A mentor is someone who has been where most want to go and is gracious enough to offer words of wisdom and encouragement to help them get there. Mentors are leaders. My idea of leadership is commitment and a dedication to creating a positive space for growth. The Public Leadership Education Network’s week-long Women in Global Policy seminar was the perfect setting for mentorship, with interactive and relevant lessons from a wide array of professional women. As a psychology major, my attendance and participation in PLEN merged my interests in people, why we do what we do, and how our choices play out on the world stage.
Before attending PLEN, like most people, I thought the only careers for young people in Washington DC were on Capitol Hill. Soon after the seminar’s first panel discussion, I quickly discovered that the nature of policy work requires every kind of person at the table. The seminar was a time to recognize the different backgrounds of the speakers and see where their strengths helped them in their careers and in life. In college, I centered my research around women’s empowerment and I work to engage students in gender equity initiatives through innovative programming and social media. PLEN taught me how to draw connections between my own interests and other social justice issues like food scarcity, immigration, and the environment. Because I care about women’s participation in the global economy and their sustained access to education, I now know that our interdependence is why we work for the future. We need passion and inclusion from all angles to make the world a better place to live in.
Being surrounded by powerful and dynamic women every day of the seminar was a reminder to always operate with a daring spirit and an intention to learn something new. The atmosphere that PLEN created felt familiar and compelling because its mission to empower young women to ask questions and expose us to incredible possibilities were exactly the reasons why I chose to attend the only women’s university in Los Angeles, Mount Saint Mary’s University. Being in an environment that values women and provides a look into many different professional avenues helped me get the most out of my PLEN experience.
My favorite moment during the week came during the 40th anniversary celebration. At the event, I had the incredible opportunity to share my goals and learn more about global policy in a casual and curated environment. This early discovery of being an active participant in my life emphasized the importance of self-advocacy and initiative. Because of all the women that gave their time and their resources, I am confident that I can achieve great things. With the help of generous donors and PLEN leaders, the Women in Global Policy seminar is teaching young women to be prepared and always come to play.
Hearing from a wide range of women, some with PhDs and some with over 20 years of experience abroad, was extremely motivating. Their lives prove that there is no one path to success because in every career, genuine service is the bottom line. I first learned about PLEN through the Women’s Leadership office at my university and now I plan to take all that I have learned and use my experience to serve as a leader in my community. Now as a PLEN alumna, I also plan to connect with members of my cohort to reflect on the experience and invite other undergraduates to apply to attend future seminars. This one-step-in-front-of-the-other philosophy is assurance that I do not have to wait until I have a title or a twenty-year career to make real change. PLEN taught me to trust the process and equipped me with the tools I need to build the career I want.
Caitlyn Keeve is a rising senior at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles and she is also the student ambassador for the Center for the Advancement of Women. She attended the Women in Global Policy Seminar in Spring 2019.