NeW Announces Winner of 2021 Essay Contest: Sarah Montalbano

May 30, 2021

NeW is excited to announce the winner of the College Category of the 2021 NeW Essay Contest is Sarah Montalbano, a student at Montana State University. Congratulations, Sarah!

Read her winning piece in the Washington Examiner here.

How did you hear about the 2021 NeW Essay Contest and why did you choose to participate in it?
In my work at Alaska Policy Forum, I came across the Network of enlightened Women and investigated, in the hopes that my campus had a chapter. Though my campus does not, I explored the website and I resonated with the essay topic this year: How does having women with different views and from different backgrounds benefit America? I did not think of the women in positions of power today; I thought of the women role models that I’ve met, worked with, and learned from who encouraged me to break from consensus and speak my mind. I wanted to craft an essay that emphasized the importance of ideological representation at home. I could think of no better example than when I was a teaching assistant, and frequently I was the only person questioning the assumptions and conclusions the class reached. 

What was your favorite part about writing this essay?
As the pandemic had locked down most of my campus for a year and a half, I was feeling disconnected from the opportunities and experiences that I had looked forward to. In the fall of 2020, the only class I had in-person was the one I was teaching, and writing this essay gave me a chance to reflect on my role in challenging their assumptions respectfully and asking them to think more deeply about their ideas. Though it was often frustrating, it was a rewarding experience and I hope that every student benefited, even those who disagreed with me. I voiced my opinions against overwhelming pressure not to, and I can only hope that my example will remain with the students who felt empowered to speak during my class. 

Why is NeW important?  
I think it’s incredibly important for women to be exposed to ideas outside of the widely accepted feminism and liberalism on college campuses, and NeW does just that. I have always felt somewhat excluded from campus life because I do not conform to traditional assumptions about the views of women. I think if a NeW chapter were on my campus I would have found a community of women who wanted to explore the concepts of freedom and liberty with me and shared my values. I think conservative and libertarian-minded women often are not afforded a voice on campus outside of organizations like NeW, and there’s an important place for NeW on campus. 

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