I first learned about PLEN through an email from a friend advising me to apply to attend the Women in Congress seminar in March 2019. As I had no idea what PLEN was, I decided to do some research and see what I would find. I read a few articles on The Plenary written by recent PLEN alumnae and was undoubtedly impressed by what I read. I immediately decided to apply and start my journey to PLEN. Unfortunately, I could not afford the cost of funding my attendance on my own. However, through a kind donation by Ellie Shaw to her alma mater and my current school, Luther College, I was able to attend the conference free of charge.
I felt the need to attend the Women in Congress seminar because I wanted to be immersed in a group of talented, capable women who could help me acquire the right tools I need in order to become a successful woman in public policy. I boarded the plane to DC, brimming with excitement and was anxious for what was to come. When I arrived and attended the very first seminar, I was completely blown away by the quality and intensity of the workshops and powerful speakers presented to us. I particularly remember one speaker, Grace Boatright, Treasurer at GAIN, who hosted a workshop on networking, and learning to effectively make useful connections with people. I distinctly remember her catch-phrase, “Network to GET WORK!”, and it has stuck with me since.
This phrase holds the notion that success is based not only on merit or hard work, but on a combination of these factors and the relationships one builds with individuals throughout their career. Her workshop taught me that I cannot simply rely on good grades or an outstanding résumé to take me where I want to be in life without good connections, because according to her, “It’s harder to throw out a résumé with a face to it.” Therefore, it is extremely necessary to get out there and make connections with people in order to get my foot in the door to the pathway to success.
Another speaker whose words I can’t seem to forget is Neri Martinez, Future Majority Project Director at Republican State Leadership Committee, who was the keynote speaker for that day. Her address was essentially pieces of advice to us as young women who aspire to have a career in politics or public policy one day. She spoke about our tendency as women to doubt ourselves and be consumed by the “imposter syndrome”. These words resonated with me in particular because I feel that I have a tendency to downplay my abilities and defer promising opportunities to individuals whom I feel are undoubtedly more qualified than I am. Ms. Martinez’s response to this attitude is to “not fear your own ambition!” Now, these words echo in my head and I believe that since the Women in Congress seminar in March this year, I have actively made an effort to go after things I believe I can achieve. I can firmly say that I am now making a conscious effort to have faith in my own abilities.
These two women are but a few of the remarkable women whose words of wisdom are currently guiding me through my academic and professional life. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend the Women in Congress seminar and for the opportunity to become a PLEN alumna. I would definitely recommend PLEN to any young woman looking to improve herself and prepare for life in the professional world. Get started on that PLEN application!
Alice Odame is a Ghanaian student studying at Luther College and is a Women in Congress 2019 PLEN alumna. She is an Economics and International Studies double-major, also minoring in French. She currently serves on the Student Senate, International Students & Allies Association Executive Board and is also a member of women’s leadership organisation, Beta Theta Omega (BTQ). Alice plans to graduate from Luther College with the class of 2022 and hopes to ultimately have a career in the field of International & Economic Development. She received the Ellie Shaw Scholarship to attend this seminar.