Had it not been for the PLEN Scholarship, I would not have been able to experience everything the PLEN Women in Public Policy seminar had to offer. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to strengthen myself as a young woman looking to enter the policy world. In just a short five days, I felt a complete transformation in confidence in myself, my abilities, and the potential for my future.
Back at Loyola, I’m a part of the Gannon Scholars, a women’s leadership and research program where I first heard about PLEN. As a sophomore Political Science and International Studies major, I knew what my interests were going into the conference; I just wasn’t sure how to pursue them.
With so many passions, I felt like I could never narrow myself down to one career, and PLEN taught me that that’s okay. We heard from several hard-working, accomplished, powerful women. Their success and experiences were not only inspiring, but also so motivating. Being able to hear their personal stories and ask questions was a great set up for interaction. All of the discussions were equally captivating and stimulating.
The most important idea that many of the women reiterated was that careers aren’t typically linear. It’s okay to be passionate about a plethora of issues and to be good at all sorts of different things. That makes you an asset; being well rounded and flexible is one of the best qualities you can have, especially in the policy world. Hearing all of this was reassuring, knowing there’s no perfect path, but many paths that can lead to success.
The women themselves were my favorite part of the week. Not just the speakers, but also the other attendees and PLEN organizers.There’s nothing like that type of empowering environment where women are helping women succeed. I felt that I was able to connect with everyone I met on some level, and even learned that networking isn’t scary; it can actually be really fun! On top of that, I handed out my first business cards and got to connect with so many of the women I met through email, LinkedIn, and other social media.
I now feel prepared to take on DC after graduation. I hope to find a job in either the government or non-profit sector while getting my Masters in Public Policy. By already having had this experience and having made these connections, I know I’m already one step ahead.
Camille Smith attended the 2016 Women in Public Policy seminar as a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago.