Associate Dean of William Smith Lisa Kaenzig was recently elected as vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), a national organization that prepares college women for leadership roles in public policy.
As a longtime member of the organization, Kaenzig has been a driving force in advancing the connection between William Smith College and PLEN. Kaenzig was named as vice-chair during the organization’s November board meeting in Washington, D.C.
“It is such a honor to be elected as the vice-chair for the board since my entire career has been dedicated to the encouragement of young women to become involved in careers in public service,” Kaenzig says.
Kaenzig has served on the PLEN board since 2011, but her involvement with the organization stems back more than 25 years, beginning during her time as an undergraduate at Douglass College – Rutgers University when she participated in several PLEN student seminars. She then worked in Washington, D.C. for several years including at the National Governor’s Association, the Women’s Campaign Fund and as the Executive Director of the Women’s Information Network.
Now, Kaenzig helps William Smith students get involved with events organized by PLEN. At HWS, Kaenzig’s efforts have helped more than 50 William Smith students attend PLEN seminars, with a number of HWS graduates going on to careers in public policy and politics thereafter. In 2010, she also helped secure an invitation for William Smith to become one of PLEN’s institutional members.
In addition to her work with PLEN, Kaenzig’s scholarly pursuits also focus on introverted learners – those who may be quieter in the classroom or prefer to work on their own. A frequent invited speaker on the subject, Kaenzig recently presented her work at the Association of Teachers of Exceptional Children (ATEC) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, giving two presentations: “Strategies for Teaching Introverts: Creating Environments Where Introverts (and All Students) Thrive” and “Teaching the Gifted Introverted Learner.”
Kaenzig also is co-author of the article, “Introversion: The often forgotten factor affecting the gifted,” which is frequently cited as one of the earliest published articles on this now popular topic of introverted learners. She earned a B.A. in political science from Rutgers, her M.A. in human resource development from George Washington University, and a Ph.D. in educational policy, planning and leadership from the College of William and Mary.
Year after year, her work with PLEN has had a significant impact on students and what they decide to do with their time at HWS.
For many of the William Smith students who have had the opportunity to participate in a PLEN event, the experience has been invaluable.
Dana Williams ’16, who went to Washington, D.C., last spring for a PLEN conference, says her involvement was important and powerful, helping her to gain insights about possible careers.
“Seeing women in these influential positions really gave me a renewed sense of motivation to continue on a path to a career in policy,” Williams says. “After my PLEN experience, I became an ambassador for PLEN at William Smith to keep PLEN active on the HWS campus and encourage my peers to attend a seminar to find out if a career in policy is of interest to them. PLEN made me feel confident and prepared to forge on towards a career in policy and social change.”
Similarly, Olivia Dudo ’15, says her involvement with PLEN not only gave her access to important skills, but helped to propel her focus and interests when she returned to campus.
“The PLEN experience taught me the basics of networking, how to land the job I want, and how to make it in D.C., but most importantly, PLEN has shown me that every woman has the potential to be great,” Dudo says. “Great as in powerful. Great as in a strong, dutiful leader. Great as in capable of changing the entire world if given the proper tools and encouragement to do so.”
Dudo, who is a PLEN intern and serves as a William Smith PLEN ambassador, says she’s looking forward to the next step of her involvement during the spring 2014 semester.
This spring, William Smith will host a leadership summit for PLEN women from William Smith and from Douglass College of Rutgers University. The group will discuss past PLEN experiences and how to further expand the network of women who want to make difference in Washington. Kaenzig, along with the William Smith PLEN ambassadors, also are planning and hosting a celebration for PLEN’s 35th anniversary at HWS.
With the connection between HWS and PLEN continuing to grow, a number of recent graduates have indicated that their experiences have directly helped them in their lives after graduation.
Nelle Crossan ’13, who attended a PLEN seminar during her senior year, says her experience was beneficial on all fronts.
“What is so fantastic about PLEN is as a participant you are surrounded by your own peers, and in the presence of very powerful women in Washington, and the seminars and sessions are small enough that conversation is encouraged, and the environment is one that promotes asking questions and speaking out,” Crossan says. “PLEN one of the biggest reasons I decided to move to Washington after graduating, because I was so inspired by the positive work that women were doing throughout the city, and I realized through workshops, networking and being involved in the seminars offered, that I too could be a part of that.”
Crossan says PLEN gave her a certain confidence to end my senior year, it gave me a direction to work towards. Currently, Crossan lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a resource development coordinator at the Ocean Conservancy.
“Before PLEN, I was very unsure of what I wanted to do after graduation, I had this amazing education under my belt, but was unsure of my next steps,” she says. “PLEN gave me resources, opportunities and ideas of how to craft those next steps, and that was invaluable. Even if WS students do not want to move to Washington, they get a taste of how important women are in the workplace, and how they should be striving for the same internships and positions as their male peers. It is truly a rewarding experience, and I believe that it is incredibly valuable to William Smith students.”
In the photo above, Meghan Gaucher ’14, Ava Pavao ’14, Kimberly Gutierrez ’17 and Morgan Lucas ’16 gather in front of the United States Capitol during a visit to Washington, D.C., where they attended the PLEN Women, Law and Legal Advocacy Seminar in November 2013.