By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
This year marks the second time the Elect Her – Campus Women Win program will provide female UTC students the tools they need to be competitive in student government elections. Elect Her trains college women to run effective campaigns for student government and future office. It is the only nationwide program of its kind. This year’s theme is “ROAR! You will hear her!”
“I think we offer a lot of different leadership opportunities here on campus, but not many that are targeted specifically towards women and I think we see females struggling to recognize themselves as leaders. This gives them tools to be better leaders and it helps give them the confidence to recognize, ‘Hey, you know, I am a leader. I never recognized myself as one, but look at all these things I’m doing and all these things I have done.’ It gives them the confidence that will help them not only in running for these leadership positions, but if they’re starting to think about internships and jobs, it will give them the confidence as they go and start to market themselves there as well,” says Cassie Nice, assistant Director of the UTC Women’s Center.
The training addresses the disparity between the high percentage of women in colleges and universities and their low percentage in student governments. UTC is no exception — more than half the student body is female, but this isn’t reflected in student government. However, research has shown that women who run for student body elections in college are more likely to run for office as adults.
“Elect Her really wants women to run for student government. That is their ultimate goal. So I did, along with four other individuals in the program. We ran together. I was really excited that they felt like they could do it, because they were freshmen,” says Kyndall Sherrell, a 2013 Elect Her participant who is now the Social Issues Equity and Diversity Chair for the SGA. “I won my seat and I actually got the most votes in my college, over 300 people. I think I did Elect Her proud by running and being successful.”
Elect Her is a day-long, five-hour training workshop that encourages college women to run for student government on their college or university campuses. Campus administrators, students, and local AAUW members collaborate with AAUW and Running Start staff to plan the trainings each year. Participants engage in hands-on campaign skills, hear from inspiring local speakers, and discuss research on women in government.
“The goal is to get them to run for student government association. This program gives them the tools that will help build their confidence in their leadership abilities and also give them some strategies for campaigning,” says Nice.
Last year, Robin Derryberry, of Derryberry Public Relations, spoke as the communications expert, and Pam Ladd, former City Council Chairperson, spoke as the elected female official. Women currently in SGA also talked about their experiences.
The program was very successful last year, with many applicants looking forward to participating.
“Our University had an overwhelming response of women who wanted to participate, and we actually had to ask for more funding. It’s a very exciting event,” says Meghan Smith, a member of the UTC Elect Her Committee who helped to bring the program to UTC.
There were so many women that wanted to help that an Elect Her Planning Committee was established.
“We reached out to everyone who did it last year and the theme that you see this year and all the materials going out have been created by the students who went through it last year,” says Nice.
Running Start officially launched Elect Her: Campus Women Win in the spring of 2010, in collaboration with American Association of University Women (AAUW). Last year, UTC became the first institution in the state to be awarded the “Elect her” grant, one of only 39 campuses across the United States. The grant that UTC received for Elect Her is a recurrent grant, so as long as Elect Her exists and as long as interest in the program persists, Elect Her will be an annual program at our University.
Even those students who are not interested in running for SGA are encouraged to apply.
“We encourage anyone to run for it, even if they’re not interested in running for student government, because it provides great leadership training and they have the opportunity to hear from different female speakers from the community,” says Nice.
Madeline Homrich, a 2013 Elect Her participant, found that the program helped develop her confidence for future job interviews.
“This whole program has given me an idea of how to promote myself so that companies really want to hire me but not sound cocky or boastful, just sound really genuine, highlighting my personal skills and attributes and what I can bring to a future company,” says Homrich.
The program is open to any female UTC students of any level, from freshmen to graduate students. Applications are open until November 22 and are available on the Women’s Center website.
“Apply! We need this program to stay and more women to get empowered,” says Sherrell.
APPLY ONLINE NOW! The deadline for application is Friday, November 22 at midnight. Visit http://www.utc.edu/womens-center/