Monday, August 26, 2013

Young Women Gave Us the Right to Vote

Women's Suffrage Monument in the Rotunda 

Ninety-three years ago today, women in American finally won the right to vote.  On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law and declared "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."  To date, the Equal Rights Amendment has not passed, so the Nineteenth Amendment is the only Constitutional protection explicitly including the term "sex."

The fight for women's right to vote began in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention.  However, it took 72 years of activism to successfully achieve suffrage.  Young women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns carried the torch that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony first lit.

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were American students who met in London while protesting with the Pankhursts, Britain's suffrage movement.  They were inspired by the militant tactics of the Pankhursts which included mass public protesting.  Upon returning to the United States, they joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  NAWSA was using traditional lobbying methods to advocate for suffrage.  Alice and Lucy thought these strategies were ineffective, so split and formed the National Woman's Party (NWP).

If you pass by the White House today, seeing protestors in front of it is a common sight.  However, the first political organization in the United States to picket the White House was the NWP, founded by young Alice Paul.  The NWP still exists today and you can become a member!

The women picketing the White House used nonviolence, and stood for hours in the cold, well dressed, holding banners with political messages.  At first President Wilson tolerated them, but not once the nation moved into World War I. Alice, Lucy, and the young women leaders of the NWP decided to still picket even through the country was at war.  Not much later, the suffragists were arrested on the bogus grounds of obstructing traffic.

The women were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse where they were treated poorly as common criminals.  The prisoners, including Alice and Lucy, went on extended hunger strikes.  They were violently force fed, with tubes painfully shoved down their throats.  Once the public learned of this brutality, Wilson had no choice but to support suffrage.  While not entirely historically accurate, a recommended film to learn more about this is Iron Jawed Angels featuring Hillary Swank.  You can also visit the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum in DC or the Alice Paul Institute in New Jersey to learn more about Alice Paul.

Thanks to the sacrifice of young women activists such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, YOU can vote! Women in America have only been able to vote for less than 100 years, so use your right and vote in all elections, from municipal to presidential.  Women voters make or break candidates.  In every presidential election since 1980, a gender gap has been apparent.  In 2012, women voters favored the successful candidate Barack Obama ten percentage points over Mitt Romney.  Women in the United States are 51% of the population, 53% of voters, but hold less than 20% of elected offices in America.  Let's change those statistics.

Alice Paul was 35 years old when the Nineteenth Amendment passed.  Alice and Lucy are role models to show us you do not need to wait until you finish school or have decades of experience to start changing your country and the world.  The fight for women's equality is not complete.  What torch will our generation carry?  The movement begins today!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

So You Want to Be an Adjunct Professor?

Last year, I had the great honor to become an adjunct professor at American University and Trinity Washington University.  This semester, I am excited to teach "Gender, Power, and Politics" at American University and "Women and Leadership" at Trinity Washington University.  So what exactly is an adjunct professor and how do you become one? 

From an undergraduate student's perspective, they generally don't know the difference between full time or adjunct faculty members.  Basically, an adjunct professor is a part-time professor who is not on the tenure track.  You don't necessarily have to have a PhD. You are hired to teach a certain class for one semester, and are not necessarily guaranteed future employment. You generally do not receive benefits and most adjuncts are paid less than $5,000 per class.  For all the hours you spend teaching, grading, planning, and doing office hours, this is a job you do for the love of it rather than for money.  However, the adjuncts at American University recently unionized, so I am excited to learn more about the potential professional development opportunities and pay increases I can receive.  As universities and colleges nationwide are experiencing budget cuts, more and more school are hiring adjuncts, so more teaching opportunities exist for your taking.

Know What You Want

As with anything in life, I strongly believe in the power of knowing what you want far in advance of it actually happening.  For many of life's great accomplishments, you must dream your dream for many years, and take baby steps along the way to build your path. For example, in graduate school, I always knew I eventually wanted to teach, and participated in my school's Preparing Future Faculty program.

Know the Right People

I knew that many Washington, DC schools had adjunct opportunities, but I just didn't know how to connect to them, and thought I had to wait until I was older with more experience. However, one day I randomly received an email from a friend who used to teach saying her school needed someone last minute.  I asked if you needed a PhD, or just a master's.  She said all you needed was a master's degree.  She recommended me, I quickly interviewed, my experience spoke for itself, and I was hired.

My other teaching opportunity randomly came through LinkedIn.  A professor I did not know invited me to speak to her class.  The students ranked me as their favorite guest speaker that semester.  The professor and I began a professional relationship, and she gave me free executive coaching.  When she was thinking about creating a new class, she invited me to apply to teach it.

All of my friends who are adjuncts all knew someone where they applied, and did not apply cold.  The chair of a department generally does the hiring, so they are the right people to know.  If you are not yet connected to an academic community, create those relationships now.  Go to events on campus.  Offer to be a guest speaker.  Meet with professors for informational interviews.  Introduce yourself to department chairs months before the semester starts and suggest classes you can teach.

Also know that many adjunct opportunities arise right before a semester starts.  Look through the schedule of classes.  If a class does not have a professor's name attached to it, they are probably still looking for someone to teach it.

Know Your Stuff

So in addition to knowing what you want and knowing the right people, to be an adjunct, you have to know your stuff!  You really need to be an expert in your field.  You generally have a have a relevant graduate degree.  I have an M.A. in Applied Women's Studies.  Prior teaching experience or working with students is valued.  Publications definitely help.  As academia begins to value scholar practitioners more and more, having significant professional experience and demonstrated leadership in your field is important.

Own your expertise! I became an adjunct professor when I was 28.  You don't have to wait until you have decades of work experience to become an adjunct professor.  While it is a demanding job, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions.  Higher education needs more committed people wanting to teach!

More information about adjunct professors

Follow the adventures of my friend Michael Rodriguez as he follows his passion to teach architecture in Guatemala- Arch Abroad

Adjunct Project 

Adjunct Nation

Adjunct Professor Online

Friday, August 9, 2013

How Do You Decide?

How do you effectively make decisions?  What new approaches are you willing to try to better make decisions?  How has the way you make decisions changed from when you were 21 to 29?  Do you make personal decisions the same way you make professional choices? 
How does Hillary Clinton decide if she wants to run for president?  That's a tough one, good luck Hillary!  I do hope she will run! I do hope you will decide to keep reading please!

I believe one of the most important things to a happy and successful life is to know where you want to be going.  You've got to know what you want, in a clear way you can visualize it so you can then take actions to make that possibility your reality.  So how do you decide what you want?  Below are some strategies I have tried, some more effectively than others.

1) Know your strengths and weaknesses and how they impact your decision making style.

One of my favorite books is Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  You actually need to buy the book rather than borrow it from a library because you need a special code to take a strengths finders assessment online.  You then read the book based on those test results.  At the end of each chapter, you learn how your different skills manifest in your interactions with others, and how they influence your decision making habits.

2) Seek out the opinions of mentors and your kitchen cabinet of close advisers.

If you are exploring a new path, seek out the advice of those established in those areas.  Go on informational interviews with many different people. Work with a career or life coach.  Also, gauge the opinions of people from different communities in your life such as your friends, family, colleagues, mentors, etc.  However, set a limit for yourself on how many opinions you will consider.  Ultimately, you need to make this decision for yourself and not be too influenced by what others think.

3) Make a list of the pros and cons of not making a certain decision.

My girlfriend who is an architect recently told me a best practice she learned from one of her professors.  Usually when we make a pros and cons list of our potential decision, we generally only list the pros and cons of making that decision.  However, we can also consider the pros and cons of not making that decision.  Her professor taught her that is the best way to prove her design was the most effective choice.  

4) Retreat and reflect.

Spend time alone to sit with and process your thoughts and feelings.  Meditate.  Spend time in nature.  Go on a retreat.  I am really excited to do my first silent retreat next week at the Omega Institute.  I'll let you know what I discover soon! 

5) Find examples of what you definitely do not want.

On the path to figuring out what we really want, learning what you really do not want can help us figure out what it is we really do want.  Even if you have a bad experience, take it as a learning opportunity to clarify what really makes you happy.  

6) Recognize how you are influenced by societal expectations, and choose how much value you place on those.

I'm about to turn 30, so I should be financially stable, have finished my education, be buying a home, be getting married, etc.  Watch for your use of the word "should."  Why do you think you should be at a certain place right now?  Is that coming from what your parents  think you should do?  Is that coming from your religious background?  Is that coming from peer pressure or the need to keep up with your peers?  Reflect on where this influence is coming from and how important that really is to you.

At the end of the day, only you can create your life, and make whatever decision is right for you.  Trust yourself! I support your path of decision making!  Please share your journey with us by commenting below.

Friday, August 2, 2013

So You Want to Be an Executive Director?

When I first came to Washington, DC almost six years ago, my career goal was to become the executive director (ED) of a nonprofit.  At the age of 26 my dream came true, and I became the ED of Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN).  PLEN is a small nonprofit that trains college women for careers in public policy. So if you have career ambitions to become an ED in the future, what can you be doing now?

While nonprofits will definitely hire EDs who come from the private sector or government, a past history of working for nonprofits demonstrates your commitment to the sector.  It would also be helpful if you currently or previously served on a nonprofit board, so you can bring multiple models and past experiences to your new job.  An ED is expected to be an expert in whatever cause your nonprofit serves, so you will also need to demonstrate a track record of knowledge and experience in your area.  For example, since PLEN worked with women and public policy, my past experiences working for my sorority, Congress, a campaign, the United Nations, and the women's suffrage museum definitely helped my candidacy.

Develop Your Skills

An ED needs to have a variety of skills, including budgeting and financial management, marketing, public relations, and communications, volunteer management, human resources, business administration, and managing board relations.  The number one skill set an ED should have is fundraising, which is particularly true for smaller nonprofits.  If your current job does not allow you to grow in these areas, volunteer for an organization.  For example, I learned grant writing by volunteering for my local United Nations Association, and I later served on the board of that organization. 

Develop Your Network

Ideally, as with any job, you should not be a stranger to the organization. Start developing relationships now with organizations you are interested in possibly serving as ED.  Subscribe to their newsletter and interact with them on social media. Volunteer at their events.  Even if it is a small amount, donate regularly so you build up for your donor history with the organization. Get to know current staff and board members.  For PLEN, I randomly wrote about them in 2008 when I wrote a chapter about internships for UChic: The College Girl's Guide to Everything. Two years later when I was interviewing for the ED position, that book was on the shelf in their office because they knew I mentioned them!

Serving as an ED is extraordinarily challenging but rewarding.  Below are more articles about my career path as well as free nonprofit resources you can subscribe too.  You can be a great ED and you can start creating that path today!

Articles about my path to ED

From Dead-End to Dream Job: Taking Control of Your Career

How She Got There: Pamela O’Leary, Executive Director of the Public Leadership Education Network

Great Newsletters and Resources for Nonprofit Careers (I was subscribed to all of the listings below!)


Webinars (some are free)


Nonprofit trends and best practices