Last month, I was fortunate enough to meet over a dozen powerful women to learn about health policy in Washington, D.C. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without PLEN’s seminar, Luther College, and all of the people who have supported me. The experiences I had at PLEN will continue to push me out of my comfort zone, reach places I would’ve never been able to reach, and to keep building lifelong connections in the health policy world.
I found out about PLEN’s Women in Health Policy Seminar through the professors and students at my college, Luther College in Decorah, IA. When I found out about PLEN I knew it was something that I wanted to attend as college student in the Midwest. Additionally, as an International Studies major, I have focused a lot on human rights, specifically women’s health, yet have never been able to solidify what type of job I would like to do after graduation this May 2019. Last academic year, I was studying abroad at the University of Nottingham in the UK and during my studies abroad I discovered my passion for women’s health, especially regarding their choice to end a pregnancy or not. When I arrived back to Iowa this past fall to finish my senior year, I was reminded about PLEN by my advisor, Professor Victoria Christman. She recommended that I attend the Women in Health Policy Seminar from November 1-3, 2018. That same day she told me about the application, I went back to my room and started researching the application process. It was quite simple and easy to apply for a scholarship as well.
My mind had been made up to apply to the PLEN Women in Health Policy Seminar, and I was excited. The last time I had been to D.C. was in 2011 during an eighth-grade school trip. I was ready to go back. This time I would be on my own, with a few more years of education under my belt and a clearer picture of what I would like to do after graduation. I also was eager to start making connections in D.C. with women who are working the field I hope to be working in. Knowing that PLEN has a huge alumnae network was also a major incentive to attend. With all this in mind, I submitted my application in early September and waited to hear back.
In October I heard back in from PLEN about receiving a scholarship and was thrilled. I quickly booked my round-trip flight, made arrangements with my school to help cover costs, and started looking up things to do in D.C.
Once I flew into D.C., I was excited to utilize my experience from travelling abroad in Europe to a new place in America by using the metro. For some, the metro may feel daunting or scary, but for me, I was ready to take on the challenge. I found that D.C. was quite easy to navigate and that there were so many museums to go to for free and other things to do right in the area that the seminar was taking place. Not only did PLEN push me outside of my comfort zone intellectually, but physically too, as I navigated through the city. I was able to grow in so many ways thanks to PLEN.
While attending the three-day PLEN seminar I was able to make a ton of connections (with students and ‘real’ adults), gain confidence as a woman in health policy, and learn more about the daily tasks of policy makers. Every single session, discussion, and conversation I had during the three days was beneficial beyond belief. For example, the first day there was a woman who came in to give us tips on how to network, and then later that same evening we had an opportunity to try it out ourselves. Each breakout session was chosen to give us women the opportunities to connect with the speakers, engage in questions, and learn from all of the intelligent people around us. It was the first time in my life where I felt like I truly belonged in the room and enjoyed the presence of everyone. PLEN had a wonderful atmosphere that was inclusive and open for all women to grow as individuals.
After attending the seminar each day, I would go back to my room and write down all of the connections I made, find people on LinkedIn, and send out emails. By the end of the three days, I had an entire spreadsheet full of resources of actual people that I could contact to get coffee with and see where it takes me. The connections I made at PLEN have made me feel that I can get a job in public policy if I want to, and that I have the foundation, contacts, and resources to do it. There is truly nothing holding myself back from believing in my ability to become a women’s health advocate.
By the end of my time in D.C., I was genuinely sad to leave the powerful atmosphere of the thirty-seven women that formed our seminar. Each student that attended the seminar had their own story, their own unique experiences and passions about health policy. I came as a senior, International Studies major, unsure what my future would be like after graduation. After the seminar, I left feeling the most confident about my choices in a long time. I was excited for graduation, looking forward to my unknown future knowing I have I now have the connections to reach out to if I get stuck. PLEN is truly a powerful organization, and I am lucky to have been a part of it, even if it was only for three days.
Becca Buse is a senior, International Studies major, Creative Writing minor at Luther College, IA, graduating in May 2019. She attended the PLEN Women in Health Policy Seminar. Becca’s academic interests include women’s health, especially regarding body autonomy, creative writing, and Spanish. She also is passionate about global policy and spent the last academic year with the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, UK. She would like to thank Professor Victoria Christman for encouraging her to attend PLEN, and for both the Dean’s Office and Center for Ethics and Public Engagement for their funding. Lastly she would like to thank scholarship donor, Ellie Shaw, Luther alumna and PLEN Board Member.