Women & Policy in the Global Community Seminar | May 2015

Ten students received scholarships to attend the 2015 Women & Policy in the Global Community seminar in Washington, DC.

TE Connectivity, Grant Thornton, and PLEN Board of Directors members Lisa Kaenzig, Jen Stange, and Ellie Shaw made it possible for ten students to attend this seminar.


Molly Willeford, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Jen Stange, PLEN Board of Directors
Junior, Illinois Wesleyan University

1012567_10152395277219172_3639434891573609052_nSome people have moments of clarity, where they know they are on the right track. That is what the PLEN Women in Global Policy seminar was for me. I knew that I wanted a career in international relations, but I didn’t know what exactly my options were once I graduated. Thanks to the seminar, I now know that there are a variety of options, and I am definitely on the right career path.

Since my university is not a PLEN member school, I had no idea about the opportunities that existed through PLEN. A family friend and mentor told me about the seminar. At first, I had my doubts – I didn’t need to learn more about foreign policy; I knew enough already, or so I thought. Eventually I was convinced by my friend to attend, especially since the schedule of the seminar promised visits to the U.S. Capitol and the Department of State. I do not regret this decision for a single second. While some of what I already knew was affirmed, I gained so much more insight into the career of international relations and what one can really do with a degree in this field. Not only did I learn more about different career paths, but I also learned important business skills such as resume building, networking, and creating a LinkedIn profile.

Thanks to PLEN and my scholarship sponsor, Ms. Jen Stange, I was able to attend this life-changing seminar, where I was surrounded by 50 other like-minded, inspirational women. I had incredible opportunities to listen and engage with different panelists and speakers from all kinds of different areas within the field of foreign policy. I was challenged in my ways of thinking and had the experience of touring a majorly influential think-tank. I learned so much during this seminar, and I cannot wait to apply what I’ve learned to the real world! The Women & Policy in the Global Community seminar confirmed my dreams of a career within the field of international relations, and it gave me the tools to accomplish just that.


Veronica Picchi, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Ellie Shaw, PLEN Board of Directors
Senior, University of Illinois at Chicago

linkedin picWhen I received an e-mail from the International Studies advisor at my university regarding a scholarship to PLEN’s Women and Policy in the Global Community seminar, I instantly knew I had to apply. The seminar sounded to be right up my alley, and it emphasized my motivation to make a difference in the world we live in. I applied, not thinking I would actually get it, but knew it wouldn’t hurt to at least apply. Finding out that I was a scholarship recipient to attend PLEN’s seminar was an awesome surprise! Not only did I visit a new city, I received the opportunity to network with peers and professionals who have similar values, passions, and motivation as me to make a contribution in society. I know I will be working with these wonderful women I met from across the country sometime in the future!

Listening to influential, women leaders in global politics and nonprofit administration reiterated that I can be a part of this field too. I am not a girl with her head in the clouds, I am a woman with a vision. I felt so honored to have the opportunity to listen to many women with a vision, who expanded my horizon of possibilities and echoed my values. I learned that a career path is not always linear, but that life will always take you to where you are supposed to be. The professionals who spoke to us clearly exuded that as they continue to make amazing strides in their current fields. This seminar reaffirmed my motivation to continue on the path I am taking to make my contribution to the world we live in.  I am so grateful to have been a part of this, PLEN further emphasized that this field is what I am supposed to be in, no matter where it may take me. Thank you so much, PLEN!


Rina Ntagozera, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Lisa Kaenzig, PLEN Board of Directors
Junior, Haverford College

a8xYz1DSllA2CvTwb8icXkQG1AiHC_Vr51Owtoac_UEI was walking to class one day when I came across a poster that had Capitol Hill on the background. I walked past it then after a second, took a few steps back and read what was on it. I got really interested and went online after class to read about PLEN. Little did I know how much this seminar would educate, motivate and inspire me as a rising senior majoring in International Studies. The seminar was held immediately after finals week in my school but I was beyond excited and a little bit nervous about what to expect but by the end, I was more excited about the future and what it holds; the seminar really did exceed my expectations.

We learned so much in a short time and regardless of how tired I was by the end of the day, I would look forward to the conversations I would have with my fellow attendees. Sharing our thoughts on the panels and what we learned and just getting to know each other was a highlight for me. I also learned the value of networking and being very intentional about it. This was emphasized by most. If not all, of the panelists and I believe it is one of my biggest takeaways of the seminar. I am really glad I took those few steps back and read that poster because I learned a great deal and left the seminar more confident and motivated to work harder and achieve greater things.


Marissa Richerson, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by TE Connectivity
Sophomore, Hollins University

UntitledThe invitation to apply to PLEN’s Women & Policy in the Global Community seminar found me on a slow day at my work study mid-semester. I had never heard of PLEN before, but a week-long seminar in the capital city seemed like an invaluable experience that I just could not pass up. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship, sponsored by Ms. Michele Blair, to help with the cost of attendance, which made it even harder to miss this amazing event. The PLEN seminar proved to be very much worth the investment putting me in contact with people that I never would have met otherwise and who have greatly shaped my path towards my future career.

The Women & Policy in the Global Community seminar had an incredible line up of dynamic speakers that helped me navigate my questions about possibly finding a career in policy. As an Environmental Science major, I have always questioned whether a career in politics or research would be most effective for change. While I found through this seminar that being a politician was not for me, I was happy to be introduced to the world of small non-governmental organizations through my site visits. These, I must say, were my favorite part of the week.

I did not have many expectations for this conference, only wanting to be immersed in an environment of ambitious women. I found myself being taken aback multiple times during the seminar with the caliber of young leaders I had the pleasure of learning with for the week. If I had any major takeaways from this seminar, is that you will never be bored if you surround yourself with inspiring people. I am deeply grateful to PLEN for bringing together such an amazing group of women, and hope that many more women will share in this productive and energizing event!


Kira Roybal, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by TE Connectivity
Freshman, Cornell University

20150602_142526I was very close to not attending this seminar. In mid-April I had received an email from my school’s career services office and knew that I had to jump on this opportunity. I had little time to complete and send in my application, but the stress was worth it. Participating in PLEN’s foreign policy seminar was a life changing experience. 

Washington, DC is an interesting city. It’s spread out, but it feels small. I had never imagined myself living or working here, but now there’s no doubt I love this city! Thanks to PLEN, I was able to visit amazing sites, such as the State Department and the Human Rights Watch office, and hear from inspiring professional women who are leaders in a variety of organizations, such as USAID and the German Marshall Fund. Most of all, I enjoyed meeting like-minded young women who are passionate about politics, global issues, and the future of our world. The friendships I made are indispensable.

If you have any interest in attending, you should go. A PLEN seminar is an invaluable experience. It helped me more concretely visualize what I want as a future career and helped boost my confidence, particularly in professional settings. Just imagine, what can PLEN do for you and your dream? Lastly, I would like to thank the entire PLEN family for sponsoring me and for organizing such an enlightening seminar. This experience would not have been possible without them.


Kenia Viezcas, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by TE Connectivity
Freshman, Miami University of Ohio

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 3.01.39 PMThe Women & Policy in the Global Community seminar in DC was without a doubt the most memorable and valuable experience of my college career.  I was able to meet women with experience that ranged from Embassy positions in Latin America to Labor Rights campaign leaders in the Middle East. I learned a lot about the people involved in foreign policy in DC, the many positions the city has to offer, and even more, the importance of networking and meeting new people.

I was approached by counselor, who insisted that I sign up for the trip after I expressed my interested in International Politics and Law. At first, it was just an idea, but as I received more information regarding the women I would meet and the places I would go, there was no way I was turning the opportunity down.

The seminar exceeded my expectations. Every afternoon, I would arrive at my hotel room mentally exhausted from everything each panel, keynote speaker, and “big name” politician has said. I felt extremely inspired by every person in the room, mentors and peers included. It made me want to live in DC and work hard, and above all it encouraged me to embrace success and never let any opportunity get away.

As for advice, I would say, approach EVERYONE and don’t shy away because you’re intimidated… your career opportunity could be standing right next to you. 


Elizaveta Dyatko, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by TE Connectivity
Sophomore, St. Lawrence University (PLEN Member School)

DSC_0327_1“Whatever title or office we may be privileged to hold, it is what we do that defines who we are … Each of us must decide what kind of person we want to be—what kind of legacy that we want to pass on.”

-Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan

With my political science research paper submitted and a dreadful 10-pound backpack unpacked, the end of the spring semester was literally such a weight off my shoulders. Reading materials ranging from books on various schools of thought in international relations to abstruse political theory articles throughout the semester, I was sure I knew what the world ‘politics’ means. Light-hearted, I arrived to Washington, DC. and discovered that I was mistaken.

The main lesson I’ve learned at the Public Leadership Education Network is that politics is the action you take. At the same time, politics doesn’t necessarily represent the actions of government officials; it can also represent the steps we are taking every day to make our society a better place to live in. I realized that there was no need to wait until I graduate or pursue my professional career, I could be engaged in politics even as a student. The opportunities we are privileged to have right now are enormous, and we are responsible for making the most out of them.

The seminar brought together some phenomenal speakers who covered a broad range of issues, starting from the U. S. foreign policy and ending with the millennium development goals. However, I am also glad to get to know so many smart and talented participants who I’ve learnt a lot from. I am incredibly proud of my peers who demonstrated what it means to be politically active and stand by your opinion. I’ve learnt to think critically by watching them questioning some common believes and offering their personal views on controversial issues in foreign politics.

I believe that the Women & Policy in the Global Community seminar was the best way for me to finish an incredible school year and learn what politics truly means! I am immensely grateful to PLEN for introducing me to so many inspirational young women! I am sure that every PLEN alumna will keep pursuing her goals and someday lead the world!


Ella Kennickell, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by TE Connectivity
Senior, Southern Methodist University

Ella Kennickell blog entry post picFrom the time I first received the email from my Women’s & LGBT Center notifying me of the opportunity for this conference, I was elated and transfixed on the idea that here was the next step to reaching my dream career. Later that night, I pored over the PLEN website and kept going back to a testimonial from an alumna scholarship recipient, “Just do it. Just go. Do whatever you have to do to get there.” So despite my usually reserved and anti-risk-taking nature, I took the plunge. I am grateful for the scholarship that made this a reality for me.

I’m still amazed by the places I got to visit and the amazingly accomplished women I got to meet. A highlight for me was the site visit to Human Rights Watch – the organization that as a human rights major I’ve been following for years – in which our small group had the privilege of an informal discussion with the Deputy Director about her role in the Legal Division. She shared what advocacy looks like from HRW’s stance to influence global policy to respect customary international humanitarian law and treaties of international human rights law.

PLEN taught me the value of connections. I have come away with a network of peers passionate about the same policy issues that ignite me and pushing the limits on where their talents and skills can take them. As alumnae, these future women leaders are offering me their gracious counsel to illuminate my path as well. Friendships made during the conference week will be cherished for a lifetime. I know that, if not anything else, becoming connected with such a stellar community of women leaders was worth it all.


BlakeLee Kaiser-Mendes, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Grant Thornton
Graduate Student, University of North Texas

IMG_1436I found out about the PLEN program through the Women’s and Gender Studies department at University of North Texas. I was excited to learn about a program designed to prepare women for the professional world. I had friends in the department who attended past seminars and they raved about their experiences. I decided to apply for the Women & Policy in the Global Community because I am interested in going into a career in public policy and needed some professional guidance. The PLEN seminar met all of my expectations and more. The program was packed with excellent panels where I heard from a diverse group of women about their career paths and current work, as it related to policy. I was overwhelmed (in the best way possible) learning about different career possibilities and receiving professional advice.

PLEN taught me that it’s important to utilize the skills that I have. This bit of advice made me realize that I do have unique skills and experiences that I can bring into any job. Having confidence in your abilities is important in order to be successful and I love that PLEN emphasizes this! I left the seminar having a greater sense of confidence and I definitely feel more prepared for my current job hunt. I had a lot of questions going into the seminar and even more at the end of the week. The seminar really showed me that a lot of different jobs and issues intersect with policy, both domestically and internationally. This seminar made me want to really narrow my focus of interest so that I can apply for the right kind of jobs, to be the most effective in the work that I want to do. I also realized that I have many interests I am passionate about, so it might be good for me to explore different career options and paths related to policy.

I want to thank my scholarship sponsor, Mary Moore Hamrick, for making it possible for me to attend this PLEN seminar. I cannot wait to share my experiences with other young women!


Amber Bloom, PLEN Scholarship Recipient – Sponsored by Grant Thornton
Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

imageAs a social work student, I have mostly been exposed to practice in the field and working directly with individuals. I chose to attend the PLEN seminar to learn more about the world of policy, as it relates to the lives of the individuals I serve. I was able to see how things work on a larger scale and what it takes to get things done. Although the focus of the seminar was on international policy, throughout the week I began to realize that I am committed to continue to make change right at home, in Milwaukee.

The greatest thing that the PLEN Women and Policy in the Global Community Seminar provided me with was confidence in myself. As a student and young professional, it is easy to doubt yourself, to wonder if you are on the right track, or compare yourself to the achievements of others. The stories of the panelists’ career paths and the professional development presentations helped me to realize that I am doing just fine. Each of the women on the panels had their own story of how they arrived at their current position and the plans they have to continue along their path.  The professional development presentations, such as resume building, interviewing, and building a Linkedn profile, gave me the opportunity to reflect on my academic and professional career so far.  I learned that it is okay to not know where I am going and to work my hardest to learn from every opportunity I am given.  These also inspired me feel good about what I have achieved so far, and what I will continue to achieve in the future.

I am grateful to Ms. Mary Moore Hamrick for giving me the opportunity to attend this PLEN seminar. I learned so much throughout the week and enjoyed learning and growing with the other PLEN students. I loved being able to navigate through the city of Washington DC, and I was inspired to return home to have the confidence to pursue my passions.