Alumni help recent grad on road to governor’s office

Chicago, Denver, and Washington D.C. were some of the cities on Caroline Sharp’s shortlist of destinations for her post-graduate career plans. 

But Kansas — specifically, governor Laura Kelly’s office — called.

It’s a pleasantly surprising endpoint to a post-graduate job search for Sharp, who was championed throughout by a strong network of fellow honors alumni.

“They reminded me to truly trust the process and be ready to jump at the right opportunity when it comes my way,” Sharp said. 

Sharp, who majored in political science and sociology, considered several options ahead of her spring 2023 graduation, including graduate school and teaching abroad. Having moved back to her home state of Texas, she ultimately decided she was “eager and ready” to jumpstart her professional career in public service. 

Where she fit in that sphere — her interests included education, healthcare, and women’s issues, among other areas — became clearer after revisiting connections she’d developed as an undergraduate, particularly within the University Honors Program. 

“I knew I could reach out to the honors program for support,” says Sharp, who worked as one of the program’s student assistants. 

Sharp contacted program director Dr. Sarah Crawford-Parker, who, alongside Jeff & Amy Handlin Honors Faculty Fellow Dr. Mary Klayder, compiled a list of potential alumni mentors Sharp could connect with based on her career goals.

Sharp met with honors alumni in several different fields, including social justice law, immigration policy, and nonprofit work. They discussed Sharp’s professional interests and goals before providing her with guidance based on their own past job searches. 

These conversations not only provided valuable insight into career planning but gave Sharp reassurance that countered her own anxieties about finding “the perfect job” right out of school. 

“It was great to get perspective that my first job out of college is not the ‘ultimate defining moment’ of my overall career,” Sharp says, “but instead a stepping stone to future places, positions, and networks.” 

One honors alumna Sharp spoke with was Anna Gregory, a 2005 graduate whose work implementing educational policy began with D.C. area schools and continues through independent consulting. 

A political science and history major while at KU, Gregory enjoyed connecting with Sharp over their shared interests in government and education. 

“Caroline is so smart and has so much potential, and it was really fun to discuss her options with her,” Gregory says. “I could sense she was really eager to get started.” 

Sharp’s conversations with Gregory came at a crucial point in Sharp’s job search. Having received offers from both an environmental nonprofit in Chicago and Governor Kelly’s office, Sharp sought guidance from mentors like Gregory. 

Based on those conversations and weighing how each position would play to her strengths, Sharp decided that working for Governor Kelly would be the best fit at this point in her life.  

“My mentors always echoed that each position should serve as a building block toward the direction that most interests me,” Sharp says. 

As Kelly’s Healthcare Access Coordinator, Sharp is involved in research and outreach for several healthcare policy projects within the governor’s office. It’s the kind of position that, in Gregory’s eyes, will be foundational for Sharp. 

“That practical experience of working in local government is so valuable for anything you want to do later,” Gregory says.

Sharp is excited for the growth her new role will supply, and she remains thankful for the support she found from fellow honors program alumni.

“These conversations provided me not just with guidance,” Sharp says, “but hope that I would end up in the position that was the best fit for me … and they were right!”