Charlotte Robertson: Speaker at Ted x

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Major: Communications Management and Design

Hobbies/Clubs: At Ithaca College, I participate in Student Governance Council as Off Campus Senator. Previously, I was really active in Ithaca College’s Feminists United. I have a deep interest in politics and occasionally do work for American Possibilities, a PAC created by former Vice President Joe Biden.

Her Campus Ithaca College: You presented at TEDx. What did you present on?

Charlotte Robertson: It was an exciting opportunity to share my research at TEDx Ithaca College. About a year ago, I embarked on a journey to understand the 54% of white women who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. As a liberal white woman, I was angry and confused when I learned the statistic. How could these women who looked like me vote for a man who had been consistently labeled as a misogynist? I wanted to find out and, the following semester, I conducted interviews with white women across the country to answer that question. What did I find out? Though Americans (including myself) had expected white women to vote based on their gender identities, there were other identities at play. The women that I spoke with thought of themselves and their communities as hardworking. This identity shaped the political issues they cared about, how they perceived the two candidates, and their partisan identities. The most interesting reoccurring comment I had from the women I spoke with was that Hillary Clinton was a poor role model for her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, because she had decided to stay with former President Bill Clinton after his affair. Though all of the research was fascinating, my biggest takeaway that I shared with the audience at TEDx is that there is a deep value in listening. At the end of almost every conversation I had, the other woman would thank me for listening to her. I hadn’t argued them on every point and had, instead, tried to simply understand where they were coming from. Though listening is obviously not a “fix-all”solution, it is a start. And as I said in my talk, “At a time where everything seems so broken, we could use a starting point to unify around.

HCIC: What was it like presenting at TEDx?

CR: It was exhilarating and terrifying to give a TEDx talk. I shared the stage that day with some extraordinary speakers, including Ithaca College's very own Ann-Marie Adams, and founder of The Collective (Of Us), Cyndie Spiegel. It was intimidating to present alongside these professional speakers who left me awe-inspired. But the excitement of listening to everyone share their unique stories and their big ideas overpowered the intimidating aspect of speaking at a TEDx event. It was also exciting to share my research with people for the first time. Before my talk, it was only accessible if people were willing to read an almost fifty page document. Once the video is published, even more people will have access to the basic elements of what I learned from my in-depth interviews.

HCIC: How did you get into your research?

CR: Last spring, I studied with the Cornell in Washington program in Washington, DC. Each student was expected to complete an intensive research project during that time. I was entering the program right as the Donald Trump was being inaugurated into office. A few days before the semester began, I had marched alongside my mom in the Women’s March. Despite the amazing turnout, I couldn’t help but come back to a statistic I had heard the day after the election: 54% of white women voted for Donald Trump. I decided I wanted to better understand women who were so politically different from myself. And the project began.

HCIC: Thinking about where you were as an underclassman, what advice might you have to underclassmen who wish to do stuff like this?

CR: Take courses that challenge you. Find professors who challenge you. Do not wait for learning opportunities to come to you; instead, seek them out. Participating in the Cornell in Washington program was challenging. I always tell people who are interested in the program that it is not your typical study away semester. It’s going to challenge you and ask you to dive deep into a topic that you’re interested in. If you embrace that, you can come out of the program with a really strong body of work. You don’t have to go through a program to do this though. If you have a professor you admire and who pushes you, ask them about doing an independent study. If you feel like the classes you are in don’t make you a more thoughtful person, take a class that challenges you. My biggest regret during my underclassman years was not taking certain classes because I was nervous they would rock my GPA.

HCIC: Fears and excitements about graduation?

CR: It depends on the day — some days I am fearful; others I am excited. Today, I’m excited for the future. I hope to continue my research and look at women involved in alt-right movements across the world. I also hope to become engaged in US politics. I’ve previously interned at the Democratic National Committee and at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC. I can see myself hopping on a campaign after college or working for a nonprofit after I graduate. The options are limitless and I can’t wait to grab one and run with it.