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Dallas Wiertella
Dallas Wiertella
Multimedia Editor

Through my experience here at the North Wind I have been able to have the privilege of highlighting students through all forms of multimedia journalism. Whether I'm in front or behind the camera, I aim...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

‘Elect Her’ event coming to NMU

Following last fall’s election, 97 of the 535 seats of the United States Congress are currently held by women, which equates to just over 18 percent of all Congressional seats.

This statistic, among others — such as the fact that the United States is classified as 77th in international rankings regarding the percentage of women in elected positions — have solicited a widespread response from women who are concerned with what could come of such a low representation of females in government positions.

“Historically, women have held a very small fraction of the elected offices in the United States and of the women in elected office, only a few have really had leadership positions,”  said Judy Puncochar, NMU associate professor of education. “Women are a little more than half the citizens of the United States and yet only 18 percent of the United States Congressional representatives are women.”

Stemming from this concern has been a nationwide campaign that aims to educate and train young, college-aged women who have the potential to run for regional, state and national positions.

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The campaign — Elect Her: Campus Women Win — was first introduced to Northern in 2010, when NMU was chosen as one of only a handful of schools that would help get the program off the ground.

Currently, only 39 college campuses in the United States and Jamaica are offering the training session.

“Northern was one of 10 campuses to compete for a national grant to run elect her,” Puncochar said. “The purpose [of Elect Her] is to get young women to learn how to run campaigns, to learn what a campaign is all about so they will be able to hone their message, learn how to network and really come up with what the issues are.”

Puncochar emphasized that the event is non-partisan, and that it’s sole purpose is to benefit women who hope to take on leadership and political positions in the future.

“It’s just about teaching young women how to run for student government at the college level,” she said. “Many women who run at the college level are women who are willing to run at the regional and state and national level — the purpose really is getting more female representation in the long term in the United States.”

In the process of organizing the Elect Her event, Puncochar has been receiving assistance from two Freshman Fellowship members.

Danielle Schafer and Olivia Crawford, both freshmen, have been serving as the student liaisons for the event, and have themselves held extensive responsibility in the organization of the occasion.

“My partner and Danielle and I worked together to make the Facebook event, and we also contacted all the speakers and got them all lined up,” Crawford said. “And we’re the ones that recruit people and try to get them to come to the event.”

The event itself will, according to Puncochar, include a meal and speeches from Cheryl Hill — the newly-elected Marquette County Probate Judge — as well as Nancy Bocskar, who is the actual trainer for the event and will be traveling from Washington D.C. to represent the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The event is being held at 12:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16 from in the Pioneer Rooms of the University Center, and will also include a simulated campaign in which participants will be able to gather votes from students on campus.

It is being funded by the AAUW and Running Start, both organizations that aim to inspire young women to run for public office.

“(The speakers will) basically be talking about how they’ve gotten into the positions that they’re in and what they do in those positions,” Crawford said. “Also, how it influences others, what’s driven them to get to this point and what motivates them now.”

In the past, the event has contributed well to the successful campaigns of ASNMU members, and in fact has a solid track record in its first three years of existence.

“As a matter of fact — in the first two [Elect Her] events — everyone who attended actually won (their respective ASNMU campaigns),” Puncochar said. “Last year we did have one person lose, but we were (previously) running 100% with people who attended Elect Her actually winning campaigns.

“We’ve got a good track record for people who run a campaign and actually do very well with the skills that they get from this training.”

Among the many skills that will be covered at the event, the most basic hope of Puncochar’s is that attendees walk away with the motivation to create a stronger female presence in modern American politics.

“There is a problem and part of the solution is skill building and leadership training for women to learn how to work together to really help other women running campaigns,” she said. “It’s excellent training.”

The event, while oriented towards women, is also open to male students who are looking to learn the skills necessary to identify issues — political or otherwise — and run a successful campaign. The event is free for students.

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