Allegheny Students Attend Annual “Ready to Run” Campaign Training Event
Allegheny College students Veronica Blair, Emma Godel and Aubrey Hall participated in Ready to Run Pittsburgh, a nonpartisan training program to encourage women to seek government leadership positions, at Chatham University in February.
Hall, at the request of the Office of College Relations, provided the following personal reflection on the experience:
It was 6 o’clock in the morning and still dark outside on when two other students and I piled into a school-sponsored van headed toward Chatham University. We had been recommended by our advisors to attend the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics’ annual campaign training event for women. The center’s executive director at Chatham, Dana Brown, graduated from Allegheny in 2000 and was a visiting associate professor of political science for the 2009–10 school year. In that respect, Allegheny has a special relationship to the Ready to Run program in particular, having sent students to Chatham for the conference in years past as well.
Upon arriving at Chatham, the three of us entered a room largely made up of women much older than us (though several students from Chatham were in attendance). Brown introduced the keynote speaker and spoke broadly about the so-called “pink wave,” the importance of political participation among women, and numbers that still have not been brought to parity between men and women. The opening address was given by Celinda Lake, a prominent pollster who’s done work for such congressional figures as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Lake touched on the unique challenges and double standards faced by female candidates for office, as well as the specific characteristics that make female candidates marketable.
After the address, attendees were divided into two tracks: one designed for women already in the process of developing a campaign plan and another designed for women deciding whether or not to run for an elected office. Being that neither Godel, Blair, or I had any intention of running a campaign in the next year or so, we all opted to undertake the “Getting Started” track. The first component was a presentation by Dana Brown on the key components involved in deciding the right time to run a campaign and the intricacies of different kinds of elected positions. The second component was a panel offering words of wisdom about community engagement, occupied by Councilwoman Fawn Walker-Montgomery of McKeesport, Councilwoman Anita Prizio of Allegheny County, Mayor Melanie Halcomb of Ben Avon, and State Representative Lori Mizgorski.
In between speakers, not only did we have the opportunity to listen to professional women in the fields of campaign finance and communications, but were also able to network with women all around the state who are planning campaigns for the coming election cycle. The conference was impactful not because the candidates at the event were high profile; on the contrary, most were running for lower-profile local offices. We met women running for school board positions, judgeships, and city council positions. None of these were women in search of power, but rather women intent on bringing the lessons from the conference back to their communities. That was something that each Allegheny attendee, at the end of the conference, pledged to do as well.