I have an amazing opportunity for you if you are interested. It is short notice but (it is) so good, I had to nominate you. Stephens is a new partner with the Women in Public Service Project. You might have seen it on our website. We have the chance to send one student…to Barnard College next week for the following conference.”
I checked my school inbox the morning of Friday, Sept. 20 and had one new email from my adviser, Susan Bartel. It opened with the above paragraph.
She attached some information and asked me to contact her as soon as I could. If I decided to go, I’d be in the company of women in public service from around the world, including a few women from the U.N. General Assembly taking place elsewhere in the city, at an event hosted by Barnard College in New York. The event, called “A Global Conversation: Why the U.N. Must Focus on Women’s Leadership,” would explore some major issues facing women on the global level and stress the importance of promoting women’s leadership in addressing these issues. And I’d be leaving in five days.
I immediately ran upstairs, walked into her office and sat down with a huge smile on my face. She asked, “Is that a yes?”
Of course it was.
She contacted the vice president’s office, and Luanne Andes, assistant to the president, began making the travel arrangements.
All of the arrangements were made possible by President Lynch’s Magic Moments fund, and I can’t thank her enough for making this opportunity a reality for me.
I left for the trip the following Wednesday. My flight from St. Louis landed at LaGuardia Airport in the afternoon, and I took a shuttle service to my hotel in Manhattan. It took an hour to get from the airport to the hotel, but I enjoyed seeing the city as we snaked our way through traffic.
I stayed at the NYLO hotel on Broadway at 77th Street. It was an adorable boutique hotel with a bed more comfortable than anything I’ve ever slept on in my life.
I’d never been to New York, and I was completely alone. I was, however, lucky enough to get there fairly early in the evening, so I was able to spend a couple of hours exploring the area and gathering my bearings.
The next morning, I went to Barnard College and met the 10 other student delegates for lunch before our day together. It was inspiring to spend the day with other young women who were so ambitious and capable and intelligent. Our interests all varied; one was interested in international teaching, one in continuing her work with the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, one in studying medicine and helping her community in Ethiopia, and another in focusing her future career on women’s rights and the immigration policies in the developing world.
We spent the day in and out of various workshops where we discussed what we considered to be the world’s biggest problems. We analyzed our leadership skills and identified the areas upon which we could improve. We met with and learned from Director of the Women in Public Service Project and the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Wilson Center, Rangita de Silva de Alwis, as well as Farah Pandith, first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the U.S. Department of State.
Then around 6:30 p.m., Barnard and the WPSP welcomed opening speaker Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and keynote speaker former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clarke of the U.N. Development Program. The panel discussion followed, featuring Wafa Taher Bugaighis, Deputy Foreign Minister of Libya, Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of U.N. Women, Melanne Verveer, Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, and Kimberly Marten, professor of political science at Barnard College. Discussion topics varied, but the focus remained on the importance of women’s leadership in the global community and ways to promote that leadership. The “global conversation” ended with closing remarks by de Silva de Alwis.
Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience.
Since I’ve returned, everyone has asked me how the trip was. What did I learn? What were my biggest takeaways?
Honestly, my biggest takeaway was the reassurance that the goals I’ve set for myself and the aspirations I have for my future career are exactly what I’m meant to do. It was the knowledge that this profession, that public service, is an honorable and worthwhile profession. It was the validation of the importance of women and women’s issues, both in the United States and internationally. And it was the confidence that I can and will make a difference, however grand or small, in the lives of women and girls in my community.
Story by junior Nickie Bartels