BA 2000, Political Science
MA 2004, Government, Johns Hopkins University
Vice President, Budget and External Relations, First Focus, Washington, DC
Sarah Kyle has dedicated her career to public service, working as a legislative staff member for a U.S. Representative and a U.S. Senator (both from Indiana) in addition to working at the largest independent government relations firm in Washington. She specializes in health and social policy, and currently serves as the national manager, government relations, for JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), one of the top five charities in the nation.
Her political science professors and exposure to the C-SPAN archives at Purdue helped channel her interest in politics, but she remembers the exact moment she understood what working in public policy meant to her.
“When I first arrived in Washington in 2000, I was able to see Father Theodore Hesburgh [president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame] awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in recognition of his many contributions to civil rights, higher education, the Catholic Church, the nation, and the global community,” recalls Kyle. “It was there, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, that I realized that public service is about one’s contribution to the betterment of society. While working for former U.S. Senator Bayh, I had the opportunity to help advance legislation that would benefit the health of children and the elderly. Another particular ‘wow’ moment was witnessing the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act from the Senate gallery on Christmas Eve 2009, and later witnessing the final passage of that legislation from the House gallery.”
Dr. Robert X. Browning taught the introduction to American government class, where he tied in the work of Capitol Hill using C-SPAN coverage. Professor Browning serves as the Director of the C-SPAN archives, which were moved to Purdue in 1997 soon after I started there. Exposure to C-SPAN in combination with my interest in politics certainly sparked my desire to work in Washington. (Its co-founder Brian Lamb is the Purdue alumnus for whom the School of Communication is named.) My final political science class before graduating was also with Dr. Browning, and two weeks later I went to work on Capitol Hill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Old Masters program at Purdue University is one that stands out to me because it connects outstanding and extremely distinguished professionals in their field with students, faculty, and staff on campus. I served as an Old Masters hostess at my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, to Carolyn Curiel, who served as Ambassador to Belize. Meeting Ambassador Curiel made me realize the importance of sharing real world experiences with students as they determine what is next for them.
Purdue is an institution that is well recognized for academics and athletics, but it also instills loyalty, demands strong performance, and recognizes success. It teaches these lessons through consistent communication with students from day one to let them know about opportunities for involvement and by challenging them in their areas of study so that they get the most from their experience at Purdue. Purdue also highlights the contributions of alumni by bringing them back to campus to meet with students. This strong and ongoing commitment by Purdue to its students and alumni is most meaningful to me.
I have enjoyed some major achievements in my life, including the enactment of legislation that helped improve health care for the American people, developing a national plan to overcome Alzheimer’s disease, and securing $300 million in diabetes research funding. I would consider my greatest achievement to be my family life—finding a balance in my professional life while raising my two young sons, Teddy and Patrick.
Person I Admire
Former U.S. Senator Evan Bayh. He was a dedicated public servant to the state of Indiana as a two-term governor and senator. His tenure was marked by a sincere effort to push practical common sense solutions over partisanship and narrow ideology. His signature legislative efforts were aimed at creating more jobs, encouraging responsible fatherhood, and providing tax-relief for families struggling with the rising costs of college, retirement, and the long-term care of a loved one. But I also admire him for his devotion to his family. Serving on his staff, I witnessed how he took enormous pride in his role as a father of twin sons, Beau and Nick, carving out time in his very busy schedule for them and demonstrating that they were his biggest priority.
Idea of Perfect Happiness
My idea of perfect happiness is when I have done all that I can to help others—whether it is helping my own boys become kind and independent young men ready to take on something that will benefit others; helping people with diabetes by securing more research funding to bring them closer to a cure and better therapies; or being a good friend, sister, daughter, and granddaughter by offering a hand to hold or an ear to listen.
What I’m Reading
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is an inspirational story about Louis Zamperini, a man who faced life’s most unbelievable obstacles. It’s important to remember that if you are knocked down, have faith that you can handle anything that comes your way. This philosophy passed down by my parents and grandparents has helped me during some very challenging personal and professional times.
Profession I’d Like to Try
Nursing. It is an admirable profession that involves care and compassion for people and their families, often during very tough times. On the front lines of health care, nurses are the key point of care for patients and the conduit for families who are concerned for their loved ones. Purdue has a renowned nursing program, but it’s important to be aware that there is a shortage of nurses in large part because there is a shortage of nursing faculty. When I worked for Senator Bayh, I worked on legislation that helps nurses repay graduate school loans if they became nursing faculty. I hope that this incentive will encourage more people to consider teaching nursing and ultimately help stem the nursing shortage.