This summer, Cindy Banh ’19 is growing her leadership skills as she prepares for graduate school.
Earlier this year, the political science major won a highly competitive fellowship in Carnegie Mellon University’s Junior Summer Institute in the Public Policy and International Affairs Program. Rising seniors spend several weeks taking courses in domestic and foreign policy, statistics, and economics, in order to prepare for an advanced degree and ultimately a career serving the public good. Students who pass with strong grades are accepted into one of several prestigious graduate schools with a scholarship.
Thanks to her time thus far at Whittier, Banh entered the program prepared to handle the rigorous coursework.
“I feel like my courses at Whittier have been a good foundation and the courses at Carnegie are adding a quantitative, statistical, and policy analysis component on top of that,” she said.
Finding opportunities to explore and grow is familiar territory for Banh, who earlier this year, stepped out of her comfort zone and further into the engaging realm of politics through the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) Women and Congress seminar in Washington D.C. Surrounded by other college women who are passionate about political change, she explored hot-button issues on Capitol Hill, studied the legislative process, and learned about a wide range of professional opportunities related to Congress.
“It was also great to be surrounded by so many amazing women who are on the same page as me when it comes to the passion for a change in the political landscape,” Banh wrote in a recent blog post for PLEN.
A networking opportunity during the conference encouraged Banh to put herself out there, and before the night was out, she connected with professionals in the not-for-profit sector. By the end of the conference, she felt affirmed in her plan to return to D.C. after she graduates this May.
Banh first learned about the PLEN seminars from one of her political science professors during her first year at Whittier. She felt driven to go, eager to learn as much as she can about politics and inspired by word of mouth from a fellow student who had attended before. Banh’s desire to attend was solidified when she met PLEN Executive Director Sarah Bruno, who visited campus last fall.
The seminar wasn’t Banh’s first foray into real-world politics. During the 2016 presidential election, she attended the Republican National Convention in Ohio as a Richard Nixon National Convention fellow. While learning about the political process, Banh gained access to the convention floor and assisted CNN production crews.
Beyond that fellowship, Banh is also a recipient of the Jeffrey Lindstrom Fellowship in Political Science and the John Greenleaf Whittier Academic Scholarship. When she returns to campus this fall, she not only resumes her political science studies and involvement in the Women’s Leadership Association—the professional growth she experienced with PLEN will also continue as she interns at Whittier College’s Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development.