Leading by example

The buzz term “leaning in” has triggered new debates about women and working mothers in the workplace. But, the label is nothing new to Beth Watson, director of the prestigious Washington Semester Internship Program and other internship programs out of the South Carolina Honors College.

Watson, a 12-year board member and vice-chair of the Lexington-Richland District 5 board, was balancing an upwardly mobile career and motherhood in 1994 when she decided to get involved with her children’s school committees, not realizing her volunteerism in the elementary school and district would propel her to a position of leadership.

“I was inspired to run for office after being asked to chair a school bond referendum campaign,” Watson says. “I knew that I could be a strong advocate for the district and bring about positive change for our students.”

Watson’s success as a public servant gets to a core value that’s a guiding principle in her life.

“I have a core value of wanting what is best for the greater good. I can’t ignore this trait, even when it would be easier to do so,” she says. “I stand up for what I believe, step forward to challenge the status quo, and acknowledge the contributions of others in a shared venture.”

Watson is also passionate about her inherent belief in the value of education — how it can impact an individual student and the positive influence it has on society. As director of the Washington internship program at USC, she recruits the best and brightest students from all colleges and universities across the state to work and take classes in the nation’s capital. Because she places students in the offices of elected officials and agencies that require a security clearance and in organizations accountable to the public, Watson says it’s important that the candidates demonstrate strong leadership skills.

“It is important that the students have the maturity to succeed in their internship and the integrity to favorably represent themselves and the university,” Watson says. 

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