Poli Sci works to elect women



Scholarship winner Erin Thomason introduces ambassador Nancy Powell.


Progress was the name of the game on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the 9th annual Women in Politics Bipartisan Scholarship Benefit hosted by UNI’s Department of Political Science.

According to the Center for American Women in Politics, the U.S. House of Representatives is made up of 19 percent women, the U.S. Senate is 23 percent female.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, women occupy 28 percent of Iowa General Assembly seats and 14 percent of Iowa Senate seats.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is the state’s first female governor. However, Reynolds became governor via succession as lieutenant governor in 2017 after elected governor Terry Branstad resigned to become the U.S. ambassador to China. Iowa has yet to elect a female governor, though Reynolds has the opportunity to become the first.

“I remember a time when two thirds of our political science majors at UNI were male and when I was one of only two women professors at UNI in the political science department,” UNI political science professor Ana Kogl told the NI. “That’s changing, but it’s amazing how slowly that’s changing.”

According to UNI Department of Political Science Head Scott Peters, today’s UNI political science, public administration and political communication majors are 60 percent male and 40 percent female. According to the department’s website, today’s political science faculty is made up of eight men and five women.

Peters noted during a speech he gave at the dinner that in 2018, 235 women were currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives, breaking the previous record of 167 women running during the 2016 election cycle.

The keynote speaker of the evening was former ambassador Nancy Powell. Powell was born and raised in Cedar Falls. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history and teaching from UNI in 1970, Powell worked in teaching for several years before deciding it wasn’t for her.

Powell was working on a fellowship in American history studies in New York when “my principal came to me in 1975 and handed me a flyer,” Powell said. “He said, ‘I threw this away, but you’re crazy enough to be interested in this (the Foreign Service).”

Powell served in the Foreign Service from 1977 until 2014. Some of the posts Powell served in include Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India.

She noted that the State Department had not always been accommodating to women, saying, “State Department, in its earlier period, had a tradition, it was pale, male and Yale.”

Part of the effort to increase gender parity in UNI’s political science department is the Women in Politics Scholarship, awarded annually to three junior or senior women within UNI’s political science or public administration department.

According to a pamphlet distributed at the event, this year’s recipients were senior TESOL and political science majior Audrey Simpson, senior political science and public administration major Erin Thomason and senior political science major Kelsey Chidley.

According to Chidley, the scholarship “encourages women in the political science and public admin[istration] department at UNI… in an industry that hasn’t always been that welcoming of women.”

Simpson and Chidley both told the NI that they did not specifically apply for the Women in Politics scholarship, but that they received it after filling out the standard UNI scholarship application.

Student Body Vice President Kristen Ahart attended the dinner. Her advice to women looking to get involved was, “I know what it feels like to think that you’re not capable of your ambitions. I want to be the first to tell you that you definitely are… Use your resources. Know what you’re capable of. Never doubt yourself.”