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Everything’s Rosie

Internship leads to role with Dept. of Commerce for recent graduate

Rosie Nichols

From The Ichabod - Fall 2020

Even with international shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world continues to go on – just in a slightly more digital form. Recent graduate Rosie Nichols experienced this firsthand as she interviewed for a job as an international development representative with the Kansas Department of Commerce via a Zoom interview in a McDonald’s parking lot in Russell, Kansas.

The best part? She got the job.

A Student of the World

Rosie Nichols, ba ’20, found a love for international work after attending a study abroad program in Paraguay during high school. She thought it would be interesting to become a diplomat. A 2015 graduate of Topeka High School, Nichols made the decision to attend Washburn University after meeting political science professors Mark Peterson and Bob Beatty during a Junior Days event.

“I didn't know I wanted to study political science, but I knew I wanted to be a diplomat,” Nichols said. “Dr. Beatty had taken the Foreign Service Officer exam to become a diplomat, so I thought he would be a good advisor.”

During her junior year at Washburn, Nichols went to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a year to study – an experience she was granted in large part due to a scholarship she received from the Kissinger Political Science Fund. The Kissinger Fund is devoted to helping Washburn political science students, and Nichols received awards from this fund multiple times to provide experiences she couldn’t have had if she worked full-time while attending school. It is just one of the many donor-funded options available for Washburn students.

“The professors in the political science department are really supportive of their students,” Nichols said. “They helped me get scholarships that allowed me to study abroad twice and take the internship in the governor’s office.”

As she was getting closer to graduation, Nichols was anxious to get some applicable, real-world experience in her desired field. With the help of Beatty, and the close relationships between Washburn and the state government, Nichols got an internship in Gov. Laura Kelly’s appointments office.

Ready to Serve

Interns with state government are often called to tackle a wide range of challenges, providing loads of experience and opportunities. During her time in the governor’s office, Nichols proved herself a valuable resource – impressing the team there with her strong work ethic and enthusiasm in a fast-paced, challenging environment. This experience set Nichols up to continue to serve the state in a meaningful way. When a job opened with the Department of Commerce, she was a shoo-in for the role.

Nichols applied for the job, but then COVID-19 hit Kansas. With on-site classes canceled, she went to visit her grandmother in Russell, Kansas. Without internet at the house, she took to the parking lot of the local McDonald’s for a Zoom interview.

Nichols’ experience, drive and interest helped her land the job serving as an international development representative. In this role, Nichols is assisting Kansas in attracting more foreign direct investments and expanding existing business exports.

“Gov. Kelly’s administration wanted to make that division a priority again, so it has been really exciting to be a part of this,” Nichols said.

Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Toland explained the International Division can contribute to economic growth in Kansas.

“We have so much to offer international firms interested in an ideal location in the U.S.,” Toland said. “And for businesses already here, our international team works to grow and expand exporting opportunities worldwide, which in turn benefits communities and the state.”

The Best Woman for the Job

Even with working remotely and not yet having in-person access to all her new co-workers, Nichols made an impression this summer.

“In her brief tenure at Commerce, Rosie has already shown a willingness to learn with a mindset that helps her embrace all of the complexities of her position,” Toland said. “We are so pleased to have her on board, and we look forward to her future contributions on the Commerce team and to the state of Kansas.”

“This is a great success story,” Beatty said. “Rosie did it, but Washburn professors, administration, donors and supporters were helping her all along the way.”

The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

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