Appalachian State University’s Student Government Association and the Department of Government and Justice Studies are partnering up with the organization Running Start to put together a free training program called Elect Her.
The event is set to take place on Feb. 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Price Lake Ballroom of the Plemmons Student Union, but the location is subject to change.
The workshop will focus on training students and members of the community, particularly women, to run for more student government opportunities on their college campuses.
During the three-hour workshop, participants can expect to craft their own elevator speeches, experience what it is like to form their own campaigns with an immersive simulation and construct the issues that they hope to run on.
Special guests Anderson Clayton, the university’s student body president, and North Carolina State Senator Deanna Ballard will be talking about their experiences running for office.
Although the event is geared toward educating women on the importance of running for political office on campus, the Department of Government and Justice Studies hopes that everyone, regardless of their identification, will come to the event.
“We think that it’s not only important for women to get involved but for young people in general,” Ellen Key, an assistant professor of political science, said. “Descriptive representation is important. Seeing people like you in government, it affects trust and and also people’s ambitions to run for office.”
The organization sponsoring the event, Running Start, was founded by a political action committee designed to raise money for women under 40 and encourage them to run for political office. By registering for the event, participants will be included in the Running Start online network, which gives entry to opportunities and access to mentors that will allow students to have a competitive edge when applying for internships.
The department chair of the Government and Justice Studies department, Phillip Ardoin, said he hopes that those who attend the event will garner skills that will encourage them to pursue a future in public office.
“What does it take to wipe away the fear?” Ardoin said. “We are hoping that the students who attend this workshop will say ‘you know what, I can do this.’”
Running Start sees the root of the issue, the lack of encouragement for women to aspire for political office, that is inhibiting women from becoming more politically engaged. Despite the large amount of women on college campuses, the organization confronts the disparagingly low number of women in student government.
Clayton, who will be speaking at the event, will share stories about her experience as the only female running for student body president during her election season. She will also discuss what it means to be a woman in politics as well as the importance of having diverse representation in many levels of government.
Before running, Clayton said she had aspirations of joining the Student Government Association since her freshman year. However, while she was running, Clayton was accused of not being mentally stable by some of her opponents.
“When I said that I was going to put 110 percent into it, that’s what I did,” Clayton said.
Questions such as these are not out of the ordinary in instances where women are running against men for public office. Clayton was often told by Alan Lee, Vice President of the Student Association, that if she were a man in her position, no one would question her ability.
“It was weird hearing that coming from a man,” Clayton said.
While Clayton was running for student office, she was asked how she would represent issues that do not necessarily affect her directly; sexual assault was one of these issues.
“For me, that’s what brought it forward. I needed to be in that room to talk about those issues. It’s a woman’s issue, and it’s something you need a woman’s voice on,” Clayton said.
For those who are on the fence about coming to the event, Clayton simply suggested to “get off it.”
Clayton said she eventually came to the realization of why women are less likely to take office. This disparity is due to the lack of support women recieve from a young age.
“Whereas men are never told that they cannot do something, they are always encouraged to do more than women,” Clayton said. “ I want people to see that women can. That is why this training is so important, because a lot of times women aren’t encouraged like that. This is that opportunity.”
Story by: Savannah Nguyen, A&E Reporter
Photos Courtesy of: Phillip Ardoin and Appalachian State University Student Government Association
Featured Photo Caption: Elect Her is a program that trains college women to have more of a representation in leadership roles and to run for student government.