Grace Ramsay, LSRJ Summer Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corps (RRASC) Intern (’16, Smith College)
Ever experience “social justice burnout”? When your day-to-day is filled with researching and discussing painful topics, it can feel daunting, or even impossible, to continue in RJ work. The 2014 Leadership Institute gave me new energy to approach the rest of this internship and to continue my work in reproductive justice. After a whirlwind weekend starting and ending with the cute/ creepy Virgin America safety music video, the LSRJ national office is back in Oakland. The LSRJ seventh annual Leadership Institute, hosted at George Washington University School of Law, was beyond successful from both the national office side and the attendees’ side. I was excited to represent an organization and wear the “LSRJ hat,” while also wearing the “attendee hat” which meant that I could check in with folks who I could consider my peers for honest feedback of the conference. Everyone I had the chance to talk to loved the weekend as much as I did! Here were my five favorite parts of the 2014 LSRJ Leadership Institute:
1) Panels and workshops. Of course, this was the main content of the LI, and I had the opportunity to sit in on several workshops as the point-person. During the presentations – which varied from ways to message around abortion, to a how-to for strategic LSRJ chapter planning, to an introduction to policymaking – I got to absorb knowledge from experts across the spectrum of RJ advocacy. Judging from how engaged our attendees were, they also appreciated the breadth of knowledge that they can now take back to their LSRJ chapters.
2) Experiencing behind the scenes facilitation. There’s so much that goes into facilitating a conference, and I only played a small part in making sure this LI went smoothly. Working with the national office to ensure every detail was set made me appreciate how much forethought and planning has to go into organizing successful events. From handing water bottles to speakers, to timing each workshop, I was only able to successfully complete my part of the work because of the effort that Keely and Samantha had already put in. Y’all are awesome!
3) Giving a presentation to a large audience. Part of my responsibility at the LI was presenting one of LSRJ’s event toolkits to the chapter leaders. Because of the preparation work we all put in beforehand, I felt 100% comfortable and in control of the materials I presented. As I said to my mom on the phone afterwards, now I understand why you’re supposed to prepare presentations instead of winging it! I’m hoping that my presentation of the sex-ed event toolkit, along with Gavin and Sasha’s event toolkit presentations, helped chapter leaders better understand how to put on successful events on their campuses.
4) Connecting with LSRJ folks. One person I spoke with this weekend called the LSRJ network a “family.” She said the term networking is too scary and inaccessible to describe the connections formed during the LI. I appreciated that so many law students were willing to engage with me – a lowly undergrad!- and suggest different organizations I should check out in the upcoming semester. Like I said before, I was lucky enough to both represent LSRJ and interact with attendees in a more interpersonal sense.
5) Bonding with the office! There’s something about flying across the coast that makes a national office closer. I can’t speak for all of us, but I have the feeling everyone had a more-than-fun time together, especially us interns. Yes, this is a Snapchat:
Thanks to everyone who attended the 2014 Leadership Institute, and I hope that everyone there found it beyond worthwhile!