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Smith Republicans Gain Statewide Attention

By Jennifer Gabrielle ’06

Following up on its recognition as Club of the Month in February, the Smith College Republican Club (SCRC) was recently named Outstanding Chapter of the Year by the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans (MACR), a coalition of clubs from 47 colleges.

Two Smith club members were elected to the MACR executive board. Elizabeth Morgan ’09, who will be co-president of the Smith club next year, was named Massachusetts Regional Director for the alliance, and Natalie Vernon ’08, current SCRC Chief of Staff, will be Secretary. Vernon worked as a White House intern this spring.

“It’s fairly rare to have two people from the same college [on the board], because they like to have diversity,” says current club president Elyse Braner ’07J. “This year we just took the club to a whole new level. The difference between my first year and now is incredible.”

The Smith club’s Outstanding Chapter of the Year award is one of three distinctions given annually by MACR. Emerson College’s club was named Most Improved, and nearby Westfield State College has the Best New Club.

The SCRC transported people all across the state and around New England this year, often to as many as four events per week, and even traveled twice to Washington, D.C., working hard to make Smith’s name known in support of Republican causes. The club also focused on professional development, says Braner, such as networking in the political field. “Now we’re known on a national level,” she says. “We probably know a college Republican in every state.”

In recognition of the club’s campus awareness efforts surrounding the Vagina Monologues in February, the SCRC was named Club of the Month by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, a conservative organization that focuses on training and educating young women.

In addition to attending weekly club meetings, SCRC members participate in panels and conferences on topics such as social security and leadership positions for conservative women, and frequently catch lectures at other colleges. When they’re not traveling, the club members help run the State Senate campaign for Michaela LeBlanc ’07, who is running to represent the Hampshire and Franklin counties district.

“We literally eat, breathe, and sleep college Republicans,” says Braner of SCRC members. “This is what we do. Anytime there was an event, there were always Smith girls there, bringing people.”

In addition to club members’ dedication, Braner also attributes the club’s success to the management and efficient organization of its activities. “We’re training freshmen and sophomores to take leadership positions,” she says, “so it’s not just juniors and seniors on the executive board. We give each person ownership of something, of some subset. Especially with the freshmen we have now, this club will be amazing in four years. I’m definitely passing it on to good hands.”

Braner admits she didn’t do nearly as much as a first-year club member as current first-year members do, but after her White House internship with the Office of Strategic Initiatives last spring, she brought a huge leap in professionalism back to her club leadership position. Over the past two years, three other Smith Republicans have interned at the White House: Molly Ritchie ’06 worked in the Office of Strategic Initiatives during the fall of 2004, followed by Sarah Gelinas ’05J in the spring; and Vernon, who worked in the Office of Political Affairs.

As they reach the end of the semester, the club will continue running LeBlanc’s campaign and work on plans for a conservative newspaper on campus. And, true to the spirit of Smith College, the club will also set up a women’s leadership conference in Boston with Young Republicans in November.

Amid the liberal Smith campus, the success of the Smith College Republican Club is a testament to the members’ enthusiasm, says Braner. “I knew of Smith’s reputation before coming here,” she says, “and I didn’t pick it for its political leaning. But the club’s really learning more on this campus from the students’ liberal leaning. We have to do our reading, really know what our arguments are.”

With 139 students on the SCRC mailing list and 30 active members, the club often has to fight for a voice on campus. Braner views that as a positive.

“I’ve been openly Republican from the beginning,” says Braner. “From my first year, the climate on campus has changed, for the better for us. I think when you’re talking politics, no matter what side you’re on, there’s always going to be some sort of tension. I absolutely love Smith, and I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.”

5/4/06
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