Kathleen Cylkowski, SSP'07
Nurse-Midwife, US Army
A graduate of Arizona State University, SSP alumna Kathleen Cylkowski (‘07) developed a deep interest in international affairs while studying Spanish and political science as a undergrad. While working as a page at the Arizona State Senate and learning the ins and outs of state-level government, she began applying to various MA programs and made her way to DC to begin her graduate studies at Georgetown. Only a few years after the incidents of 9/11 and the start of the war in Iraq, Cylkowski was studying security at a very unique time in our nation’s history. She notes that within the program “there was a real sense of purpose among my classmates and professors.”
During her time as a student in the program, Cylkowski interned at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and then landed a job at Booz Allen Hamilton working on projects for U.S. Special Operations Command upon graduation. After a few years there, she learned about an Army program sending civilians to Afghanistan to do social science research. Cylkowski applied, was accepted, and spent the next 18 months traveling around Afghanistan with NATO forces and U.S. special operators. She expresses it was the best time in her life, but awoke in her a desire to move away from the policy world.
Upon returning from Afghanistan, Cylkowski had a very strong sense that she wanted a skill: a skill she could use to help other people, a skill to give back. After much soul-searching, she decided to attend nursing school at Vanderbilt University and become a nurse-midwife. After graduating, she joined the U.S. Army and now work as an active duty nurse-midwife. Cylkowski feels honored every day to put on the uniform of her country and serve soldiers and their families. Educating patients is the most rewarding part of her job. She says, “Education is power, especially when you can give someone knowledge about their own body and their health. It really gives them the ability to make positive choices and changes for themselves.”
Reflecting on what SSP has done for her, Cylkowski attributes much of her success to what she learned at SSP, especially her ability to think critically. But she also attributes her success to her willingness to continue to learn and re-examine her own assumptions and her willingness to make and embrace change in her life. And even though her career path has diverged from that of the typical SSP graduate, she wouldn’t trade her post-graduate experience for anything.