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Toni J.

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Review for Public Leadership Education Network PLEN, Washington, DC, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I spent the week of March 18-22 in Washington, D.C. attending a week long educational program, Women and Congress, consisting of a series of seminars sponsored by the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN). It was an enlightening and invigorating experience.
PLEN is a national organization dedicated to preparing women for leadership in the public policy arena ( But don't let that switch off your interest! The primary goal of PLEN is to ensure that college women have the professional skills, connections, and knowledge needed to launch their careers upon graduation ( This they accomplished in spades! During the week long program we were exposed to a variety of political leadership careers and given advice on how to become leaders ourselves. We met with female Congressional and Executive Branch leaders, their staff, and other policy oriented professionals. Several of the speakers were previous PLEN participants and all were engaged, enthusiastic, and supportive. I never felt so encouraged! I wish there had been a program like this when I was in my early twenties; it would have changed my life's path.
The speakers were dynamic and varied, as were the topics. We heard presentations on how congress really works, careers in energy, environment and transportation policy, healthcare implementation policy, congressional rules, advocating for immigration policy reform, nat’l. & homeland security policy, how congress affects women globally, women’s leadership in congress, careers on the campaign trail, finding the right job and landing it, and DC business etiquette. We met with Representative Virginia Foxx (NC-05), Michelle Altman (Health-care Implementation), Meghan Taira (Leg.Assist. to Senator Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Butterfield (Special Council, Immigration policy reform), Michele Jawando (Gen'l. Council, Senator Gilibrand (D-NY)), Susan Scanlan (Chair, Nat'l. Council on Women Org. and President, Women's Research and Education Institute), Melissa Feld (Mgr., PAC & Political Affairs, Gen'l Motors Co.), and many, many more. We participated in advocacy training, a lobby day, a goal setting workshop, a resume workshop, a visit to the Democratic/Republican National Committee (your choice), and an evening networking reception. We arranged meetings with our members of congress and observed Senate/House hearing(s). Free time (though there was little of it) was spent sightseeing in our nation's capitol.
While most of the participants were in their twenties, there were several of us who were age thirty and above (I am 56). There were probably as many different reasons for attending as there were attendees. However, we all gained valuable insight, instruction, ideas, and contacts to further each of our goals. One of the caveats that we were given was this: "As with any experience in life, you get out of it what you put into it."
I came away from the experience feeling empowered and excited. I had personally spoken with three of the speakers in the field I was interested in, exchanged business cards and made plans for further meetings. Every young (or not so young) woman should participate in this kind of experience to prepare for entry into the workforce. An immersion in a female focused business environment like this is so beneficial that I think it should be required for every female college student. The experience of being surrounded by like-minded, intelligent, and engaged women is worth the cost of the program. For those traveling from other states, discounted hotel accommodations were arranged by the PLEN at the Carlysle Hotel at a very reasonable rate.
Washington DC has its own energy and pulse; the people who work there are like no other. Just being in the environment was invigorating. You should do it, even if you think you don't have the time. It is so worth it.

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