I’m Running for Secretary of Agriculture …February 11, 2009
On Saturday January 31 at Campaign College: Iowa State Women to Win, 21 students gained the skills to run for student office. Ranging in age from freshman to graduate student, the participants all came with few expectations, but left with a new recognition of how they could be true leaders on campus.
Dianne Bystrom, director of the Catt Center for Women opened the program with a welcome to the students and put in context the status of women in Iowa politics. While 34 women currently hold seats in the Iowa legislature — the highest number in the state’s history — that number has not changed in the past three elections. Iowa’s percentage of women in state legislature ranks 23rd in the nation, and only two states — Iowa and Mississippi — have never elected a female governor, U.S. senator, or U.S. representative.
Maggie Luttrell, vice president of the Government of the Student Body and Campaign College student liaison, was on hand for the event, providing information and insight to the group about her own path to the GSB and about her goal to run for governor of Iowa.
One of the opening speakers, Emily Jensen, recently served as GSB president and conveyed to the students the benefits of being in that elected office that she found. She and her vice president were the first all-women executive ticket to run at Iowa State and win on campus in 50 years. She told the students that it is ok to buck the system, to make sure to mentor other women for leadership positions, to recognize and value their own leadership style, and to realize that being a leader isn’t always easy.
For the luncheon keynote, Becky Greenwald, a 2008 congressional candidate, joined the students. She was able to offer the students a true representation of what it means for a woman to run for political office. She jumped into the race against an incumbent because she believes that Iowa and Congress need to have diverse perspectives in decision-making. She had a successful and invigorating primary, winning more than 50 percent of the vote. Although she lost the race in the end, she articulated how fulfilling it was to be able to listen to Iowa citizens every day and learn running against an incumbent. She traveled the state listening to IA citizens and had the inspiration to keep going when hearing about families’ challenges with health care.
Other speakers included Gail Ferlazzo, associate director of the Union and adviser to the GSB; Annette Hacker, director of News Service; and a panel of students speaking about how they got into their student leadership positions.
To end the day of training, I led the students in our campaign simulation. They each prepared an elevator speech to sell themselves and what they were running for. The young women delivered their pitch to me; their campaigns ranged from running for VP of the GSB to Dance Marathon co-director to GSB senator to Iowa secretary of agriculture. Next, to put their skills to the test, the participants were charged with going out and getting the votes. They had 30 minutes to get as many people as they could to come to our training location to “vote” for them. The young women were calling and texting people, grabbing students in the parking lot and out of laundry rooms. Every participant secured votes, but our Campaign College winner was Madeline Tomka who won her race for Iowa secretary of agriculture.
We are so proud of all of these women for taking the big step of saying they want to be a student leader on their campus. Now we can follow their path and support them with more networking and resources at http://campaigncollege.ning.com/! Next stop for Campaign College is with the Ragin’ Cajuns in March.