In celebration of PLEN’s 40th anniversary, we are collecting PLEN memories in the weeks leading up to our signature event. You can share your story here, or use #PLEN40 on social media.
"Attending a PLEN seminar in my senior year of college showed me the concepts I had been learning in action as a Government major. That trip to DC and seminar was a safe space to ask tough questions about the careers we were about to embark on, gaining insight from the women leaders that we aspired to be. Reconnecting with PLEN almost 20 years later and being able to share my experience to help the next generation of women leaders has been energizing, and it's own new learning experience. This generation of women is poised to make great, positive change in our world, and the PLEN seminars are the tools to help them do it."
-Josie Beets, Senior Director, National Coordination, S.A.F.E. Project US (PLEN alumna and speaker)
"PLEN provided me with a priceless opportunity to gain substantive knowledge about the opportunities available for women in international affairs as well as the challenges facing female practitioners in the field. Because of PLEN, I was able to get a sense of direction for my career very early on in my education from noteworthy women leaders. The program vastly expanded my understanding of the pathways available for women seeking to make the world a better place, making it one of the most fruitful experiences of my undergraduate years."
-Shama Farooq, Clinical Instructor, Gender Based Violence Clinic, Tulane Law School (PLEN alumna)
“As a firm with a strong commitment to gender equity and inclusion, K&L Gates is proud to support PLEN’s Women, Law, and Legal Advocacy program. We are always impressed by the incredible women who participate, and we love hearing about how their PLEN experience enriches their lives.”
–Valerie A. Jackson, Senior Advisor to the Management Committee and Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at K&L Gates (PLEN Mentor Award Honoree; Former PLEN Advisory Council Member; Scholarship Sponsor; speaker)
“Because I had spent 10 months in D.C. during undergrad, I had decided at that point I wanted to work before I went to law school. I knew it was going to be difficult to get a job or a paid internship, and as a first generation college student, I was stressed about convincing my parents that I wanted to take a break and work in policy. I went to PLEN very stressed out, but left the seminar extremely solidified in my decisions and goals.”
-Donya Khadem, J.D. Candiate, University of Michigan (PLEN alumna and speaker)
“I think more than ever there is such a huge need for PLEN. Not only because of the quality of seminars and quality of mentorship, but just by the sheer existence of an organization that is meant to empower women to shape the lives of women in the US and around the world.”
-Maryam Laly, Executive Director, Banyam Foundation (PLEN alumna and speaker)
"I've been working with PLEN in various ways since I first came to DC more than 20 years ago. From speaking at PLEN seminars, to employing PLEN interns, to serving on the Board and even having the honor of receiving the PLEN Mentor Award, this organization has always been my volunteer labor of love. We need more women of all stripes to be be taking leadership roles in public life, whether its running for office or volunteering in their communities. PLEN provides that most necessary combination of ingredients to give young women a boost: mentoring, networking, and inspiration. It's done so for 40 years, and will keep doing so until women -- especially women of color -- have their seats at the table."
-Lisa Maatz, Visiting Professor, John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University (PLEN speaker, former Member of the Board of Directors, and Mentor Award Honoree)
“When I was in law school at the University of Texas I remember reading about this absolutely fearless University of Texas Law School alumna, Sissy Farenthold, who broke all kinds of glass ceilings. She served as the only woman in the Texas State House of Representatives, she ran for governor, she co-sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment into the Texas State Legislature, and she was the third woman to have her name put into consideration for Vice President of the United States. While I’ve never met Sissy in person, she has served as an inspiration to me for many years, and it was such a treat to see her legacy in action when I spoke to PLEN students last year.”
–Gabriella Morris, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, UNICEF USA (PLEN speaker)
“I attended the Women in Global Policy seminar, and that was my first time in Washington D.C. I was more than excited and happy to meet a real ambassador: an experience that changed my life. It made me see that I could be in that position one day. I learned so, so much and I’m forever grateful that I got a scholarship to attend. I have had more opportunities to go to Washington D.C but I can never forget my time at PLEN where I connected with women from all over the United States of America and international women.”
–Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi, Contributing Writer, University Chronicle (PLEN alumna)
“As a sophomore at Rutgers University in March of 2010, I attended PLEN’s Women & Congress seminar during my weeklong spring break. While my classmates and friends were vacationing, I was falling in love with Washington, DC and all it had to offer. The energy and opportunity in the District drew me in, and I spent each day of my PLEN seminar wondering, ‘How can I get here one day? What will it take for me to work here?’ Fast-forward to 2018, I am proud to call DC my home and have been enjoying my time and career trajectory in this vibrant and one-of-kind city. In 2015, I moved down to DC from New Jersey and started on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Federation Relations team working in membership. In October 2017, I started at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) as their membership manager. I am proud to work for a national organization devoted to advancing local public health.
“PLEN was the start of my DC love story – a story that is still unfolding today. My first memory of riding the escalator up at the Capitol South metro stop and taking in my surroundings alongside my PLEN group was very moving. I remember looking at the young professionals around me, just going about their daily commute, and hoping I too would be there upon graduating. PLEN’s seminar provides a full-picture scope of DC for the young women who attend, touching on all industries and interests within the public sector. I would highly recommend this program to any student as the PLEN experience served as the cornerstone of my professional life.”
–Lindsey Santamaria, Membership Manager, National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) (PLEN alumna and speaker)
“During my daughter’s Women in STEM Policy PLEN seminar, she experienced real world networking. These skills, that are often missed during a traditional undergraduate education, armed her with a new toolkit to reach her goals. Learning that it’s a career jungle gym, not a linear career pathway, where one must take skills from each professional opportunity and apply it to the next, further empowered her and challenged her to take opportunities in a field still dominated by men.”
-Dr. Helene Sheena, MD, FAAP (Parent of a PLEN alumna)
“As a graduate of a woman’s college and someone who stumbled into a wonderful career in the policy world of Washington, D.C., PLEN’s mission is near to my heart. The incredible students who attend PLEN are already learning to be leaders. When they come back from PLEN their excitement and ambition are actually contagious — they bring the energy of PLEN to campus so their experiences are multiplied. I give to PLEN because of these young women. PLEN has created the magic formula that attracts and supports women of all backgrounds and financial capacities. They are then given a chance to develop a vision of themselves as professionals who can work to change the world.”
-Lynn Smith Fox, Former Senior Adviser, Federal Reserve Board (PLEN Advisory Council)
“I have been a PLEN presenter for almost thirty years. In 1998, when I joined the President’s Interagency Council on Women at the State Department, I started speaking to PLEN students. In every job since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting amazing young women who are changing the world. Today, as the CEO of Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, I find that many of the issues college women bring up in our talks are also the questions young Girl Scouts want addressed. Congratulations PLEN for being a catalyst for change in women’s lives, and thank you for providing a space where young women can explore the world and feel empowered and fulfilled.”
–Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital (PLEN Mentor Award Honoree, speaker, and supporter)