Ten female students from the Mount attended Training Ms. President at Hood College last week along with Dr. Amanda Beal and Dr. Jamie Gianoutsos. Training Ms. President is a two-day workshop that aims to connect undergraduate students who are civically minded, passionate about politics and policy, and interested in advocacy work with all female media correspondents, political consultants, and politicians.
Established in 2015 by Washington and Goucher College, the program now includes Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University. The four schools all belong to MICUA, the Maryland Independent College and University Association. Beal, the head of the Training Ms. President committee, explained that women are less likely to think about running for office because there are a limited number of women in office to act as role models. Beal explained that the program “tries to close the ambition gap” and give female students the chance to connect with positive female role models in government.
Beal explained that closing this ambition gap is important because women make up over 50% of the population, but less than 20% have seats in political positions. Women hold 21% of the seats in the Senate, less than 20% in the House of Representatives, 6 governorship positions, and 24% of state-wide elective offices.
10 of the best students in terms of criteria (leadership qualities, civically minded women) are selected from each of the four colleges. In order to be chosen at the Mount, female students had to be nominated by their professors, and were then asked to fill out an application.
In addition to Beal and Gianoutsos, the Training Ms. President Committee included Col. Donna Brazil, Pauline Englestatter, and Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau. Finalist candidates were interviewed by Beal and Gianoutsos and then 10 young women were selected.
The young women chosen from the Mount to attend the workshop were: Danielle Beauchamp, Taylor Blevins, Abigail Cottrill, Maria Duvall, Phoebe Gersten, Alexandra Johnson, Hannah Opdenaker, Julia Reilly-Edwards, Courtney Twigg, and Sara Wright.
Beal explained, “We could’ve taken 15-18 students who were really appropriate for the workshop in terms of leadership qualities and interest in running for office” which makes her pretty excited for the pool of candidates for the next couple of years.
Finalist candidates who were not selected to participate this year will be able to re-apply next year without having to be nominated again.
The workshop began on Thursday evening with a dinner and keynote address from Jan Gardner, a Frederick County Executive. The students then watching a video about running for office called, “Next Step Run!” Gardner encouraged the students by touching on two main points. The first was that “Leadership is fundamentally about being brave,” and the second was “friends will come and go, but enemies will accumulate,” so it is important to hold steadfast in what you believe in, and do so while being courageous and courteous.
Friday consisted of two panels. The first, titled “How to Run,” included women who were media correspondents or political consultants. They discussed topics such as fundraising, social media and involvement in advocacy work.
The second panel included six politicians (all female) and was called “Decision to Run.” The panel consisted of Jessica Fitzwater, Frederick County Council, District 4 (D); Terry Hill, Maryland State Delegate, District 12 (D); April Rose, Maryland State Delegate, District 5 (R); Kelly Schulz, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (R); Kathy Szelgia, Maryland State Delegate, District 7 (R); and Karen Lewis Young, Maryland State Delegate, District 3A (D).
After each panel, there were breakout sessions and small groups of students had the chance to talk with every panelist. Dani Beauchamp, said, “My favorite part was the breakout sessions where we were able to interact with each woman directly and share our experiences with them. I also really liked getting speak with students from Hood, Goucher, and Washington college to hear their experiences and interests.”
In between the two panels the students had the opportunity to have lunch and talk with local and state politicians.
Alex Johnson included, “my favorite part of the program was having the opportunity to meet with Maryland Delegates and speak with them personally about their experiences running for public office and what motivated them to become involved in politics.”
In reflection about the workshop, Beal identified two significant outcomes. One was “the 10 students know that they have support and encouragement to continue in politics and think about running for office. In addition, Beal said, “their professors and representatives also support them. [The representatives] not only serve as role models but want to encourage them to take the next steps in public office.
The second outcome was, “these 10 young women not only met panelists, but met each other and met 30 other young women from three schools who are all interested in politics. It is encouraging to see people your own age who have similar interest areas. It is really good for their [the students’] futures.”
Beauchamp resonated with that outcome as well. She concluded, “It was great to get to know fellow women from the Mount to learn their passions and their interests. Maria Duvall and I both share a passion in human trafficking and prison reform and I never would have know that because I never had met her. Additionally, it was really interesting being in an all women space. The opportunity to be in such in a collaborative and supportive environment with women all pursuing the same goal was something I’m glad I was able to experience.”
Beal was happy to announce that next year, Mount St. Mary’s will be hosting the Training Ms. President program. This will bring 7 politicians and 6 political correspondents and consultants to campus, and again the Mount will select 10 students to participate that will contribute to the 40-50 female students total who will benefit from the workshop. The planning for next year has already started, and Beal hopes that some of the panelists for next year may be female Mount alums who have held political office.