Pushing Out of my Comfort Zone at PLEN

For my networking experience, I attended the PLEN (Public Leadership Education Network) Women and Congress seminar. I learned about the PLEN seminars from my American Government professor during my first year. From then on, it was not a question of if I would attend a seminar, but when. I was eager to attend a seminar because I wanted to learn as much as I could about the field of politics and future professional endeavors. I was also inspired by a Whittier classmate who attend the Women and Congress seminar in 2017 and spoke highly of her experience. Last fall, Sarah Bruno visited the Whittier campus and I was able to give her a tour and have her meet with the campus’ Women’s Leadership Association. Having the chance to talk with Ms. Bruno and hear her passionately talk about PLEN’s mission and the upcoming seminars firmly solidified that I would apply to the Women and Congress seminar in the spring.

I am always happy to return to Washington DC. I worked in DC during the summer and I forged a connection to the city. I was able to explore more of Dupont Circle during my time there. I was glad to see that I got along with my roommates, Melanie and Sophia, and they are awesome women who will definitely become movers and shakers in politics and policy! It was also great to be surrounded by so many amazing women who are on the same page as me when it comes to the passion for a change in the political landscape.

A moment that stood out the most to me was when we had the She Should Run Incubator in the Longworth House Office Building. This event allowed me to get to know the fellow women in the seminar. I was able to get to know the issues that the other women were passionate about and how fiercely they are willing to make the changes that they want a reality. This session also allowed me to continue to be educated on issues that I was familiar but not well versed in. I was also introduced to issues that were local to the different areas that other participants are from. It was incredible to be in the room with the future leaders.

This conference also pushed me out of my comfort zone. There was cocktail hour hosted by PLEN and attended by PLEN alumnae. The event forced me to be more outgoing and not stick with the friends that I have made. I made sure to stand up and approach people. I think I could have done better. There were definitely doubts that ran through my head constantly, but now looking back in hindsight, I am aware that my fears were unfounded. Why would the guests not want us to approach them? It is a networking event, that’s the point! I was able to exchange information with a couple of women who work with nonprofits. I added them on LinkedIn and I messaged them saying that I would like to have an informational interview. However, they have not responded. I will send out another message in the near future because I would still like to keep in touch. Although it is still scary to reach out to people I don’t know very well, I understand that the potential mentorships that could form would be invaluable to my professional development. This is definitely something I’d keep in mind for future networking events. Overall, this seminar reaffirmed my post-graduation plans. I want to come back to DC and make a path for myself in the city.




Cindy Banh

Cindy Banh attended the 2018 Women and Congress seminar with a PLEN scholarship. She is planning to graduate from Whittier College in 2019 with a degree in political science.


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