Dodging the Bullet: Eisenhower Institute’s Women and Leadership Trip

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Women and Leadership students in D.C. (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College Public Policy Program)

By Taylor-Jo Russo, Staff Writer

As a first-year student, I have been exposed to countless opportunities, but one of the best so far took place over my first collegiate Spring Break. I had the privilege of being accepted into my first program with the Eisenhower Institute (EI): Women and Leadership (WaL). While I hope to write a reflection on the program as a whole once it ends, for now I just want to speak on behalf of the Spring Break trip to Washington D.C. because the one thing that almost held me back from applying, turned out to be the greatest opportunity I have experienced thus far at Gettysburg.

While I was applying for the program, I noticed that part of the program was a three-day trip to D.C., I contemplated whether or not I wanted to potentially not be able to spend time with family and friends for those three-days, then realized I would be missing out if I let that hold me back and applied. While I will save my reaction to my acceptance for my completed reflection, I will just say that I was truly elated to learn I had been granted the chance to grow with other women in my first EI program. I could go into the details of who we met, where we went, and the details discussed, but frankly I would rather talk about the takeaways and perspectives that I learned from the experience as that is what stuck with me.

1. “Networking is key”

Going into this program, I had never been a part of a networking event. We had the privilege of having a networking event where we were able to meet many Gettysburg College alums. At first, I did not know what to do, what to say, or even who to start with. I decided I needed to just jump in and get started, once I did that all the worries that I had faded, and I just enjoyed the conversation. Sometimes it isn’t about what you’re talking about, rather the atmosphere of the discussion which is what both parties will take away. Let me just say, the Gettysburg alumni network is POWERFUL, so make connections and stay in touch, it will help you in the long run. All in all, it is stressful, sometimes awkward, but VERY important.

2. “Pursue challenging paths”

Never accept a position because it is the easy one. After hearing from speakers about their challenging journeys to success, it was made clear that sometimes things do not go as planned, but that it is also okay. Don’t settle and don’t be afraid of the challenge if it means a greater reward.

3. “Stay intellectually hungry”

Never get lazy, never stay bored, and ALWAYS be prepared. As you navigate the corporate world, speakers made sure to note that there are many times it feels easier to settle in and relax. However, they learned the best way to climb the ladder is to stay ahead of the game and be willing to do more than everyone else.

4. “Try anything twice”

Be brave, and sometimes that means trying things outside of your comfort zone, more than once. One of speakers said that the key to knowing how you truly feel about something is to try it twice. Once with shock factor and once without, then make a judgment. Regardless, this theory holds true to things big and small. Use courage to overcome the shock, and take a chance on things more than once.

5. “Never burn bridges”

Maintain relationships with people and companies you work for, because your reputation always follows you. Even if you move up the ladder, to another department, or maybe another company, keep strong relationships with people because you never know who you may need help from later.

6. “Never stop serving the coffee”

Even though the goal for an aspiring leader is to climb the ladder, that doesn’t mean that you must treat people like they are below you. Sometimes it is beneficial to be the friendly worker and the boss. It will get you further. It never hurts to do the good deeds and be kind.

7. “Be persistent with a smile”

Humility in success is crucial to being a good leader. While you may be in charge and while you may have to get tough sometimes, that doesn’t mean you need to be disrespectful or impolite. Kindness and persistence CAN go hand in hand.

8. “Embrace change for sake of improvement”

Sometimes change is uncomfortable and nerve-racking, but most of the time it is for the better. So don’t be afraid to embrace change, criticism, or advice if it means improvement or development for yourself, others, or the organization as a whole.

9. “Stay true to your values”

No matter where you go, what you do, or what position you are in, you will always be you. Therefore, it is necessary to remain true to who you are and keep a good moral compass throughout journeys to leadership.

10. “Be proud of who you are”

While WaL obviously focuses on women in the workforce and while I am passionate about gender equality, that doesn’t mean these lessons only apply to women. These apply to men, women, gender non-conforming, literally everyone. There will be a point in all of our lives where we are challenged for reasons we can’t control, but stand up for yourself, and be proud, and you will find success. Never let the voices of others stop you from climbing above them on the ladder.

While I hope to comment more on the benefits of EI and the amazing Professor Douds who runs the WaL program in my later piece, I hope these quotes helped inspire you, like they did me. I found this D.C. trip to be motivational and self-securing in ways I find hard to explain, but I believe these quotes sum up the majority of the life lessons I gained from my Spring Break.

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Author: Taylor Jo Russo

Taylor (Taylor-Jo) Russo '22 is a staff writer for The Gettysburgian who writes primarily for the features section where she covers current events, discussions, and more. She is from Princeton, New Jersey and loves going on adventures and trying new things. She is majoring in Psychology and Philosophy and minoring in Economics. Follow her on Instagram @taylorjorusso.

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