Putting Big Words into Big Actions: An SAC Member’s Reflection

July 20, 2013

We caught up with former Student Advisory Council (SAC) member Liz Brown. Liz served on the SAC from 2010–11 while studying political science at the University of Wyoming. She is now completing a double master’s degree at Penn State with hopes of continuing her advocacy work.

You were the student government vice president, the vice president of public relations for your sorority, and a student ambassador for prospective students. Was serving on the SAC the next step toward your career?

Liz Brown AAUW Woman of Distinction Patti Solis Doyle at the University of Maryland.

Liz Brown (left) and AAUW Woman of Distinction Patti Solis Doyle at NCCWSL 2010, when Solis gave the speech that inspired Liz to embrace being a feminist.

Absolutely! I was involved on campus, but I wanted to do something more. I was inspired after attending the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) in 2010.

I heard about the SAC at the conference and saw what they were doing. I thought, that is definitely what I want to do next. This is where I want to be. I distinctly remember seeing one of the Women of Distinction, Patti Solis Doyle, former campaign manager for Hilary Clinton. Her speech was a defining moment for me. I knew I needed to make the next step in my career. The SAC was the perfect fit.

What new skills did you pick up while on the council?

I think it refined my communication and collaboration skills. You only see the other members of the council twice during your term, once at the fall retreat and then again at NCCWSL. If you want to help each other, you have to be able to communicate effectively through e-mail and make the most of monthly conference calls. You definitely want to be on your A-game and have your resources ready and available to contribute in any way possible.

It also gave me a better perspective on leadership, especially women’s leadership. The SAC really opened my eyes to the opportunity of involvement and making this into a career. I’ll be graduating next May, and I really want to continue to work for women’s rights like AAUW, and all that stems from my time on the SAC.

Where will you graduate from?

I’ll be graduating from Penn State with two master’s degrees, one in public administration and the other in higher education and college student affairs. I’m hoping to get a job that deals with advocacy for women’s issues and to come back and work in D.C.

Liz Brown and Mary Robinson, first woman president of Ireland.

Liz Brown (right) and Mary Robinson, first woman president of Ireland and one of Liz’s role models.

What were some of your favorite moments during your year on the SAC?

Some of my fellow council members were big inspirations; I occasionally still talk and catch up with them. I think that a few of us, if we ever wound up in the same place, would be really good friends. I think they were some of the best people I met while in college. The other opportunity I had on the SAC was meeting not only the distinguished women at NCCWSL but also meeting the people who work at AAUW. I remember meeting Holly Kearl and Kate Farrar. When I first met Kate I thought, oh my gosh, that is my dream job. That’s where I want to be in 10 years. [Kate is the director of AAUW’s campus leadership programs.]

Even now I find I’m still following Holly and Kate on social media. I read their blog updates and their comments on issues in the paper; it just feels good to have strong female role models, even if I just met them once or twice. It’s nice to feel like you have that contact.

How did the SAC challenge you professionally and personally?

I think the biggest challenge was where I was from, Wyoming, which is a pretty traditional and conservative state. People there have traditional ideas about gender roles and gender values, which is surprising when you consider that Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote and to elect the a female governor. The challenge I found was that when we completed a conference call, I would be excited and motivated to host a program on campus; however, when I got back to school, there wasn’t really strong support for the issues I cared about. I had a hard time rallying people to the cause and finding like-minded individuals.

So what did you do to get people interested in your programs?

I started with my sorority and slowly but surely gathered some support throughout the campus.

Did working with AAUW help turn past goals into future realities?

I think so. I think my past goal was just trying to make a difference no matter how small. I think that is a goal a lot of us say but do not know how to do, and I think the SAC showed me a concrete path for how to do it.

This post was written by former AAUW College/University Relationships Interns Samantha Lambert and Mabinty Quarshie.

AAUW Intern By:   |   July 20, 2013