Life inside the beltway

After graduation, Kristine Mamula Simmons '90 (professional and technical communication) went to work for the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in Washington, D.C. A year later, John Simmons '91 (business administration, finance) followed her to the nation's capital, taking a job in the office of Congressman James T. Walsh (R-Syracuse).

A dozen years later, they have carved notable careers in public service – including Kristine's year as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for Domestic Policy.

"It was a wonderful experience," she says, "but a challenge when you have little children." She left the White House in April 2002 to spend more time with Jack, now 4, and Caroline, 6. She has a part-time job as vice president for government affairs for the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit organization that, according to its Web site, "works to make the government an employer of choice for talented, dedicated Americans through educational outreach, research, legislative advocacy and partnerships with agencies on workforce management issues."

John Simmons, after a decade with Congressman Walsh, joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP as a senior
advisor.

"I help clients forge relationships on Capitol Hill," he says. "I help them tell their story and guide them through the process." He's represents the State University of New York, Native American interests, defense contractors, and local communities concerned about proposed military base closings in 2005.

Both Simmonses say RIT put them on the road to Washington. Through his involvement in Theta Xi fraternity, Greek Council and Student Government, John says, "I learned how to work with the administration. I learned I enjoyed serving the community."

RIT gave him a particular advantage when he applied for a job with Congressman Walsh's office. Simmons started as a biotechnology major before transferring to the College of Business and had a good deal of science and technical background. "That made me stand out," he says. He was initially hired as "legislative assistant and systems administrator."

Kristine, also active in Student Government, worked with John to help establish the Horton Distinguished Speaker Series. They felt RIT, as a technical institute, needed more opportunities for political discussions. Among the early visitors was former President Jimmy Carter.

At RIT they became deeply intrigued by government service. They still are. John, in fact, admits that he may someday be interested in running for public office.

"The goal is influencing public policy to help people," says Kristine, "to make our country the best place it can be for everyone. That's what motivates us."

The University Magazine, Spring 2004