PLEN Alumnae Network: A Strong and Supportive Force

On August 28, 2018, Jess LaMay celebrated the first day of her new job, the second day of her graduate program, and her one week anniversary in Washington, DC at the PLEN Alumnae Network “Welcome to DC!” happy hour. During her time at St. Lawrence University, a PLEN Member School, Jess attended two PLEN seminars (Women in STEM Policy and Women in Corporate and Nonprofit Leadership,) where she learned how she could marry her love of conservation biology with her passion for policy. After her PLEN seminars, Jess continued to encourage other SLU women to attend PLEN seminars and continued to connect with PLEN alumnae at the happy hour.

IMG_5811Now an annual event, the PLEN Alumnae Network hosts this happy hour to welcome women like Jess to Washington, DC. The room filled with Board Members, PLEN Staff, and alumnae of all ages was a welcoming space for young women anxious and excited to learn more about their new home. We know that moving to a new place can be overwhelming, and the PLEN Alumnae Network is a space where young women can ask questions and find support to help them succeed.

Like Jess, Sarhana Fernandes graduated this past May and recently started working in Washington, DC. She first learned about PLEN during her internship at American Express, where she met Chair of the PLEN Board of Directors, Ellie Shaw, who encouraged her to attend the Women in Business Policy seminar. Recently, Sarhana was getting lunch with an old family friend- one of her father’s friends from college in India. During their conversation, she mentioned Ellie and PLEN, both of which her friend knew well. A perfect example of how vast the PLEN network is, Sarhana’s family friend is Shehnaz Rangwala, who is a frequent PLEN speaker and mentor. I interned with Shehnaz for a semester at Leadership Global (then Leadership Africa USA,) and she continues to be one of my closest mentors. Since I started working at PLEN, I have invited Shehnaz to speak at PLEN seminars, and she is as great of a mentor for young PLEN women as she is for me.

Sarhana’s story is one of my favorites; even in a seemingly random encounter, PLEN creates connections that you would never expect. The more often this happens, the more proud I am of the amazing network that we’re all part of. For women students from all across the country who feel disconnected and maybe intimidated by Washington, DC, PLEN leads them to a vast space of supportive, inspirational, and motivated women. Bringing up PLEN in conversations almost always leads to additional connections that you never knew you had, and is a constant reminder of the strength of our network.


In May 2019, we are celebrating PLEN’s 40th Anniversary, and all year, we’re highlighting stories just like Sarhana’s that exemplify why PLEN continues to be the premier organization for preparing college women for leadership in public policy. We wouldn’t be here without our network of women who were in the room with us on August 28th and who have and continue to support our programs. Help us celebrate 40 years of PLEN at one (or all!) of our volunteer opportunities leading up to our signature event in may 2019!



Hayley Humiston is the Programs and Communications Manager for PLEN, where her main focus is to plan the logistics of each seminar.  She is also responsible for marketing, communications, and social media outreach.

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