Caitlyn Leiter-Mason graduated from UMBC in Spring 2014 with a double major in Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies in Spring 2014. While at UMBC Caitlyn was active in SGA, UMBC College Democrats, and was the first student liaison for WILL’s Elect Her program. GWST caught up with Caitlyn in July 2017 in the last weeks of her job at Planned Parenthood, just before she headed off to Rutgers to pursue a Master’s in Public Policy.
Caitlyn’s interests naturally drew her to Annapolis to work in legislative affairs before taking the position of Development and Supporter Engagement Coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Maryland. Asked how her work in Gender and Women’s Studies prepared her for these positions Caitlyn says, “In GWST I learned to think critically and got the awareness that things are differently important to different groups of people.” Her work at Planned Parenthood means she works with individual and corporate donors as well as clients, all of whom have different concerns and relationships to questions of reproductive justice. As she says, “I am able to reconcile the different perspectives I have to have to understand the many reasons it is important to keep health centers open every day.”
Caitlyn credits a summer course on gender and health policy with helping her learn some of the nitty gritty skills she needs day to day at Planned Parenthood and teaching her that “health means different things to different people.” This and other GWST course work reminded her over and over how important it is to think about lived experience first when making decisions about health policy.
Caitlyn also remembers her work in GWST 200: Studies in Feminist Activism as helping her learn how to translate individual problems as collective issues. Her project built on WILL’s Pay Equity Day to bring experts to campus to talk about how women and people of color can organize for higher salaries as a group rather than at the individual level. “We are always encouraged to negotiate our salaries,” Caitlyn says, “but wait! This isn’t just my problem! The class project helped me get the language to talk about collective problems.”
Caitlyn has worked to raise funds to help keep the doors open at Planned Parenthood clinics all over the state. She also helped organize 90th Anniversary events with her former professor, Dr. Carole McCann, who is now helping preserve the archives of Planned Parenthood of Maryland for researchers, including herself. Student/faculty connections remain important long after students graduate from UMBC!
Caitlyn will take her GWST training with her as she moves on to Rutgers. She is excited to get the time to dive deep into research, something she misses since leaving UMBC. Caitlyn looks forward to a career in research, legislative affairs, and policy work, and we are excited to see her leave her sharp marks on the world to make it better for all of us.