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Martha Spieker found passion in leadership and social justice while at PLU and reflects on lessons learned as she moves into her next chapter.
Leadership means different things to different people, but to Martha Spieker it means community.
“I think the best and most important part of leadership is helping empower other people,” Spieker said. “It’s not doing it yourself.”
Engaging with others to make Pacific Lutheran University a better place was a central focus of not only the senior’s college career as a Hispanic Studies and Political Science double-major, but also her tenure as president of Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University this year.
Student government wasn’t originally part of the graduating senior’s college plans. She went into college with the expectation that she would engage in a variety of activities that she loved, rather than adopting a more administrative role.
“I didn’t really want to specialize, for lack of a better word,” she explained.
As a first-year, Spieker mentored middle school students through Club Keithley, guided tours and held various employed positions on campus. Later, she studied abroad for two semesters and interned for Washington State Representative Derek Kilmer. She credits her diverse extracurricular background with guiding her toward her love for engagement.
“Through these experiences, I found that I’m most passionate about helping people with whatever they’re passionate about,” she said. “It didn’t have to do so much with what I was doing, but with the fact that I was engaging with other people who were passionate, encouraging them and providing them with resources.”
Spieker’s desire to help others reach their goals on a larger scale inspired her to seek a leadership role within ASPLU, despite having no official experience with student government.
During the spring of her junior year, she ran for president and won. This was her first-ever elected position.
As ASPLU president, Spieker was a vocal advocate of radical inclusivity and transparency between student government and the larger student body. “One of the things Ellie [Lapp] and I are most proud of this year is that we’ve actively tried to get other people involved in student leadership and government,” she said. “Also, we try to connect them with resources in ways that haven’t really been approached this year. We want ASPLU to be seen as a resource for all groups on campus.”
A significant part of ASPLU’s role this year was providing a place for campus-wide dialogue about complex issues. Most notably, under Spieker’s leadership ASPLU has supported the “Let’s Talk About It” series to discuss relevant and often sensitive issues such as religion and race.
Describing the process of teamwork and dialogue, Spieker said, “When you let people run with ideas, I think that encourages and allows people not only to feel empowered, but to allow them to feel like part of a bigger group that does more work all together.”
Spieker hopes that during her time at PLU, she helped make the Lute community a place where other students can find support. “The community that I’ve found here has been incredibly supportive. I want the support that this community has given me to reach as many other people as possible,” she said.
Spieker’s legacy at PLU was one of inclusion and discussion. She may further this legacy on an even larger scale after graduation when she returns to Washington, D.C. to work for Representative Kilmer.
In the same way that Spieker has made a profound impact on PLU’s community, PLU has shaped Spieker’s understanding of her life. “In high school, I used to be able to tell my story really well,” she said. “In college, I realized that the mish-mash of my experiences, these things that are completely unrelated, has helped to get me where I am now.”
Associated Students of PLU’s Mission Statement:
To lead in collaboration with our campus, we focus both outwards on our partnerships with student clubs and organizations, faculty, staff and administration of the greater Pacific Lutheran University community as well as inwards on ourselves. Therefore, the mission of the Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University is to promote the growth of the collective student body community as a whole, while actively encouraging the advancement of the individual.