For the third year, the Alexandria Campus’ Women’s Center partnered with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start to host “Elect Her” on February 24. Thirty-three female students from all six campuses participated in conversations about their interest in running for Student Government Association (SGA) office and getting involved in politics on a local, state and national level.
Elect Her is the only program that trains college women to run for student government and future political office. This year’s facilitator was She Should Run Executive Director Clare Bresnahan, and the guest speaker was Founder and CEO of ILead Strategies Julie Jakopic. The all-day event also included a panel discussion with current SGA representatives from the Annandale Campus: President Brittany Spivey, Vice President Andrea Luna and Treasurer Alicia Moulder.
Dr. Carolyn Lorente, psychology professor and member of the Women’s Center Board, said Elect Her is one of many reasons why the Women’s Center was established.
“This is what we do in the Women’s Center,” Lorente said. “We build community, and we educate and advocate for women and other minority groups.”
Women’s Center Director Sarah Liberatore emphasized that although it is called the Women’s Center, it is more like a center for gender equality because they provide information, services and resources for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.
Bresnahan arranged small workshops throughout the day to motivate and inform students about running for SGA office and gave them some ideas of how to get involved in politics in the future.
“You don’t have to be Hillary Clinton to run for office. You can be you and run for office,” Bresnahan said. “We can’t wait around for other leaders. You are the leaders our country needs. You’re the leaders we’ve been waiting for.”
During the panel, Spivey, Luna and Moulder discussed running for SGA offices, building a network and becoming comfortable with talking to different people. Bresnahan also discussed working through fears and vulnerability in an effort to run for office and make a difference.
Jakopic, who ran in a five-way primary for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2015, talked to the women about having a message and connecting with people. She encouraged them to be confident, learn something from the experience and have a little fun.
“There’s so much to learn by throwing yourself out there,” Jakopic said. “If you’re smart, you’ll have people around you who believe in you. Even if you don’t win, you get to change the world.”
The AAUW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Running Start is a nonprofit organization that brings young women to politics so they are knowledgeable about the process.
Other organizers for this year’s event included Pat Gordon, Lorente and AAUW Liaison Lane Stone. Lorente also thanked Provost Annette M. Haggray, Liberal Arts Dean Jimmie McClellan and President Scott Ralls for supporting the services and efforts of the Women’s Center.