The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) welcomed nine William Smith students to Washington, D.C. this spring for the seminars “Women and Congress” and “Women and Global Policy,” both immersive crash-courses in navigating the challenges of careers in the public sector.
PLEN is a non-partisan organization that helps introduce undergraduate women to role models, skill trainings, and career paths within the public policy arena. Each year, PLEN brings hundreds of women students from colleges and universities across the country to Washington, D.C.
“Before attending PLEN, I wondered if I was ready to commit to pursuing a career in government policy or law, but the panels reassured me that there was a wide range of career paths to take as a political science major,” says Alejandra Castillo ’18, a research assistant at the HWS Center for Teaching and Learning. Castillo is one of 137 students to attend a PLEN seminar since William Smith became a member institution in 2010. This spring the William Smith students included Elizabeth Carlson ’20, Castillo, Caitlin Lasher ’19, Teya Lucyshyn ’19, Ana Mazariegos ’19, Kahiya McDaniels ’19, Guadalupe Mendoza ’18, Linqi Wang ’17 and Swellar Zhuo ’19.
During the seminars, students attend panels that feature women excelling in their chosen path as congressional representatives, aides or policy ambassadors across the globe. Students also have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with these women and PLEN alumnae, developing a network that will help them achieve their professional goals.
“These experiences have transformed their understanding of their academic experiences here on campus and opened doors to careers for them in Washington and beyond,” says William Smith Associate Dean Lisa Kaenzig, who will assume her position as Dean of William Smith on July 1. The chair of the Board of Directors of PLEN, Kaenzig helped bring PLEN to the William Smith campus and attended PLEN seminars when she was an undergraduate student herself. Kaenzig also helps to run the Colleges’ organizational chapter alongside William Smith student leaders. While the chapter is modeled on PLEN ideals and experiences, it is open to all William Smith students, regardless of whether or not they have attended a seminar.
For Carlson, the “Women and Global Policy” seminar highlighted the goals, experiences, and skills that will best prepare her for a career in international relations. “PLEN introduced me to powerful women in careers that I hope to explore in the future. I met students from across the nation who are passionate about the same global policy issues I am,” says Carlson, a member of the Herons’ field hockey team. “PLEN opens your eyes to real-life experiences that you can’t find in the classroom, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in any type of policy.”