Women in Politics: College Edition – UNC Chapel Hill

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 over the course of the year. Eliza Filene has been nominated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 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, including a series on “Women Leaders Bridging Tech and Politics in 2016.”

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: Eliza Filene

School: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Hometown: Carrboro, NC

Concentration: Major in Public Policy, Minor in Entrepreneurship and Chemistry 

Role in student government, organizations: : Student representative on UNC’s Faculty Council, undergraduate research assistant at UNC AIDS Clinical Trials Unit.

Dream job: I want to be a doctor—right now I’m thinking infectious disease or OB-GYN. I’m interested in rural health in the US. By working with patients in high-need areas, I believe I’ll be in a better position to make a meaningful impact on health policy.  It is important for doctors with experience in the healthcare system to contribute directly to the crafting of policies that affect their patients. 

Eventually I want to come back to University governance…It’s my dream-big goal to become chancellor at a university like UNC! 

Class year: 2018

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What keeps you motivated to work in student government?

As a public policy major, it has been interesting to see how university policies are crafted, debated, and passed. I have learned a lot—seemingly small policies and changes can end up having dramatic impacts on people’s lives. At its core, student government is about students having a say over policies that affect their lives. Education, like healthcare, has to be tailored to fit individuals’ needs. It’s important that the student voice be heard and taken seriously. We have to be active if we want policies passed in our interests.  

The concept of a university is powerful. There’s really nothing like it. A university is a place where students and experts come together with common goals—to learn and make a difference. A university is a place where people learn how to communicate cross-culturally, to build bridges across disciplines, and make connections. As someone who has been tremendously shaped by her college experience, I want to help make UNC the best that it can be for all students.  

What issues are you most passionate about following this election season? Why?

There are so many to choose from! The next few years will be huge for healthcare legislation. From building on the progress of the Affordable Care Act to protecting women’s access to reproductive healthcare, the outcomes will have serious ramifications for all patients. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through working with the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, it is that a host of other issues play into ensuring accessible, safe and affordable care. For example, matters such as the United States’ mass incarceration crisis, racial justice, and gun violence must be addressed in order to ensure the health and well being of all people. 

Do you think it’s important for college students to vote during elections? Why or why not?

Absolutely. Our vote truly matters—we may be the ones to swing this election. It’s happened before—an analysis done by the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement found that the support of young people won President Obama almost 80 electoral votes.  Get to the polls!

Secondly, countless people devoted their lives to fighting for this right. This past week, I voted early with one of my girlfriends. When I was looking at our selfie with our “I Voted” stickers, I actually got emotional thinking of the women who fought for our right to vote… and then the folks who had to fight and die for their right until 1965. There is no better way for us to honor their struggle than to exercise our right. 

Has feminism played a role in your life? If so, how?

Feminism has greatly affected my life. My mother is a historian who focuses on women’s movements and modern feminism. I grew up around dinner conversations about feminism, politics, and justice. With my mom as a role model, I have always expected fair treatment, have felt empowered to reach my goals, and have been aware of the adversities that women face around the world. 

If you could be any social media platform, which one would you be and why?

Hmm interesting! I suppose Facebook best represents my personality because it allows both sharing publicly and connecting personally. I care a lot about staying in touch with people. While surface-level updates are great for staying in the loop, a good conversation always trumps a “like.” 

Make sure to check out last week’s college woman leader here

To nominate an exceptional undergraduate female leader in student government please email Anna Brand at Anna.Brand@nbcuni.com

Women in Politics and Women in Politics: College Edition

Women in Politics: College Edition -- UNC Chapel Hill