Which is why, at first, she wasn’t receptive to Kyle Stearns, TSPPPA MPP ’09. The two met on the first day of orientation for their graduate program at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration (TSPPPA).
Kyle noticed Stephanie right away, as she took a seat in the front of the room—he was sitting the back. But the students were split into two groups, and everyone in the back rows was asked to move to the front.
“This was my chance to make a move!” remembers Kyle. After building up his nerve, Kyle sat next to Stephanie to introduce himself.
Although Stephanie introduced herself in return, she immediately turned her attention to the front of the room. “We didn’t talk or interact for the rest of the day,” Kyle says.
Undeterred, Kyle didn’t forget about Stephanie. And luck was on his side; they had two classes together that first semester.
“I made sure to sit right next to her in one class, and then play it cool by not sitting near her in the next,” he says.
Finally, the two connected during a GW event at a local bar, where they split a basket of onion rings. After that night, they slowly became friends.
Then on a spring day in 2008, the pair found themselves on an “accidental” first date while taking in DC’s famous cherry blossoms. In a few weeks, Kyle’s campaign was over, and they were officially a couple.
After graduation in 2009, Kyle and Stephanie moved in together in the Eastern Market neighborhood and began careers with the Federal Government. Kyle works for Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Health and Stephanie works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Public and Indian Housing.
But as active alumni, they attend various GW events and volunteer for their program, which often brings them back to campus. And that’s how Kyle took Stephanie by surprise when he proposed in one of the first classrooms they shared as grad students in the MPA building.
Stephanie thought she was coming to campus to speak to prospective students at the request of Paul Binkley, who was director of TSPPPA career services at the time. She didn’t know that Kyle had had secretly contacted Paul to create a decoy alumni event so that he could propose.
“We’ve helped with similar events in the past, so I thought nothing of it!” explains Stephanie.
“On the day of the event, I rushed to GW from work, mentally rehearsing what I’d say to the students,” she remembers. “When I arrived, Kyle was in the lobby and told me that we were supposed to wait in the classroom across the hall until it was our turn to speak.”
Naturally, Kyle had set up the room to look just as it did when they were students. “It took me entirely too long to realize what was going on, but as soon as I did, I said yes!” says Stephanie.
Afterwards, Kyle also arranged for a group of friends to meet at a nearby bar—the same bar where they shared their first “ring” as grad students.
Kyle and Stephanie will also have their friends with them on July 6, 2013, when they tie the knot.
Although they chose GW for the prestige of their program and the one-of-a-kind career opportunities in DC, there’s another reason they’re happy to be GW alumni.
“I’m from Kansas and Stephanie’s from California,” says Kyle. “We never would have met if it hadn’t been for GW and the Trachtenberg School!”