Welcome to Women in Politics: College Edition, where promising women leaders in student government on college and university campuses across the country will be featured on msnbc.com. Julianne Simson has been nominated to represent the Florida State University as a leader making a difference not only through key issues on campus, but in bridging the gender gap in politics.
As part of msnbc’s “Women in Politics” series, these hand-selected women become part of a larger discussion of women candidates and women’s issues on a national level. “Women in Politics” features newsmaker interviews, profiles, photos, and deep dives into the key conversations.
From the Ivy Leagues to the Big Ten to liberal arts colleges and beyond, young women are making a difference across the country – meet them here!
Name: Julianne Simson
School: Florida State University
Hometown: Sarasota, Florida
Concentration: International Affairs and Political Science
Role on campus/in student government: I served as FSU Student Government’s Director of Governmental Affairs, whereas I was the student lobbyist for FSU. Through my role, I lobbied for higher education reform on behalf of the FSU Student Body in Washington, DC this past summer and organized a three-tier student voting initiative. Along with my board, I held a voter registration drive with sixteen co-sponsored organizations, held a Congressional Candidate meet-and-greet, educated the students on what would be on the ballot, and created an early voting transportation shuttle service. I am proud to be an FSU Lady Spirithunter, as I am a member of an organization dedicating to spreading spirit at FSU events, supporting our community, and empowering women on campus. I am also a 2015 Social Science Scholar, where I have received a grant to do community service, research.
Dream job: As a lawyer, I want to advocate for and implement extensive reforms for American K-12 Education Policy in a greater effort to bring our country’s system into the top 5 globally.
Class year: I am currently in my third year at FSU, and in lieu of my senior year, I am hoping to begin my Master’s Degree in Applied American Politics and Public Policy this upcoming fall.
What is your biggest challenge as a leader on campus?
The problems that I have experienced as a female leader on campus are the same that I hear of from women in all forms of leadership, especially from other women in politics. Women are not “supposed to be” as dominant, assertive, or, honestly, as qualified as men; and when we are, people get mad. When working in Student Government, I worked with four other men. Unfortunately, I did not feel comfortable in these situations, as I had been in rooms with the door shut, as the only woman, and not allowed to leave until their points were made. There have been times that I felt that, as a female lobbyist, I was not taken as seriously by some men on campus simply because of my gender, so I had to work extra hard to prove myself (and trust me, I did!). On the bright side, my two assistant directors in Student Government were both men, and they were true advocates for women, trying to work with me to find legislative avenues for ending sexual violence on campus.
Which female leaders do you draw inspiration from?
The most influential female leader would have to be Sojourner Truth. Her “Ain’t I A Woman” speech resonates within me, as she had so much courage to stand in the face of her oppressors to prove why she, as an African-American woman, deserves the same equality, freedom, and respect as all other women, and perhaps all other people. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany also inspires me. She is able to lead one of the most successful democracies in the world among all-male leadership and deals with only male counterparts throughout Europe and the rest of the world. I also look up to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who currently serves as the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, as she is known to have worked extremely hard to get to where she is now. Last, I know she is not a real person, but I draw a lot of motivation from Kerry Washington’s character Olivia Pope in the TV drama “Scandal.” I appreciate that she strives to make the right and ethical choices, especially when dealing with politics.
Do you plan to run for office one day? Why/why not?
Public office is supposed to be held “for the people,” a sentiment of servant leadership. However, as I have had to learn early in Student Government, it is tainted with self-interest and this idea of using your peers to “climb the ladder” with a never-ending goal of re-election. I believe that I have a powerful voice to inspire others to lead with integrity and I would like to change the system, but this may also simply be the nature of hierarchical systems. Therefore, I would like to find other, more stable avenues to implement changes for the American people.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever gotten?
When I was the student lobbyist for FSU, I had to leave my post because, unfortunately, my values and ethics were challenged by my superior—which is a shame, because for someone to become content with sacrificing integrity and morals at such a young age is terrible. The Legislative Aide that I interned with during the previous Florida Legislative Session shared this advice with me: “Keep your head up and move on. So what if you don’t have that title anymore? You can sleep at night because you have your values and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are going to be the next Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Keep going and working hard, because if you stay positive and keep your head up, good things will come your way.” I took his advice and have found that, because I am known to lead with integrity, I have gained respect from others and amazing professional opportunities that I may not have gained had I not had such an experience of growth.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is the idea that a woman can do just as great of a job as a man (and in many cases, even better!). It is the idea that women deserve the same rights as men, because in this great country, we are all meant to be treated equally, with liberty and justice for all. I want to receive equal compensation for equal work as my male counterparts. I want to be judged fairly on my qualifications, attitude, and character, not on my gender. I am a feminist, and I want to use my voice to empower other women to see themselves as strong, smart women who can do anything they set their mind to—just as much as any man!
To nominate an exceptional undergraduate female leader in student government please email Anna Brand at Anna.Brand@nbcuni.com