Her Campus American is proud to announce our 2017 School of Public Affairs Woman of the Year, Lauren Beeslee, who was nominated by her peers for the honor. Lauren Beeslee is a Junior at American University, with a double major in Political Science and Communications. She comes from Cardiff, Wales.
Her Campus American University: What activities are you involved in on campus?
Lauren Beeslee: I’m an RA in McDowell Hall and I’m the president of She’s The First.
HC AU: Can you tell me about She’s The First?
LB: Yes, She’s The First fundraises and advocates for girls’ education in low-income countries.
HC AU: What are your favorite activities?
LB: I love food, so exploring food in DC is one of my favorite things to do. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, I love food trucks and street food. And I truly enjoy putting on events for She’s The First.
HC AU: What have you accomplished or hope to accomplish through your work with She’s The First?
LB: This year we really tried to expand into some new ways to fundraise and plan events. This academic year, we’ve raised over $5,000, which is enough to fund over 13 years of education for a girl! In doing that, I think we’ve put on a lot of interesting events, including a day of the girl event with numerous panels on women’s issues, and a gala where we honored women from around DC and the AU community! In the future I hope and am confident that She’s the First will continue to thrive at AU, but I’ll be working more with our national headquarters on their Student Advisory Council, where we’re looking at ways to expand and diversify our member base within chapters.
HC AU: What are you passionate about?
LB: Giving girls the opportunity to meet their full potential, allowing girls to be on the same playing field as boys. There’s a double disadvantage for girls in low-income nations, because they have fewer opportunities than boys in their countries, but there are also fewer educational opportunities in general compared to a lot of Western nations.
HC AU: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned while at AU?
LB: I’ve learned to stand with my peers, stand with other women, and support students in what they stand for. AU has a lot of diversity in intellectual views, and everyone at AU is passionate about something, so coming together is really important.
HC AU: Who do you look up to?
LB: Vocal advocates—Malala Yousafzai, Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton—people who advocate for girls and women, and issues that they care about. I look up to people around me as well—people around me who work hard. Neither of my parents had a traditional university education; they showed me that anything is possible with hard work. The two previous presidents of She’s The First worked really hard in their time here and they’re now doing great things. They left quite a legacy to fill.
HC AU: What makes you feel powerful?
LB: Putting on a successful event and seeing something I’ve worked hard on with a team. It definitely gives me a sense of success, but with an organization like She’s The First, you’re never done. Putting on successful events makes me feel empowered to keep going. It’s even better when I can share this feeling with a team.
HC AU: Where do you see yourself in seven years?
LB: Well I’m not sure whether I’ll be in the US or the UK, but in seven years I see myself working for a government agency, serving that country through civil servant activity or foreign service.
HC AU: What advice do you have to empower other women?
LB: Surround yourself with people who support and empower you. You can bounce ideas off each other; share in each other’s success and failure. I really believe that what you give you get back.
HC AU: You are clearly a role model for your peers who nominated you for this award. What mark do you feel you’ve left on the school community so far, and what mark do you hope to have left by the time you graduate?
LB: Thanks! I hope it’s a positive one! Being an RA is a challenging job, but hands down the most rewarding one there is. I think I’ve been able to engage in a lot of interesting conversations about how we fit into the challenges that face the world. Hopefully, I’ve shown that within each big problem, there’s a tangible difference we can make. We see that in the money we raise and the fundraising goals we set at STF. I hope I can continue to be a friendly face around campus, I’ll be an RA in McDowell Hall again next year. The mark I’d really like to leave would be to show that if you find the thing you care about most, the everyday drive and motivation to work for it will come so easily, and that will serve you well. Of course, I want She’s the First to continue to fundraise to empower girls all over the world, and show that the work we do is the most valuable investment we can make.
All photos taken by Anthony Brunner.