Barnard Hosts Women in Public Services Project

Photo by Leah Henry '17 | Chelsea Villareal (pictured) spoke of her experience in Egypt at the conference.

Photo by Leah Henry ’17 | Chelsea Villareal (pictured) spoke of her experience in Egypt at the conference.


Olivia Goodman ’14
News Editor

On Thursday, Sept. 26, the Women in Public Service Project convened for a symposium at Barnard College called “Global Conversation: Why the U.N. Must Focus on Women’s Leadership.” The event, hosted by the WPSP, Barnard College President Debora Spar and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, featured a panel of female United Nations representatives and global leaders.

Following the panel, a select group of 11 student leaders chosen from the WPSP’s partner colleges led the panelists in a question and answer session. Chelsea Villareal ’14 was chosen as the Smith student representative after being nominated over the summer by Stacie Hagenbaugh, the Director of the Lazarus Center for Career Development.

“Smith is a founding member of WPSP,” said Hagenbaugh. “Since its inception, we have always included students in events related to the project. Chelsea seemed like a natural fit. She faced an incredibly challenging situation this summer while interning in Egypt. She had been there only a few weeks when the political uprising reached a heightened level, resulting in widespread violence, which she witnessed firsthand. I got to know her through her experience, and came to admire her maturity, intellect, compassion and grit.”

Villareal’s interests in Middle Eastern history, Islam and Arab culture led her to design a joint major in Arabic Language and Linguistics. Her time spent over the past three years living and studying in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and the U.K. emphasized for her the importance of international cooperation and cross-cultural understanding for global advancement.

“My interests in international human development and intercultural relations tie in seamlessly with WPSP as an initiative that aims to advance society on a global scale by galvanizing the female half of the population to practice self-determination and engage in international dialogue. I believe that WPSP’s target of 50% female representation in public service by the year 2050 is crucial to altering our approach to diplomacy and peace-making, and revolutionizing the way global solutions are forged.”

The day-long event at Barnard focused on three main platforms: enhancing leadership skills with a particular emphasis on women’s leadership; networking and mentoring; and hearing from the UN panel of international women leaders. The leadership workshops led students through activities that asked them to identify their core values and create an abridged mission statement helping students focus their aspirations towards their career goals in public service. At the end of the day, two of the cofounders of WPSP, Farah Pandith and Rangita de Silva de Alwis, spoke with the student representatives about the purpose of the project and its significance to them.

Villareal said, “Speaking with two of the co-founders was, for me, the most valuable portoint of the event. It gave us the opportunity to engage with powerful women currently working in public service and gain insight into the challenges and rewards of working in that capacity.

“It was also inspirational to see how successful many Smith alumnae have been in pursuing leadership positions in public service. Each of the Smith alumnae I spoke with emphasized the formative influence their years at Smith had on them. I learned about their paths post-Smith and how their involvement in certain activities at Smith led them to their current careers.”

Hagenbaugh echoed Villareal’s sentiments and highlighted WPSP as an example of the importance of helping students gain access to all different types of career-oriented experiences and events to help them as they begin planning for their life post graduation.

“Giving students the chance to attend WPSP events is a perfect example of what I see as my role,” said Hagenbaugh. “My mission is to engage students with industry as often and as much as possible, be it NGOs, businesses, museums, advertising agencies, or banks. It gives students a visual roadmap for the myriad of possibilities that are out there, and the confidence to know they can and will chart their own path with the help of all the skills and knowledge they have gained at Smith.

“Bringing those conversations from the WPSP events back to campus and continuing them with the Smith community helps all of us broaden our understanding of the complex issues facing women globally.”

Villareal noted that while she was previously not focused on pursuing a career in public service, the WPSP symposium at Barnard forced her to reconsider. The symposium underlined the importance of women’s participation in politics and public policy not only for their own sake, but for the sake of women and humankind globally.

“Throughout the global conversation at Barnard, I came to better understand the benefits that would arise from an increase in female agency in the US government and globally. Engaging with a group of inspired and remarkable women at the conference gives me hope for the future and moving forward in finding better solution to modern day global challenges.”

Leave a Comment