by Makenzie Winter
Hoping to gain insight in using their education in their future careers, female Catholic University of America students attended the panel, With my Bookbag: Where Women Can Go with Their Education event, hosted by the Catholic University of America chapter of She’s the First. She’s the First is a not-for -profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in low-income countries. The independent Catholic University of America chapter of She’s the First is organized by female student-leaders around campus. The panel recognized three women professionals and how they have used their education, but also to inspire young female college students in their years of education and future careers to use their “bookbag” to make a difference in the world.
The panel was lead by Jo-Ellen Darcy, former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Senior Environmental Advisor, Brianna Keilar, former National correspondent, White House correspondent, and Congressional correspondent for CNN, and Patricia Andrasick, licensed architect, Fulbright Scholar, and educator with international experience of practice and teaching green architecture to governments, NGO’s, and universities, and currently an assistant professor of architecture at the Catholic University of America researching building performance analytics and design of sustainable housing, including RESTive Housing for refugees in Iraq.
During the panel, each panelist described her educational journey. For Jo-Ellen Darcy, she was part of the first class to graduate with women in the department of Arts and Sciences at Boston College. After graduating from college and earning her master’s degree, Darcy developed various environmental government legislation, such as the Clean Water Acts, and was later appointed to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
For Brianna Keilar, being rejected from the University of California, Berkeley wasn’t an option. After making an appeal, Keilar was accepted to University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in journalism and psychology and decided to pursue a career in news. Although she has a great appreciation for her education, Keilar said that her work in the field gave her a better background for working as a corespondent.
Patricia Andrasick knew she wanted to become an architect from a very young age. Andrasick came from a family of immigrants, spent her spring breaks working with Habitat for Humanity, and studied architecture at the University of Oklahoma. After college, Andrasick became a licensed architect and worked on designing government buildings before educating and working overseas with refugee families.
When asked to describe their experience of being a woman within their field, Patricia Andrasick said that she experienced other contractors asking questions such as:
“What are you doing? We are waiting for the architect.”
Andrasick noted that the question no longer bothers her because the reward comes in the finalization of a project, rather than at the beginning of the work. Brianna Keilar also highlighted the importance of women in journalism. When covering a case concerning sexual assault, Keilar said:
“The men in the room listening to the tape heard lurid language, but the women picked up on the aggressor’s forceful tone.”
For Keilar, if women were not a part of her field, the story would not have been covered in the same way.
Students in attendance asked the three panelists for advice concerning career and education paths. Each panelist shared their moments of adversity in their career path, and told the students in attendance to give things that are difficult—such as a class or job—a chance, and to believe in themselves. They encouraged the students to do more than the minimum requirement during their internships because it reveals that they are passionate about their work and could lead to a future job within that company. Another piece of advice the women offered students is that there are people in the world who want to help young students succeed, so they should ask questions and get to know the people in the field in which they wish to pursue.
“I personally know one of the panelist’s, Brianna Keilar, and I know that she has influenced my life because of her strength and independence as a woman in her field. I think these women are wonderful examples for us,” said Isa Martinez, a freshman and a member of the Catholic University of America’s chapter of She’s the First.
“The panel really inspires me to do more with my education. I find these women truly inspiring,” said Molly Delorey, a freshman business major.
The Catholic University of America’s chapter of She’s the First’s advisor, Julie Lau, closed the panel with a quote from a friend, who is one of the heads of the Campus Department of Public Safety:
“Don’t let any fool scare you off of your dreams.”