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Mount Students Inspired by Training Ms. President Program

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Mount St. Mary’s University senior Aryana McLeod, C’19, now possesses hope that she can become involved in politics after participating in the fourth annual Training Ms. President program, hosted at the Mount November 29-30. The conference, designed for undergraduate women who exhibit leadership characteristics and an interest in pursuing elected office, aims to encourage women to run for political office.

 “This was a really wonderful experience and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of it,” said McLeod, who was among 10 Mount students who were selected to participate in the program along with students from Goucher, Hood and Washington Colleges. “I’m so happy that I was able to listen to so many great and influential women. It gave me hope that I can really be more involved in politics and be a part of the change that I would like to see in our country and in my community.”

The event is conducted in an intimate setting to allow approximately 40 female students nominated by faculty from the four higher education institutions to engage in conversation and network building with presenters and with each other. More than 80 Mount students received nominations and 53 applied. The 10 students selected from this competitive field to participate were Emma Blake, Marie Dickson, Kirsten Hoffman, Rachel Kiefer, Catherine Lynch, Aryana McLeod, Sharon Pham, Taylor Remsburg, Shea Rowell and Caroline Walsh.

Senior Catherine Lynch, an ROTC cadet, appreciated the opportunity to learn about politics so that she can educate her soldiers in the future and encourage them to vote. Senior Shea Rowell felt inspired as she prepares for a service-oriented career.

Along with colleagues at Goucher, Hood and Washington Colleges, the Mount’s Amanda Beal, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Political Science Department and director of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program, and Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., assistant professor of history and director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships, planned the program which provided an opportunity for young women to learn from professional women in politics, campaign management and journalism

The event began with a group dinner and a keynote address by Mary D. Kane, C’84, director of the U.S. Diplomacy Center at the U.S. Department of State and chair of Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees. She shared her journey in politics and offered advice and encouragement to the participants. While Kane did not win her races for Montgomery County Council, state delegate and lieutenant governor, she does not regret her decisions to run for office. “After each election, I got a better job,” said Kane, who urged the students to get involved as volunteers on campaigns, take chances and travel internationally to gain a better perspective on the government system in the United States.

The following day featured two panel discussions followed by small discussion group sessions. Members of Panel One included those who report about politics, including news anchors, communications directors, reporters and campaign managers. They spent time discussing their experiences with politics and the public’s response to their reporting at a time when the news media is increasingly distrusted. They also shared how they got into the news business. The panelists were Shareese Churchill (D), press secretary for the State of Maryland; Danielle Gaines, political reporter for Maryland Matters; Jennifer Gilbert, news anchor for Fox45 Baltimore; Hannah Marr (R), Al Redmer, Jr. for Baltimore County Executive; and Donna Victoria (D), president and founder, Victoria Research and Consulting.

Panel Two featured elected officials including mayors, state legislators and judges. They discussed their elected positions and their campaigning/election experiences as well as encouraged those who would like to potentially run for office in the future. Panelists were Kathy Afzali (R), Maryland House of Delegates, District 4; Kim Bracey (D),  executive director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services and former mayor of York, Pennsylvania; Jessica Fitzwater (D), Frederick County Council, District 4; Aruna Miller (D), Maryland House of Delegates, District 15; Christina Simpson, judge for Adams County Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania; Julie Stevenson Solt, county administrative judge, Frederick County; and Krish O’Mara Vignarajah (D), CEO of Generation Impact, 2018 Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland and former policy director for Michelle Obama. Afzali, Simpson and Solt are Mount alumni.

Training Ms. President is a mentorship opportunity. After the panel discussions and questions from the group at large, students participated in rotating smaller group discussions with each of the panelists to get additional advice and to ask more personal questions. These sessions gave students the chance to build connections in their areas of interest.

If you are a female who sees herself running for office one day or envisions herself interviewing famous politicians or if you simply want to learn more about politics, please consider becoming a part of Training Ms. President 2019. For more information, connect Professors Beal (abeal@msmary.edu) or Gianoutsos (gianoutsos@msmary.edu).