Getting Wright State women on the ballot

Just in time for Wright State University’s Student Government elections, the Women’s Center and Student Government are reaching out to young women on campus, encouraging them to get their names on the ballot.

The campus organizations will be working with Elect Her—Campus Women Win, a collaboration between American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start: Bringing Young Women to Politics.

With a grant from Elect Her, the Women’s Center and Student Government have organized a day of training for young women interested in running their own campaigns, whether those campaigns are for a campus position, mayor of their city, governor of the state, or someday, even president.

“I just think a lot of women would take the opportunity to run if they felt like they had the skills and the confidence,” says Kelli Paul, vice president of Student Government.

Running for election can be a confusing and sometimes scary process. Confusing and scary enough that Paul thinks many women don’t even consider it. “I consider myself a very outgoing person,” she says, “but even I sort of found the thought of an election to be intimidating because it’s kind of a mysterious process.”

Amber Vlasnik, director of the Women’s Center, says one of the main goals of the Saturday training session is to “demystify the campaign process.” She says speakers will focus on helping “students build their expertise by learning the nuts and bolts of running a student government campaign.” Those nuts and bolts include building a campaign message, mastering self-promotion and communicating with voters.

When organizing the training session, Paul and Vlasnik scheduled it to coincide with Wright State’s Student Government elections. Their hope is that, with the encouragement and education provided by the speakers and by the Elect Her facilitator, young women will participate in the elections en masse, and hopefully win.

The current count of elected women in Student Government is four out of 12 senators. According to Elect Her, in Ohio, only 25% of student body presidents are women. In the United States, 37% of student government presidents are female, and the total percent of women in student government is 47%.

Paul and Vlasnik have put together a roster of speakers for the workshop to both inspire the students and to put them at ease. Vlasnik has been the main point of contact with the Elect Her organization and with local political figures, while Paul has done outreach to fellow students and Student Government officials.

Speakers will include Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley and Elect Her national trainer Nancy Bocskor. Bocskor is on the board for Running Start, and has previously served as a board member of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, and chaired the school’s Curriculum Committee.

Paul and Vlasnik will both speak. Paul will also moderate a panel of current female Student Government officials including Jessica Dotson, associate justice; Marissa Morton, speaker of the house; Jamie Plamondon, college of liberal arts senator; and Brandy Zapata, residential senator.

Students will also participate in hands-on activities, such as a vote-solicitation simulation. “It won’t just be discussion, or lecture-style,” promises Paul. “It’s going to be some group work; it’s going to be some peer-to-peer interaction. I think that’s how the best work gets done.”

The Elect Her training session is free to attend, and lunch will be provided. To register, visit the Women’s Center website and download the registration form. Once completed, the form should be turned in to Student Activities.

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