Vista • Mount Holyoke College • Spring/Summer • Vol. 17 No. 1
Launched: Women in Public Service Project
When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) this past December, she invited 25 Mount Holyoke students to join her. The guest list for the celebration and colloquium also included former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, author and activist Gloria Steinem, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey ’59.
The event marked the State Department’s history-making partnership with the Sister Colleges. The WPSP aims to educate a new generation of women for careers in public service at the local, national, and international levels while creating an infrastructure of support and mentoring.
“The launch was just the beginning,” said MHC President Lynn Pasquerella. “Public service will never truly be public until women are equitable partners in shaping policies that serve the needs of humanity.”
Career Plans Invigorated: Stephanie Roses ’13
Stephanie Roses ’13 admits that she didn’t expect the panels at the WPSP colloquium to have much to offer a biology major intent on heading to an M.D./Ph.D. program. “I was extremely honored to be going. I am a member of the Student Government Association’s Executive Board, so I was excited about the leadership aspects of the event,” said Roses. “I never imagined that my career plans would be entirely changed because of that day in D.C.” As a first-year student at Mount Holyoke, Roses had
considered a major in international relations and gave some thought to careers at the United Nations. But biology won out and, over time, she saw her future in either neurobiology or infectious disease. “I wanted to be a physician working in either of those fields; that was as far as I’d mapped things out.” The WPSP colloquium showed Roses that her
interests in international relations and medicine were, in fact, highly compatible. “My conversations with people, including alumnae from the Sister Colleges, introduced me to a range of opportunities I’d never considered—careers in infectious disease at embassies and with public health systems, as well as all kinds of fellowships in STEM fields.” Those conversations also provided Roses with
valuable contacts from different agencies and organizations. At an early panel just for students, alumnae from Sister Colleges who work at the State Department discussed various career paths. One panelist mentioned a fellowship for M.D./Ph.D.s offered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). “She said, ‘Email me. I really want you to apply for this, even if it is in seven or eight years.’ It was so cool that even though these women have important jobs, they care about opening doors for us.”
Taking the Stage: Chiedza Mufunde ’12
During the panel titled “A Dialogue among Generations,” Chiedza Mufunde ’12 found herself seated between Congresswoman Nita Lowey, a 1959 Mount Holyoke graduate, and activist and author Gloria Steinem, the 2000 recipient of Congress’s “Living Legend” award. Mufunde was the only student on that panel; the other participants included Jarupan Kuldiloke, a member of the Thai Parliament; Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, superintendant of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; and Najat Zarrouk, secretary general of the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Mufunde, who served in Zimbabwe’s Children’s Parliament during high school, was asked her opinion on how to empower younger women to take leadership positions, particularly in countries experiencing conflict. Her reply came without hesitation: “I believe that investing in education for women and girls across the globe, especially in Zimbabwe, is critical in developing the generation that will step up in political leadership.” Mufunde then spoke eloquently about the need for access to education and credited Mount Holyoke with giving her that access, as well as “access to inspiration.”
A psychology major, Mufunde described the WPSP colloquium as “a global expansion of a conversation about women’s leadership that is ongoing at Mount Holyoke.” For her, every aspect of the event was “momentous.” As for sitting on the stage between a Congresswoman and a living legend, she said she saw a glimpse of her future in that moment. “It was unbelievable. I had the chance to speak on the issues I am passionate about in the midst of the world’s most powerful women.”
Soon after returning to campus the next day, she watched the webcast of the panel “to be sure it really happened.” Since then, Mufunde said, she has carried with her Gloria Steinem’s words about hope and dreaming being forms of planning. She added, “And I am working every day toward my dream of creating educational opportunities for the women in my country.”