Seven Allegheny College students explored what it takes to pursue careers in public service by participating in Ready to Run Pittsburgh, a bipartisan training program to encourage women to seek government leadership positions.
The students attended the Feb. 4 workshop through financial support from the College’s Career Education office and Jennifer Daurora, a 1999 Allegheny graduate who serves on the College’s Board of Trustees. “There are not nearly enough women in politics in both parties,” she said. And when Daurora learned that Chatham University would be hosting Ready to Run, she saw an opportunity to help Allegheny students take part.
Allegheny senior Amy Currul, of Boston, said she has dreamed of running for elected office one day, and she already has been involved in local politics. Currul said Ready to Run gave her more insight into running as a candidate and working on an election — and the time and dedication both require.
“The event also fell on my birthday, so what better way to turn 22 than to learn about running for office with other cool women,” said Currul, a double major in communication arts and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
Ready to Run included presentations by women who have held government office at several different levels, from municipal to federal, said Leah Franzluebbers, a junior environmental science and political science double major from Wethersfield, Connecticut.
“They acknowledged the barriers to women in politics still entrenched in our society but offered optimism and determination in response,” said Franzluebbers, who also in minoring in German. “They offered their advice about the practical difficulties of running for office in the hopes of elevating a similarly hardworking group of women to equal, and further, public offices.”
It was humbling to hear from so many women who had taken on important roles in government, said Maureen Hossler, a junior political science major with a minor in Middle East and North African studies. Hossler, of Smyrna, Delaware, said the results of the 2016 presidential election inspired her to participate in Ready to Run.
The election, along with a passion for politics, also motivated first-year student Kelsey Evans to attend the workshop. “I learned the exact details of what has to be done to get your name on a ballot and how it is truly possible for anyone to achieve, as long as they put in the work,” said Evans, of Plum, Pennsylvania.
For economics major Sarah Donohue, Ready to Run was a chance to learn valuable professional skills that she said would be useful not only in politics but in any career. The junior from Buffalo, New York, also said she enjoyed connecting with the community of supportive women in politics. “I am trying to branch out and see what is out there,” said Donohue, who is double minoring in political science and community and justice studies.
Programs like Ready to Run, Daurora explained, also support Allegheny’s commitment to encouraging students to understand the importance of civility in the political process. In 2012, the College established the Prize for Civility in Public Life, awarded annually to political figures who argue passionately but respectfully for their beliefs. In 2014, the prize honored the “Women of the Senate” — the 20 U.S. senators who banded together to help end the 2013 government shutdown.
Daurora looks forward to continuing to spark Allegheny students’ interest in public service. “I’m hoping that these experiences inspire students and help them feel empowered to become more involved in the political process,” Daurora said, “whether or not they ultimately choose to run for office.”
In particular, she hopes fellow alumni will join her in funding students to attend next year’s Ready to Run program as well as the National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership Pennsylvania program this summer. The weeklong NEW institute is designed to educate and empower young women for future political participation and leadership.
For more information about making a gift of any size to help students participate in these programs, contact Sueann Kaster Mercier in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at (814) 332-2991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured, from left, are Ready to Run participants Kelsey Evans, Emily Scanlon, Leah Franzluebbers and Amy Currul. Missing from the photo are Sarah Donohue, Maureen Hossler and Audrey Serguievski.