Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Exploring Public Policy in D.C.
The HWS Update
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Exploring Public Policy in D.C.

During winter break, several students in the Hobart and William Smith chapter of the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) traveled to Washington, D.C. to network and attend workshops with leaders in the field of public policy. Students attended both the Women in STEM Policy and Women in Public Policy seminars.

Chemistry major Tess Weber ’23 and geoscience and international relations double major Ashly Johnson ’22 attended several sessions with women in science, health and technology who are shaping the nation’s STEM agenda, an experience both agree showed them the broad potential impact of their degrees in the natural sciences.

“The seminar was extremely useful in exploring different jobs, especially regarding applications of STEM in Washington, D.C. in policy making through lobbying or testifying as a topic expert, or working on a science-related committee on Capitol Hill,” Weber says. Throughout the day, seminars addressed the gender gap in STEM related careers by showcasing stories of success in overcoming self-doubt, including women whose careers took nonlinear paths.

“There were numerous opportunities to connect with the amazing women who spoke to us, although I believe the most valuable connections I made were those with the other students from William Smith and other colleges around the country,” Johnson says.

Sociology major Meredith Janik ’22 focused on the challenges and opportunities in educational policy reform. “After hearing so many amazing and inspiring women speak about their impact, I left with a new mindset. I feel motivated to point my life in the direction of what I am passionate about, just as they have done,” she says.

Students also had the opportunity to connect with leaders across all branches of the U.S. government, as well as meet women who are excelling in the nonprofit and private sector. Notable speakers included: Acting Chief of Staff and Associate Director for Science Policy at NIH Carrie Wolinetz, Deputy Chief of Staff at Council of the District of Columbia Ashley Fox and Executive at BCW Global Shaila Manyam.

PLEN also facilitated workshops on networking, financial literacy and salary negotiation. An #ElectHer workshop gave students the opportunity to participate in a one-day nonpartisan training on how to run for student government and political office.

On campus, the HWS chapter of PLEN hosts bi-weekly breakfasts to discuss campus and worldwide issues, as well as advance their professional development. Other PLEN member institutions include women’s colleges such as Smith and Mount Holyoke.

HWS PLEN is currently led by Emma Consoli ’20, Allie Bonagura ’22 and Ashly Johnson ’22. Students interested in becoming involved with PLEN can attend one of their bi-weekly breakfasts, usually held on Friday mornings, or reach out to the organization through their email at plen@hws.edu.