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Reflections of a Graduate: "Redefining Success"

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A little over two weeks ago, Huffington Post founder, chair, and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington delivered a much-needed commencement address at my college graduation, which was the deliverance of the Smith College Class of 2013 out into the world. One of her central points was the importance of "redefining success" for our generation. As she acknowledged the quirkiness, intelligence, and ambition of this class off over 600 women, she stressed the importance of examining what we saw personally as success, outside of the traditional paradigm of money and power. While obviously we all received this as still needing to make a living and be successful in whatever field we were entering into, it was clear her message that the world needs those who are using their skills to make change in all areas of their lives.

As an undergraduate as an elite women's college, I have spent my last few years examining what I see as my priorities and desires as a "modern woman." At Smith College I truly uncovered my potential, becoming a government major and harboring a strong interest in policy and its ability to improve peoples' lives. While at Smith, I had the incredible opportunity of interning under a female politician in a foreign government and connecting with female politicians through my assistance with a policy review of one of the top think tanks in the United States. I have seen the change women bring to political, economic, and social policy. Yet, the United States still has some of the least representation of women into politics. This is not to take away the acknowledgement of women that are serving in local, state, and federal government, but it still demonstrates the need to get both genders' views into the policy-making arena. There is no question that the topic of women's rights, health policy, and the representation of women in government and business has been featured through mainstream media recently.

So how does Arianna's commencement speech tie into this ramble? In the past four years I have found my passion for success in policy research, which has ranged from topics such as the difference between child protection system in the United States and the Netherlands. Without Smith College, I most likely never would have the opportunity to empower myself and have these experiences (and have female politicians serving as an example to me). Without my experience at Smith, I wonder if I would be involved in these fields to the extent I am today. Continuously, inside and outside the classroom, I had individuals invest in my potential, and serve as examples as "redefining success." So this post is perhaps a call for more women to enter into politics, more men to be accepting of them, or a call to professionals and individuals to invest in the next generation. One thing I do know, is down the line when I have established my career, one of my main priorities will be passing my skills, knowledge, and empowerment down to the next generation. That is how I will continue to redefine success.