Students Attend Week-Long Leadership Conference for Women
August 23, 2017
by Elise Goitia '18
Karen Armendaríz '18 and Sofia Tagkaloglou '18 attended the Network of Executive Women (NEW) Leadership Illinois 2017 conference, where they participated in panels, met legislators, attended career workshops, and tested their public speaking skills—all through a program focused on women.
The NEW Leadership Illinois 2017 conference aims to increase women's representation in all elements of public life, including elected office. Panelists and organizers covered areas like leadership education, political savvy, and policy skills. Women leaders from the state, including Illinois legislators, served as mentors in the program.
"There was a lot of value both in their advice and the positions we were put in," commented Tagkaloglou. "Meeting these powerful women from different political sides was an excellent exercise in compassion and understanding."
Tagkaloglou said that the experience taught her to go with her convictions.
"This has made me recognize that there's a place for my activism, and it's not always in the political system," she added. "This program was eye-opening. It made me realize that I'm a facilitator, with focused goals where I collaborate with people directly."
The attendees' "big task" was to work in a team of five people to create a fact sheet for a specific piece of legislation dealing with school choice and a school voucher pilot program. At the end of the week, each team shared a fact sheet with a panel of Illinois state lawmakers, and students participated in a mock legislative hearing to express support or opposition toward the bill.
Pictured above: Tagkaloglou, center, and the members of her team. Pictured below: Tagkaloglou with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
"I honestly loved working on this project," said Armendaríz. "Our group represented a stance that I don't personally agree with, but it was a good learning experience. I also got to meet the attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who I've really admired for a while."
Armendaríz noted that as a woman of color, the conference taught her that more women, especially women from diverse backgrounds, are needed in the public affairs field.
"The young women that were picked for this conference were a very diverse group. This resulted in interesting and eye-opening conversations that brought the participants together," said Armendariz.
"My responsibility is to be vocal about the struggle we face and the obstacles in getting to our academic or professional goals. We need to be supportive of all women," she added.
The conference was a non-partisan week-long residential program, where applicants had to have rising junior or senior standing, or recent graduate status. Students had to pay only for their transportation, since housing and food were included in the program.
"As far opportunities go, I thought it was pretty incredible," said Tagkaloglou. "Everything I've been studying at Knox has been at the intersection of social, political, and economic justice. I was predisposed to seek out opportunities like this because of Knox."