GV Student Senate hosts ‘Elect Her’ event


GVL / Bri Conway

Alexander Verheek, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Community Service Learning Center (CSLC), in partnership with Student Senate, hosted “Elect Her” on March 31. “Elect Her” was a non-partisan event that encourages women to run for elected office. 

Running Start, the non-profit organization that runs the Elect Her program, brings campaign training and real-world experiences from currently-elected officials to college campuses across the U.S.

“I’m super passionate about getting not only women but anyone who has been historically excluded into positions of power and we need all the help we can get,” said Paige Robnett, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant for Running Start and the program’s moderator. 

Robnett led the students in attendance through several different modules, all emphasizing important aspects in preparing students for a potential career in politics. The first activity encouraged students to talk among their tables in order to figure out what issues are most important to them.

This activity allowed the participants to focus on what matters most to them and to think deeply about why they’re interested in the realm of politics. 

Following this activity, the program shifted to a question and answer session with some of the members of the Student Senate Cabinet. 

Members of the cabinet went over their own experiences running for office within the Student Senate, giving prospective Student Senate candidates insight into the process of campaigning on the university scale. 

Robnett said about half of all women in Congress started their careers in student government, highlighting the boost that Student Senate can offer their future careers before they even leave college. 

From here, the event moved into the panel featuring elected officials from the West Michigan area. 

The panel included Grand Rapids Community College trustee Brandy Lovelady Mitchell, Allendale Township Board trustee Barb Vander Veen, State Rep. for the 76th District of Michigan Rachel Hood and State Rep. for the 80th District of Michigan Mary Whiteford. 

The panelists covered a number of topics surrounding their campaign experience, including how they got started and some of the roadblocks they’ve encountered. 

“Sometimes people won’t ask you (to run), but there’s something in your gut or something whispering ‘it’s you,’” Mitchell said. “Take a chance.” 

A number of the officeholders on the panel detailed their failures and successes in their careers in public policy and said campaigning is a difficult but rewarding journey. 

“In campaigns, there’s a point where the road rises to meet you,” Hood said. “You put in the work, you make the phone calls, and there are communities that start to come together to invest in you because they see the priority, they see the value in your work.”