PLEN’s Impact: Health Policy and Shannon’s Washington, D.C. Experience

Before hearing about PLEN, I had no idea that there were opportunities out there for someone like me, who isn’t majoring in Political Science in undergrad, to get involved in policy work. The ability to make connections that will help me progress forward and pursue a career in policy, regardless of my major, is a newfound confidence that I owe solely to my PLEN Health Policy Seminar experience. 

Arriving in Washington, D.C. at the end of a long week of classes and travel felt like a breath of fresh air in my lungs. Since getting the email that I had received a PLEN scholarship sponsored by CareerLife Directions, LLC, I was anxiously awaiting my time in the country’s capital as I had never visited before. Knowing the itinerary of the PLEN Health Policy seminar, I was excited to get involved. I had no idea how impactful and meaningful the weekend would be, and how I would return to school feeling refreshed and inspired despite having to travel halfway across the country.

While progressing through my undergraduate college years, I have searched far and wide for opportunities to further my professional development. Not only have I sought out these experiences for myself, but I have also been pushed to pursue by Augustana College faculty. None that I have attended before could compare to what I was able to be a part of at PLEN.

From Saturday’s Networking 101 workshop, keynote address and health policy panel, to Sunday’s Running Start workshop and Ebola Crisis Simulation, to Monday’s HIV/AIDS and Health Policy breakout session, career in health policy panel and final address, there wasn’t one part that I didn’t find helpful. It was very obvious to me, even being new to PLEN, that there was careful thought and planning put into each session, and the behind-the-scenes work of both PLEN staff and interns cultivated a successful weekend that I will not soon forget.

PLEN’s Health Policy seminar encouraged me to network, presented me with a multitude of examples on how to be successful in a policy career, showed me that there is no singular look to success, especially as someone in a marginalized group, and gave me the motivation to start making my dreams a reality. I am proud to say I attended a PLEN seminar and look forward to sharing my experience around my college campus and beyond to further the ability of women and marginalized groups to be able to hold space in policymaking.

Now, post-PLEN seminar I feel that my Public Health and Biology double major will end up being a great asset going forward into my professional life as it gives me a look at policy through a lens that most people don’t have experience in. Public Health, being the person-centered profession it is, is my driving passion behind wanting a successful career in Health Policy. PLEN taught me there is space for me in places I would not have previously thought of, I am qualified, and I do belong in any and all rooms and conversations that policy discussion is taking place in.

Shannon Kenney is a current Senior at Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois, studying Public Health and Biology. Shannon attended the Fall 2022 Health Policy Seminar, and received the CareerLife Directions, LLC Scholarship.

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