Two Lander University students were selected to take part in an intensive four-day leadership residential program designed to encourage college women to consider careers in public service.
In mid-May, Lander sophomores Amira Abdelwahab, of Greenwood, a political science major minoring in international studies; and political science and pre-law student Sarah Grigg, of Anderson, attended the NEW Leadership SC conference at Winthrop University in Rock Hill.
Along with 23 other college women from throughout the state, Abdelwahab and Grigg met with a host of influential women leaders taking part in panel discussions and workshops.
Featured speakers included:
For a program designed to encourage leadership, Abdelwahab and Grigg were obvious choices as participants. Both are scholarship recipients within Lander's College of Behavioral and Social Science. Abdelwahab, a recipient of the Bill and Emily Bradford Scholarship for political science students, tutors in the community and serves as vice president of Lander's Political Science Association. Grigg, an orientation leader for new students and a resident advisor, received the W.D. Tinsley Scholarship for pre-law students.
"Throughout the program, we were encouraged to seek out opportunities to serve, especially at the local and state levels," said Abdelwahab. "One of the big takeaways from the program for me was the idea that most women will put off the opportunity to serve for a host of reasons, including motherhood or the need to become - in their minds - better qualified or more educated, even though they're probably already prepared to lead."
Grigg pointed to the value that women can bring to the table in terms of leadership. "Women taking leadership roles isn't about equality; rather it's the realization that women bring new ideas and experiences that men simply do not," she said. "For example, in discussing educational issues, many men will focus solely on the economic concerns, whereas women tend to care more about the children themselves and the education they need."
Although Abdelwahab and Grigg are not currently entertaining ideas to run for office, both say they are more open to the idea.
"I want to develop a career at the international level, specifically as a diplomat specializing in Middle Eastern and U.S. relationships," explained Abdelwahab, "but I would never say 'never' if the opportunity to serve presented itself. Because I work with children that have language barriers and other issues, I'm particularly concerned about our education system."
While Grigg was firm in her plan to have a thriving law practice by age 25, she, too, had her mind opened to the idea of public service following the NEW Leadership SC program.
"The ongoing rape kit backlog issue is vitally important to me, and is an issue I would tackle if I went into public service," she said. "As someone studying law, it's an incredible injustice that there are thousands of rape kits that haven not even been tested."