Auburn’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity hosted Elect Her, intended to encourage females to run for elected positions. Within the Student Center Sunday evening, women students were provided training and skills for beginning their own campaign.
“This program is to encourage women to run for elected office,” said Bonnie Wilson, the coordinator for the Women in Science and Engineering Institute. “This is the first year we’ve done it here.”
The Elect Her program was presented by Running Start, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization founded in 2007 under the support of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. The goal of Running Start is to encourage more women to run for political office and to prepare them for campaigning.
“We actually called all of the female members of congressional office and found out that over half of them did start their political career in student government whether it was in high school or college,” said Jessica Kelly, the leadership and programs director at Running Start. “Running for student government, you get to sort of test the waters and learn campaigning skills you can use later.”
Elect Her was developed with the help of the American Association of University Women, and events have been held at over 85 different university campuses.
“We had an independent evaluator reach back out to all of our participants in 2016, last year, and of those who ran for office 90 percent of them won their race,” said Kelly. “We’re really seeing some amazing outcomes.”
A playlist full of upbeat and encouraging songs by women artists was played before the event started. Attendees sat around tables and received worksheets to fill out during the presentation.
“I think being able to have an opportunity to learn about leadership and how to run a student organization as a woman and just being able to learn how to be a leader here is something that I’d be interested in,” said Morgan Kull, freshman in political science. “I want to get involved with SGA eventually because I’m a political science and communications major.”
Kull said she is currently involved with Auburn’s Honor’s Congress.
Various speakers gave advice and encouragement to participants of the event. Two of the event speakers were Niki Ozburn, Director of Elections for SGA, and former Miss Homecoming candidate Kayla Warner.
“I think it just helps everybody out just knowing that they have the ability to know that they can run for position,” Warner said. “So many people see people in position but don’t know what goes behind it, so I think that things like this kind of lift that veil, and try to make seem less scary and something that’s definitely doable for everyone.”
Opelika councilwoman Tiffany Gibson-Pitts spoke about her experience of running for an office and gave practical advice on how to campaign.
“Organization is the key or was the key for me being elected,” said Gibson-Pitts. “I was in the pool with three other men of which I beat them.”
Attendees were given opportunities to ask question and voice their ideas and experiences. At 7 p.m., Newk’s was provided to the attendees of the event.
For the final part of the event, participants went to the podium and practiced answering questions they might be asked while running for a student office.
“I wasn’t expecting such a small group, you know, but it ended up being very personal and super beneficial for me,” said Tatum Thompson, sophomore in business. “We learned a lot about ourselves but also campaigns and I think that’s really important.”
At the end, participants shared with each other what impacted them the most.
“We had a really great group,” Kelly said. “We just shared some takeaways at the end, and someone said, ‘I never thought of running for office, but it’s ok to just try,’ which is exactly the outcome we want of people who might have hesitated to run before now having the confidence to do it.”