Tammy Baldwin had just graduated from Smith College in 1984 as a double major in math and political science. The high school valedictorian and Madison, Wis., native had not yet secured a job, but she found an inspiration in Geraldine Ferraro, who that year became the first woman ever nominated for vice president on a major party’s ticket. “I remember watching the Democratic convention and her giving her speech and thinking to myself, I can aspire to anything. There’s no limits anymore,” she says. Baldwin, who was sworn in Thursday as the first openly gay U.S. senator, says she hopes her own achievement will have a similar “ripple effect.” Speaking with The Advocate in her first interview of the new year, she notes that LGBT people have already told her, “This has changed me in some way,” when talking about her win.