while I was still in school in order to follow in the steps of some of the amazing women we heard from.  As I began winding down the second semester of my senior year, I had heard over and over from roommates and friends who had attended PLEN’s “Women, Law & Legal Advocacy,” “Science & Health Policy,” and “Women’s Leadership in Public Policy” seminars that they had felt much more prepared and confident in their postgraduate possibilities.  I decided that attending the PLEN Nonprofits seminar at the end of my senior year would be the perfect thing since I had gained such valuable career skills and perspective when I first attended, but now it would be even more relevant as my imminent graduation date raced closer.

Once I made it through the snow storm to the seminar, I was constantly blown away by the diverse backgrounds of all the women we heard from.  In those short two and a half days, I went from knowing very little about the nonprofit sector to having connections with prominent women in advocacy, communications, coalition-building, direct service, and international work.  I previously had not really considered all the possible career opportunities under the wide umbrella of “nonprofit work,” but the variety of experiences and advice we heard from the women panelists at PLEN completely opened my mind to where I didn’t even know I was limiting myself.

Perhaps most importantly, the workshops on interviewing, resume writing, and LinkedIn gave me the tools I needed to capitalize on the tips I had learned from all these women.  I had been to resume and interview workshops through my school’s career services office, but nothing is as beneficial as women already in the field who have insights specifically for what these skills look like for a woman in public policy in Washington, DC.  While I was in the city I had the opportunity to put some of these skills into practice as I met with two contacts who had offered to help me in my job search.  Leaving the PLEN Nonprofits seminar, I felt infinitely more prepared and more confident in what I could accomplish as a woman in public policy, and I know the skills I’ve learned, from freshman year to senior year and beyond, will continue to serve me well.


Susan Herndon, PLEN Scholarship Recipient 
Senior, Tulane University (PLEN Member School)

Nonprofits15_Susan Herndon Photo_3.18.15PLEN has always been a program that Tulane has pushed its women to apply for when their seminar opportunities come around. As a senior in my last semester I was dedicated to coming to DC for PLEN during my undergrad and this was my last chance to do so. I was so excited that they were hosting a non-profits seminar, as that has been a career opportunity that I have been thinking about for a long time now. Getting the scholarship from PLEN to attend helped make it much easier for me to travel from New Orleans to spend such a great weekend learning and developing much needed skills in order to enter the job market. I was thrilled that they found me eligible for this opportunity.

The seminar was especially great for me in my senior year as it really helped to lower my intense stress level about post graduate plans. The women on each panel took a different path in getting where they are today and each stressed so much that the need for a solid career plan was a total myth. As someone who is an avid planner, list maker and overall intense organizer it has been a stressful time for me not to have a career set up for myself. Seeing these women and hearing their step by step stories helped me to see the reality of the situation which is to simply put yourself out there and go with the flow. Things will work themselves out as long as you keep moving forward and connecting with the people around you. The networking and connections I was able to make over my PLEN weekend as well as the knowledge I was able to soak up are invaluable tools that I will carry with me into the job market in just a couple short months. Seeing these successful and empowered women was inspiring for all of us.

Armetta Roy, PLEN Scholarship Recipient
Sophomore, University of Texas at Tyler

Nonprofits15_Armettar Roy Photo_3.18.15I learned about PLEN through a lady I networked with who is from the DC area. I had never heard of the organization but, upon one look at their website I knew that it was something that I was interested in being a part of. Honestly, I thought that PLEN was something I’d be fortunate enough to attend in a year or so. I had no idea that I would have the great privilege of being chosen as one of the scholarship recipients this year.

PLEN holds many annual seminars, but I chose Unlocking Nonprofits” because it was something that I felt I could learn and grow from. I had always heard of the term “non-profit” but had no idea of their reach, impact, or structure until I attended this seminar. As the founder of a new student organization on my campus this seminar really inspired me about the possibilities that one idea can lead to. I would have never imagined that organizations such as “The DC Diaper Bank”, which I had heard of through television, would have been started by one woman in her own home. The knowledge as well as the inspiration I gained is invaluable. Words could never describe how thankful I am for being chosen as a scholarship recipient, but my future actions certainly will.

As a Sophomore in college, I can see myself attending another PLEN seminar before graduation. The dedication and passion of the staff, mixed with the earnestness of the speakers, all intermingled with being in our nations great capitol is absolutely invigorating. It is something that I would encourage every young woman to apply to, even if you are unsure on what you want to do with your career. PLEN is truly an educational experience, and will forever be one of my most memorable experiences.

I would like to thank the PLEN staff once again, as I would not have gained any of the invaluable information I’ve taken away from the seminar without them. I am proud to now call myself a PLEN alumna and I will continuously pass on the torch of information to other women who are just as curious and passionate as I am. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Get involved, and attend a PLEN seminar.

Tina O’Toole PLEN Scholarship Recipient
Senior, Cedar Crest College (PLEN Member School)

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I first heard about PLEN from the Office of Leadership and Student Development at Cedar Crest College.  When I looked into the various seminars, I immediately knew I wanted to attend the Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers seminar.

This seminar highlighted not only nonprofit work, but leadership, advocacy, and service.  These are all aspects of career development I needed, to build upon my passions, so I can make a difference in the world.  While the idea of making a difference in the world can seem overwhelming at times, the women leading in the fields of service, nonprofit, and advocacy work, who dedicated their time to us, expressed how truly important each person is to social change.

I expected PLEN to be an enriching experience, but it went beyond my expectations.  This experience turned into focus, direction, skill building, and networking.  I have taken away so many incredible pieces of information from various leaders, and this has helped me to see the nonprofit world in a new way.  My passions for speaking and advocating about caregiving and so many other issues, has grown.  I felt a kinship with not only the talented women who attended with me, but also with the women who spoke to us and took time to answer questions.  I realized how much can be accomplished when coalitions are formed, and I was instilled with a greater level of self-confidence.  

I plan to take this experience and use it to help me on the road to my career.  I have found my voice through education, but I have found validation through my connections at PLEN.  I feel more prepared to take on the challenges that plague work in the nonprofit world because I know the rewards will be greater.  Thank you so much for this enlightening seminar, and I am truly grateful for having met so many accomplished and inspiring women.