Why Abbie’s a Hawk to Watch:
Abbie Hodgson is a problem solver. It’s fitting then that she’s built a career taking on some of the most pressing issues of the day, traveling back and forth between Kansas and Washington D.C. working in government, on the campaign trail, and for a non-profit. In all that she’s done professionally, she has put her KU degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies, and her impressive knack for political strategy, to work in ways that have far-reaching implications and make visible impacts in the lives of many.
Abbie’s resume includes a run for Kansas Legislature, serving as a speechwriter for a governor, a role as Chief of Staff to the Kansas House Minority Leader, and currently, as Officer with the State Strategy Group at the Pew Charitable Trusts, an international nonprofit. In navigating the political sphere, and the whirlwind work schedules that often come as an occupational hazard, she’s learned to look ahead in the face of loss, and that solid relationships are as valuable as solid credentials. For Abbie, we’re all community members — locally, nationally, and globally. And she’s driven by a profound sense of duty to make those communities better and stronger.
Admittedly, the daily grind of policy and politics, campaigns and constituents, and the hustle and bustle of D.C. can make for some non-stop, around-the-clock days followed by long nights. But Abbie shows no signs of slowing down or running out of steam. In fact, we’d say she’s just getting started.
Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:
I work for the Pew Charitable Trust, an international nonprofit that seeks to solve some of the most challenging problems facing our society today. I support our project teams in developing and executing strategies to inform and effect public policy at the state level.
How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together? Or was it a longer journey?
When I started college at KU, I could have never envisioned the career that I’ve had. Rather, professors such as Burdett A. Loomis, Allan Cigler, and Paul E. Johnson in the Political Science Department piqued my interest in politics.
I’ve bounced back and forth between Kansas and Washington, D.C. several times – I’ve worked in government, on political campaigns, for a non-profit. I’ve been open to following opportunities when and where they have arisen.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?
Serving as the speechwriter for then Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was an early highlight of my career. The role I played as Chief of Staff to the House Minority Leader in electing 12 new Democrats to the Kansas House in 2016 is something I am profoundly proud of because it changed the course of our state’s history.
Recently, I worked to pass a bill in Ohio that reforms payday loans and will save citizens $75 million a year – that felt pretty good.
What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?
I ran for the Kansas Legislature in 2014 and lost. While losing is never fun, the process of campaigning for elected office stretched me both personally and professionally. From that loss came the opportunity to serve as Chief of Staff to the House Minority Leader, a position that allowed me to be equally as involved in the legislative process.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
I don’t know where I will be physically – on a farm in rural Kansas, in the U.S. Capitol Building in D.C., or somewhere else unknown, but I do know I will be working to make our community, state, nation, or world a better place for everyone.
What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?
Building relationships is important. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how hard you work, you will still need the help of other people to succeed.
How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?
In pursuing my bachelor’s, I learned the basics of political theory and developed my passion for politics. In obtaining my master’s, I learned to look at issues from multiple perspectives. In earning my doctorate, I honed my analytical skills and developed confidence in my ability to produce solutions to problems well-grounded in research. Each of these skills are critical to engaging in the political process and working with lawmakers to develop public policy.
What’s your best career pro-tip?
Be direct, honest, and forthcoming – people may not always like what you say, but they will appreciate knowing where you stand.
What do you do after you’ve clocked out?
I’m not very good at clocking out. My brain is constantly thinking about project ideas and things I need to do. When I’m out with friends I’m likely talking politics, and even when I’m in bed I’m generally reading the news or checking Twitter. D.C. isn’t known for its healthy work-life balance.
What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?
I used to raise chickens!
Be like Abbie. Hone your skills, keep your eyes on the prize, and search for solutions to the problems that matter most to you. For more information, see the Pew Charitable Trusts, and explore the Department of Political Science and the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas.
Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.