Discovering a New Path

Caitlyn Keeve Senior, Psychology Major, Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles

June 25, 2019

At the end of my senior year in high school, I was convinced that I was going to college to become the next Barbara Walters or Gayle King. At the time, I was the editor of the school newspaper and had my heart set on a career in journalism. With every interview and investigative article, I strengthened my writing, I knew my skill set, and I was sharing the stories of my community with every publication. I had it all figured out. Then I went to college. It took one psychology course for me to change my major and pivot into the study of the human mind. It turns out that exploring what motivates people to make decisions is inherently investigative. Identifying the phenomena that keep us all connected allowed me to follow the story behind the science and engage with everyday real people. It was first with the Leadership Scholar Program through the Women’s Leadership and Student Involvement Office that I was encouraged to practice public speaking, networking, and use my experiences to serve and uplift others.

The Public Leadership Education Network’s week-long Women in Global Policy seminar was the perfect marriage of my interests in people, why we do what we do, and how our choices play out on the world stage. Before attending PLEN, like most people I thought the only careers for young people in Washington D.C. were on Capitol Hill. Soon after the seminar’s first panel discussion, I quickly discovered that the nature of policy work requires every kind of person at the table. The seminar was a time to recognize the different backgrounds of the speakers and see where their strengths helped them in their careers and in life.

In college, I’ve centered my research around women’s empowerment and work to engage students in gender equity initiatives through the Center for the Advancement of Women. Every semester I create new ways to get students excited about women leaders and research through innovative programming and social media. PLEN taught me how to draw connections between my own interests and other social justice issues like food scarcity, immigration, and the environment. Because I care about women’s participation in the global economy and their sustained access to education, I now know that our interdependence is why we work for the future. I was ready to receive the resources that the Washington D.C. seminar had to offer because of my participation in the 2018-2019 MSMU Votes campaign. Often as a college student, politics can feel separate from the lives that the policies are trying to improve. Through the MSMU Votes campaign, I was able to partner with Biology and English majors to increase voter registration and civic engagement on campus. Fostering bipartisanship and lifetime friendships were just two rewards that came out of a student-led dialogue about our place in local and global affairs.

Echoed at PLEN was the sentiment that we need all passions and every person to make the world better. Being surrounded by powerful and dynamic women every day of the seminar was a reminder to always operate with a daring spirit and an intention to learn something new. The atmosphere that PLEN created felt familiar and compelling because their mission to empower young women to ask questions and expose us to incredible possibilities were exactly the reasons why I chose to attend Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles. The Leadership Scholar Program and my work with the Center for the Advancement of Women were critical to my early discovery of active citizenship and the importance of self-advocacy.  Because of all these programs, higher education today is teaching young women to be prepared and always come to play.

Hearing from a wide range of women, some with PhDs and some with over 20 years of experience abroad was extremely motivating. Their lives prove that there is no one path to success because, in every career, genuine service is the bottom line. I plan to take this lesson and use my experience to serve as a leader at my university and in my community. This “one-step-in-front-of-the-other philosophy” is assurance that I do not have to wait until I have a title or a twenty-year career to make real change. PLEN taught me to trust the process and equipped me with the tools I need to build the career I aspire to achieve.

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