If you are an ILR student or spend any time in Ives Hall, you probably know Jennifer Mandelblatt. As the former President of ILR Student Government and ILR Women’s Caucus, you often see her in the lobby of Ives Hall tabling for fundraisers or in the student lounge helping her peers find ways for organizations to collaborate and grow. Jen is known for being approachable and always providing a positive outlook.
What some people may not know about Jen is she is the Founder and Director of Platform, a convention held this past summer in Washington DC to engage women in politics. Like many entrepreneurs, she had her idea for a while before launching. As a freshman, she worked as a Labor Policy Intern for the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Her love for feminism and politics collided, and the idea for a political conference for young women was born.
A year later, she asked her father what he thought about her wild idea. He recommended that since the presidential election was approaching, it was the right time to create the conference. Emboldened, Jen invited a group of women she worked with in high school to lunch to pitch the idea. It was a success. “We were at lunch for three hours working on logos, ideas, and goals,” Jen explained. One year later, Platform Convention occurred in Washington DC.
Jen described the long journey of putting the conference together. She worked with her friends from high school on letter writing and crowdfunding for financial support. She was always driven by the mission of what she was doing. “Everyone has a voice, just not everyone’s voice is heard,” she explained. Getting voices heard was the primary objective of Platform. In order to drive participation in the conference, she used each person’s strengths.
The convention featured eight workshops on a variety of politically-charged topics including LQBTQ rights, women in the workplace, and equal pay. Thirty-five young women from fifteen states participated, enjoying premier speakers such as the Chief of Staff from Office of Disability at Department of Labor. On the last day, they successfully lobbied twenty-nine Congressional offices, speaking to policy leaders about their concerns.
Jen’s advice to the Cornell entrepreneurship community is to consider the urgency of your ideas. “If you have an idea but can’t tie it to what’s going on now, it’s hard to create a buy-in,” she explains. By pursuing ideas that are relevant, you “believe in your mission, cause, and people involved.” She also explains another critical step is allowing members of your organization define their involvement.
Now back on campus, Jen leads the ILR Leadership Council, where she organizes the Presidents and Vice Presidents of all ILR student organizations and facilitates their collaboration. She will continue to advocate for social justice and positive change throughout her pursuits.