Paulette Maria Penzvalto has not taken a traditional route to student government. She is a classically trained vocalist who completed two years of undergraduate education and then decided to start a diploma program at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Wales. During her studies there, she served as a postgraduate representative to the student government association. Now Penzvalto is a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati. Last spring, she attended an Elect Her–Campus Women Win training and went on to be elected president of the Graduate Student Governance Association at UC. We talked with her to find out if she has future political aspirations and what was most valuable about AAUW’s election-training program.
Why did you run for student government?
Giving back is a major part of creating a community. I believe that civic duty and the university are interconnected. I did not have the same experience as some of those who were running. They had a traditional, four-year experience, but I didn’t think of it as a disadvantage. I started by talking to students about what the needs on campus for graduate students are.
Did you experience any gender discrimination while running?
I didn’t experience any discrimination, although I would like to see more women run. There was one other woman running, out of seven candidates. During the actual election itself, women were very involved and active.
What are some of the goals you hope to accomplish in your term?
Housing for graduate students, encouraging unity through multiculturalism and diversity, and access to resources. I am partnering with the Center for Community Engagement in compiling a master list of university and community resources geared toward graduate students. This will be printed and online and hopefully handed out at orientation.
Do you feel that the Elect Her–Campus Women Win training prepared you for running?
I feel very strongly that it was a major contributor to me winning my election. I went over the materials in detail before I decided to run. I didn’t feel 100 percent qualified; I don’t think anyone does. When we practiced writing down our issues in the training, that really helped create the framework for my speech. The elevator speech really helped too. One thing I really remembered was 3 + 3 = 1, which means you make three points, repeat them three times, and the audience will remember one. I still go back to that; I go back to basics. The campaign simulation, I had never done that, and I never thought I could. Close to the end, I had a handful of ballots and I thought, you know, I’m going to at least try. And I didn’t win, but I got all of my ballots filled out.
Do you see yourself running for office in the future?
I have a thriving music career, but at some point in the future I could see possibly running for state representative. I think if the right opportunity will present itself, I will take it. My father taught me to be involved in politics. I would love to be involved on a bigger scale, and I think this has given me the motivation and confidence to run.
Applications to become a 2012 Elect Her–Campus Women Win training site will be available August 22 at www.aauw.org/learn/LeadershipPrograms/electHer.cfm.
This post was written by former AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Donnae Wahl.