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Women in Politics: College Edition -- Howard University

Welcome to Women in Politics: College Edition, where women leaders in student government across the country will be featured on

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 over the course of the year. Allyson Carpenter has been nominated by Howard 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 a new series at msnbc, “Women of 2014,” these hand-selected women become part of a larger discussion of women candidates and women’s issues on a national level. “Women of 2014” is a home for all women in politics – notably those in some of the year’s most pivotal races – with newsmaker interviews, profiles, photos, a Twitter trail following more than 35 candidates, and deep dives into the key conversations.

Name: Allyson Carpenter

School: Howard University

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Major/Concentration: Political Science and Community Development

Role in Student Government: Student Association’s Deputy Chief of Staff. As Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Government of the District of Columbia. Carpenter is the youngest elected official in D.C. history.

Dream job: Ohio U.S. Senator

Class Year: Sophomore


What is your biggest challenge as a leader on campus?

At 18 years old, my biggest challenge is connecting with and earning the respect of my colleagues who are, overall, older and have more experience. I have learned to see my age as an asset rather than a disadvantage because it allows me to offer a unique and fresh perspective to matters at hand.

On campus, at times it is difficult to institute change. People become comfortable with tradition and “the way things have always been done.” As a student leader, I’ve focused on doing things in a way that best serves my community even if my methods are unconventional or unprecedented. 

Which female leaders do you draw inspiration from?  

The two most inspirational female figures for me are Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Melissa Harris-Perry. These women inspire me to push boundaries, know my unique strengths as a female leader, and embrace my leadership positions as tools that I can use to help elevate other women. I have the great honor of calling Melissa Harris-Perry my mentor and her guidance, in particular, has helped me to realize my full potential. 

What comes to mind first when you think about important moments in history?

I believe that the most important moment in history was the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. America is far from perfect. We continue to fight for the upholding and expansion civil rights every single day. In 1964, our country took a huge step in the right direction when we asserted that this nation would not stand for discrimination based on race, religion, sex, color, or national origin. I hope to see the day when these rights are expanded to protect LGBT Americans.

What do you think should be President Obama’s No. 1 priority?

I believe that President Obama should focus the remainder of his time in office protecting and expanding opportunities for all Americans regardless of where they live, what they look like or whom they love. A better economy means little if marginalized groups never have the opportunity to reap the benefits of their citizenship.

Got a favorite aisle at the grocery store?

I have recently graduated from Ramen noodles to the frozen foods aisle, where I’m learning to incorporate the occasional microwavable vegetable (You’re welcome, Mom!). 

Follow Allyson on Twitter @AllysnCarpenter and check out last week’s female leader at New Mexico State University!

You can see all student leaders featured here

To nominate an exceptional undergraduate female leader in student government please email Anna Brand at