My relationship with PLEN began when I was a Sophomore at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. As a recent graduate, I can now say that this relationship has grown over time and continues to be an important part of my future career path. I first heard about PLEN during my first year at college. I had joined the team of students assistants at the William Smith Dean’s Office and began forming relationships with both the students and the faculty that work there. At the end of that first year, I was approached by an older student who asked me if I had considered attending a PLEN seminar. Unaware of what a seminar entailed, I told her I would consider it the following year when I returned back to campus. Upon my arrival back to campus, I was approached again. This time by Dean Lisa Kaenzig.
During that meeting, she explained to me how a PLEN seminar worked: I would go down to Washington D.C. for four days and experience what it’s like for women to be working in fields such as law, government, nonprofits, STEM, and I could choose which one sounded right for me. She explained how we would have a resume building workshop and networking event to help prepare us for entering the workforce. After that first meeting of her explaining the ins and outs of PLEN to me, I was sold.
That October, I attending my first PLEN seminar, which was “Women, Law and Legal Advocacy”. What I remember most about that seminar is that, funny enough, I realized that I didn’t actually want to go to law school. On the last day, we listened to a panel of women discussing international development and global policy and in this moment, a spark went off in my head. I was listening and engaging with all that these women said and what they had to offer to a young student like myself. I had enjoyed every moment of the seminar, but at this particular moment, I had a new burst of interest in international policy and it was all thanks to PLEN.
The resume building workshop and salary negotiation discussion are also strong takeaways from the seminar. As a sophomore, my resume was not as strong as the seniors’ or recent graduates’ that were sitting next to me. However, they showed me what it is like to have a clear, strong resume and that is something I strive for with my personal resume today. I was fascinated and shocked by what I learned during the salary negotiation. I found this exercise to be incredibly valuable because as I remember, every woman in the room was shocked. This was a topic that is rarely addressed, yet so important.
Arriving back to campus, I became involved with PLEN in as many ways as I could. On our campus, we have a strong active PLEN chapter where we hold bi-weekly lunches and bring in special women guests to talk about their life experiences and professional careers. I also had the honor of being our PLEN chapter’s senior guest speaker at one of the lunches, where I was able to talk about my experience with PLEN and how I have tied in what I learned with my life at school. Toward the end of my senior year, I decided that I just was not ready to give up my love for PLEN. I applied to their summer internship program and I was accepted into their Summer Development Intern position.
For the past month I have been loving every second here at the PLEN headquarters. As the development intern, I have been working on a lot of development-based projects and have really started to get a feel for how PLEN operates behind the scenes. In the middle of June, we held our first event, So You Want to go to Grad School?, at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. We heard from a panel of professionals about their own experiences with graduate and law school and whether they are a good fit for each individual. The best part of the event was definitely hearing from the three PLEN alumnae who sat on the panel.
Everyone in the office here works so hard because in the end, we are all working to achieve the same goal. We all want to see PLEN continue to grow as a platform for young women to see how much potential they all have to join the workforce and have careers in public policy, government, nonprofits and so many other fields. I am so excited to be here for the summer and cannot wait to share my experience over the next few months with The Plenary!
Sophie Alphas is a summer Development Intern with PLEN this summer, where her responsibilities include assisting with fundraising and development. Sophie attended the PLEN Women, Law and Legal Advocacy as a sophomore in the fall of 2014. She is from Weston, Massachusetts and recently graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges with a B.A. in Anthropology and Sociology and a minor in European Studies with an overall focus in Gender Systems.