Women Elected Panel highlights women in politics

Minnesota State alumnae Nelsie Yang is the youngest and first Hmong-American woman elected council member in St. Paul’s history, and is on an all-women city council. 

“I think a lot about the children and young people who I’ve met along the way, who believe in themselves even more because they see another young person who’s able to be in a leadership position. Growing up, I didn’t have that,” said Yang. “I didn’t see myself as a leader, nor could I ever imagine myself running for office. Being somebody who makes it more possible for people by being that real-life example and testimony is one of the most rewarding things.” 

Yang spoke at the Women Elected Panel Thursday. The Women’s Center hosted this event and its goal was to focus on local government and its importance when national politics is something people mostly hear about. Yang, who graduated in 2017, said she tries to prioritize her time in Mankato and share her story. 

“I share my story in hopes that it’ll be an inspiration for people, especially young folks, to be the best version of themselves and reach their biggest hopes and dreams. It’s a way for me to not only pay it forward for all of the people who brought me to where I am today in my life, but to also get me closer to the world that I want to live in, which is the world where like young people are thriving and they have everything that they need to be successful in life,” said Yang. 

Director of the Women’s Center, Liz Steinborn-Gourley, said having an all-women council in St. Paul is important. 

“I think that it’s an opportunity to hear from folks who have historically been excluded from the government. I think if you look at the national level, if you look at a lot of local levels, you see that the ratio tends to favor men, for a whole list of reasons,” said  Steinborn-Gourley. “When women run, they’re thinking about many dynamics of their family and their community and serving others. So I think it’s a really cool opportunity and it’ll be interesting to see what they get up to this year.” 

Student Government President, Sierra Roiger, was a part of this event and said that students should care about local elections because it affects them, whether they know it or not. 

“Students make up a huge part of the Mankato community. Of course MSU has 14,672 students, however, on campus, we have around 10,000 that take on-campus classes,” said Roiger. “That’s a big chunk of people that could really influence what the city does for them and how they view the area and how the state views them and how they get the support that they need to continue to flourish into the people they become.” 

Student government presidents have been historically male. Roiger said that it feels amazing to be a woman in this role. 

“In our conference room, we have a row of pictures that shows all the past student body presidents. The last two presidents aren’t currently up there but you see a lot of men up there and so to be a part of this streak of female leadership is pretty exciting,” said Roiger. 

Roiger said despite it being a Women’s History Month event, students should think of it as so much more. She said it was about personal stories, perseverance and continuously fighting the barriers that are put up for anybody.

Header photo: Minnesota State alumnae Nelsie Yang spoke at the Women Elected Panel Thursday hosted by the Women’s Center. (Davis Jensen/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at

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