Kathy Koehler’s passion for SPEA is as contagious as her positive personality. Even her bright red Mini Cooper is branded with “SPEON,” the insider nickname SPEA alumni have given themselves.
Yet Koehler’s commitment to SPEA runs much deeper than a personalized license plate or a unifying nickname. Her lasting link and service to SPEA has earned Koehler a spot among this year’s recipients of the Maynard K. Hine Award.
Created in 1974, the prestigious award, named for IUPUI’s first chancellor, recognizes alumni who have made a significant impact on campus. Koehler will receive her bronze medal on Thursday during the IUPUI Alumni Leaders Dinner.
“Being nominated and selected as a recipient of the Maynard K. Hine award is humbling,” Koehler said. “I truly believe I get more from my work with SPEA than I could ever give back. I am incredibly grateful for this honor.”
“I nominated Kathy because of her long-standing dedication to both SPEA and to IUPUI,” said Yarbrough, who previously worked as SPEA’s assistant director of development. “Among her many critically important contributions, she understands the importance of connecting students and alumni for career development, as well as alumni engagement. Her work with both the Alumni Association and IUPUI advance the mission of both, allowing SPEA to educate world-class students in important and impactful ways.”
Thomas Stucky, SPEA’s executive associate dean, agrees.
“From her time as a grad student to her work as a faculty member and now in her position with the alumni association, Kathy’s commitment to SPEA and the IUPUI family is unquestionable,” he said. “She is passionate about building a network for our students that will serve them throughout their careers, while elevating SPEA’s reputation throughout our city, state and the nation. We are grateful for her impactful contributions and are thrilled she is receiving this well-deserved recognition.”
Koehler was first introduced to SPEA as a grad student, earning her MPA in Policy Analysis, and then as a faculty member. To bring her journey full circle, she’s now serving her final term – for now, she says – as the president of the SPEA Alumni Association. Koehler acknowledges this departure is likely temporary.
“I’ll probably serve another term later on,” she admits with a laugh. “I want to let other members of the board have some fun. I need to share.”
In addition to her work as a faculty member, Koehler’s service to SPEA has included a tenure as director for the school’s Executive Education program and the IU Public Policy Institute.
Brad Ray, director of PPI’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, says Koehler’s SPEA training and management expertise were apparent from the beginning. Ray says she took strategic steps to unite their team, reminding everyone of their shared passion for community-engaged research.
“While her time at PPI was limited, Kathy’s impact is still felt to this day,” Ray adds. “It was truly impressive to watch her work and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of her legacy.”
Koehler says her time with PPI and Executive Education provided a deeper understanding of SPEA. “Along with my experiences as a grad student, faculty member, and my work with the alumni association, these two opportunities truly added to my understanding of SPEA’s mission and how I can support that mission through service.”
BUILDING THE NETWORK
That concept of building the SPEA network has stayed with Koehler as she has moved into the professional world as a consultant and during her service to the SPEA Alumni Association.
“My main goal in all SPEA alumni activities is to grow the alumni network,” she says. “There are so many incredible SPEA grads out there. I want to connect them and make our network as powerful as possible.”
Koehler understands that a network of people working toward a common goal can lead to change. “If our alumni are connected, we can make an even greater impact,” she adds. “That’s what inspires me to do what I do.”
One way Koehler is working to grow the network is through events like the upcoming SPEA in the City. The program provides networking opportunities and a chance for attendees to hear from faculty members regarding topics that relate to them and their work.
Koehler says she’s excited to see SPEA alumni rising in the ranks throughout government, nonprofit and private organizations. She credits SPEA’s strong education in public administration with giving graduates an advantage, and says the next step is to make sure all of those students stay connected.
“SPEA alumni have that common goal of trying to improve private and public sectors, especially government and nonprofit,” Koehler says. “I am passionate about connecting alumni who can make change happen. If I can help the students and graduates make an even bigger impact, that’s what drives me.”
SPEA drives Koehler – and in turn, she drives SPEA. Everyone who sees her red Mini Cooper also sees SPEA, thanks to that personalized license plate that proudly displays what she believes, who she supports and, most importantly, who she is: a SPEON.