To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling three dozen of Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The 19th alumna in our series is Leslie Martin ’14, a senior program officer at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C., working on democratic assistance programs in the former Soviet Union. A political science and Russian major at Kenyon, Martin went on to earn a master’s degree in Eurasian, Russian and East European affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
The pull and push between the immediate and the important is a constant struggle for me. But keeping dates straight in my calendar and writing a task list every morning has helped me stay organized at work and prevent things falling through the cracks in my personal life.
There are moments when I feel pulled in multiple directions and find it difficult to focus on one thing. In those moments, I try to remind myself that time is something you cannot get more of. When evaluating which project to tackle or grant to go after, I always consider the opportunity costs involved and ask “will this help me or my institute reach our long term goals? Is this reflective of our values?” Be conscious of others’ time, but also your own.
Where did you first discover your power?
Is it too corny to say “at Kenyon”? In all honesty, it was in the classroom at Kenyon. I had always enjoyed participating in class discussions and public speaking, but it was not until Kenyon that I understood my power to connect with others on the issues I care about. I am a firm believer that being passionate will get you far, but if you are not able to effectively communicate your passion to others, it is difficult to convince them that your passion project is worth supporting.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
There’s a long list of professors and classmates who inspired me during and since Kenyon. I was very fortunate to take many classes with [Professor Emerita of Political Science] Pamela Jensen and with [Professor of Political Science] Fred Baumann, who was my advisor from day one through graduation day. Professors Jensen and Baumann represent to me the pure form of tough mind and kind heart. In her senior seminar on Rousseau’s “Emile,” Professor Jensen greatly impacted the way I see community and showed me that a life of significance can take many forms. Professor Baumann made personal connections with each and every one of his students, looking out for our wellbeing in and out of the classroom. Like many of the professors at Kenyon, they taught each class with purpose, passion and often humor.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
When you need to have an important or difficult conversation at work or in your personal life, write down what you need to say and practice how you want to say it. Taking just a little time to prepare can go a long way.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Elisabeth Hire ’00
Read about the next woman in our series: Jen Judson ’04