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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M to host workshop for women leaders

Photo by Provided by Heather Wheeler

Attendees at the 2016 Elect Her workshop sharpened their campaign skills, listened to local speakers and looked at research on women in government.

On Sunday, Jan. 29 Texas A&M will host the “Elect Her: Aggie Women Win” workshop, aimed at training college women to run for student government and setting them up for a future in politics. The workshop is a national effort by the American Association of University Women, and A&M is the only campus in Texas to host it.
Program coordinator Heather Wheeler worked to bring the workshop to A&M in 2013 after noting the low percentages of women involved in student government.
We decided to apply to be a host for the program in the fall of 2013 because the University had not had a female Student Body President in over a decade, and the percentage of women in the Student Senate was in the low 20s, much like in the Texas State Legislature and United States Congress” Wheeler said. “Our hope is that by hosting an event like Elect Her and encouraging women to run for office, these legislative bodies will start to more closely resemble the people who they represent.”
The workshop will include speeches by several women in politics, including Texas Rep. Sarah Davis, founder of the National Executive Youth Leaders Society Chonya Johnson, and the political director of Annie’s List Genevieve Van Cleve.
We have several speakers at Elect Her, but always try to make sure that we have someone who has campaign management experience at the state or national level, a female Texas State Representative, and a panel of women who are in leadership positions on campus. We want our participants to be leave Elect her understanding how to run campaigns both on campus and off,” Wheeler said.
The workshop differs from other leadership based workshops in that it is tailored specifically for women.
“Elect Her is the only national, campus-based program in the country designed to encourage and train women to run for office,” Wheeler said. “I think that one of the things that sets this workshop apart from other workshops is the caliber of speakers we are able to bring in and their experiences running for office or managing campaigns.”
Additionally, the workshop is not only open to undergraduate students. Wheeler said graduate students are also encouraged to attend.
Another focus of the workshop is to help women build connections with other women.
“Our past participants have told us that while they appreciate the information we give them on running for office, their biggest takeaway is the confidence they gain from being with the other participants and speakers who encourage them to run.  Last year, our participants created a Facebook group so that they could keep in touch,” Wheeler said.
The workshop has several notable alumni, including student body president Hannah Wimberly, and sophomore class president Amy Sharp.
“It is critical that women take a seat at the table and represent, not only women’s issues, but all issues our country faces,” Sharp said.
Sharp said she took several things away from last year’s workshop.
“Walking in, I was expecting a long day of sitting and speakers. However, from the time that Ms. Chonya Johnson kicked it off last year until the close of the social mixer, the day flew by. It was incredibly engaging, empowering, and enlightening,” Sharp said.
Her biggest takeaway, however, had nothing to do with campaign strategy or public speaking tips.
“My biggest takeaway was the importance of believing in yourself and your ideas,” Sharp said. “Putting yourself out there is never easy, but if you are confident and passionate, it will shine through.”
At this years Elect Her workshop, Sharp herself will be be presenting a speech.
“It is very humbling to be asked to speak on the Elect Her conference, because it is an event that closely aligns with the things I believe in” Sharp said.
According to management senior Courtney McIlvoy, the workshop’s lessons can also be applied to things outside the realm of student government.
“My biggest takeaway from the workshop was that even if you don’t desire to run for office, you can use similar concepts in any leadership role,” McIlvoy said. “Additionally, I felt empowered to form my own opinions regarding politics and to figure out which issues are most important to me.”
McIlvoy was nominated by a professor and decided to attend despite not having any prior interest in student government.
“My experience at Elect Her was fantastic,” McIlvoy said. “They really encouraged participants to get out of their comfort zones and network with other women our age. It was very cool to meet so many different people who are in different walks of life than me, but still have the common ground of being in leadership positions. I encourage every woman who has any sort of interest in leadership, but especially those who are wanting to become involved in politics, to attend Elect Her.”
Despite placing several women in leadership positions on campus, not everyone agrees with the workshop being tailored just towards women.
“While it’s unfortunate that women are underrepresented in many positions, we need to be careful not to over-represent them. If the workshop teaches an objective way to further one’s leadership, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be about special treatment” chemical engineering junior Sam Simpson said.
The workshop is held annually, and will be hosted at the Memorial Student Center on Jan. 29, from 9:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. Participants are either nominated by fellow students, or apply for admission.

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