Archive | January, 2013

A couple of Cyclones in the smallest U.S. state

23 Jan


Listening to Sam and Kylie (Stemple) Pfile describe their lives in Rhode Island is something akin to hearing the story of the blind men and the elephant.

“I like the day trips,” Kylie says happily. “In two-and-a-half hours you can go to six states.”

“You’ve got to get used to being out here,” Sam counters. “The driving is awful.”

“You’re so close to so many things,” Kylie says. “I like the outdoor activities… the cities, the food, the history.”

“The people here are really different,” Sam says. “Most of our friends are from the Midwest.”

Sam clearly misses the Midwest.

But they both agree that they moved to the East Coast to see what it was like. Kylie (’03 art & design) grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Sam (’01 ag business) was born in Mason City, Iowa, but grew up in Illinois. They met at Iowa State when Sam transferred from a junior college.

“I did a college visit, and after five minutes on campus I said, ‘I’m coming here,’” Sam says.

“We lived on the same floor in Larch Hall,” Kylie says.

They married in 2004 and moved to Colorado, Minnesota, and Massachusetts for Sam’s job as a food safety inspector for the USDA. (“I’m known as The Iowa State Guy at all the plants,” Sam says.) They moved to Rhode Island in 2008. Sam still works for the USDA; Kylie does sales and product design for AVID Products. They have a dog named Gus, whom Sam refers to as “the most spoiled beagle ever in recorded history.”

Sam, you will not be surprised to learn, is eager to move back to the Midwest someday. Kylie is in no particular hurry.

“There’s a misconception by people I meet here that we left Iowa because it was dull and that there was nothing to do and we just wanted to get out,” Kylie says. “But it’s not true. We were just curious about what’s out here.”

Jim and I spent the day with Sam and Kylie (and Gus, who doesn’t seem so much spoiled as just really happy) at their Riverside, R.I., home (not far from Providence) last October. The couple has the distinction of having completed all 50 states on the Wall of Alumni and Friends at the ISU Alumni Center when they purchased a wall plaque after meeting ISUAA president Jeff Johnson at the ISU vs. UConn game in the fall 2011. Rhode Island is the smallest U.S. state, the state with the fewest ISU alumni, and, until they purchased the plaque, the only state not represented on the wall.

Thanks, guys!

On the border

20 Jan


Shawn Kyne could never envision himself with an office job. And boy, did he get his wish. As a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Shawn helps patrol the western corridor of the Tucson Sector made up mostly of the Tohono O’odham Nation, an Indian reservation roughly the size of Connecticut.

It’s an intense, active job for the 2005 political science grad from Minnesota who says he was always interested in law enforcement.

The area Shawn patrols in southern Arizona is mountainous and sparsely populated, with rugged terrain and a harsh climate. There are tarantulas, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and plants that sting and poke. Often the people he encounters crossing the border illegally from Mexico into the United States have been walking for five days or more.

“I patrol the desert, looking for footprints and signs of entry into the U.S.,” Shawn says. “We run into everything from people coming here for work, human and drug smugglers, stolen vehicles, and gang members. We run the gamut of law enforcement. We operate on the pavement and in the dirt in the most remote areas of Arizona.”

Indeed, Shawn says no two days are ever the same.

“You never come to work expecting a boring day,” he explains. “You could lay in a wash for six hours and not hear a peep. And some days it’s like a movie – and it’s all good parts.”

At the heart of his work is tracking: using skills both simple (following tracks, looking for disturbances on the ground) and high-tech (thermal imaging, GPS, ground sensors).

“It’s not for everyone,” he admits. “It’s hard work, long days, and catching people who aren’t happy to see you.”

He says the Tucson Sector is one of the most active sections of the border, with people trying to cross into the country illegally every day, on every shift. And the smugglers are getting more sophisticated – but so is the Border Patrol.

“We have more agents on the ground and access to more technology than ever before,” he says.


In the photo above, Shawn is standing by the border fence. Part of the fence that runs along the U.S./Mexico border in the Tucson Sector of Arizona is a simple vehicle barricade – you can easily walk across the border here, but not legally. He explained that technology allows agents to detect crossings in these remote areas and arrest those who attempt to enter the country illegally. Shawn told photographer Jim Heemstra that if he walked into Mexico and crossed back into the U.S., he would have to arrest him. And he wasn’t joking.

A career gamble that paid off

4 Jan

Alison for blog

More than 320,000 people gathered in Las Vegas last summer for one of the largest music events in North America: The Electric Daisy Carnival. For three nights, fans were entertained by more than 150 musical acts, 500 theatrical performers, and 12 large-scale interactive installations and pyrotechnic displays.

Alison Monaghan (’05 journalism/mass communication) was there. A senior account executive for Kirvin Doak Communications in Las Vegas, Alison worked through the night, making sure the needs of the media and the artists’ publicists were being met.

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) is a year-round account for Kirvin Doak, and Alison handles the publicity aspects of the mega-event.

“I work with media coverage,” Alison explained. “It’s very cool to see your first story run in Rolling Stone. It’s one of those pinch-me moments.”

Alison works not just with EDC but with other clients including those involved in Las Vegas entertainment, nightlife, resorts, and real estate. (Once, a story she pitched about bilingual casino dealers made it on the front page of the New York Times.) She also works for clients in the nonprofit world, specifically with the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a golf tournament in the fall series of the PGA Tour.

The Las Vegas strip is a world away from Alison’s rural hometown of Guthrie Center, Iowa. After she graduated from Iowa State, Alison knew she wanted to travel and live in a big city in a different part of the country, but she wasn’t sure where.

She asked herself: “Where can I move to be on my own and prove I can do it?” She sent resumes to New York with no luck, then moved to San Diego. From there, she was told that Las Vegas was the best place to get a job in public relations.

Alison gambled and won. She’s been in Las Vegas for six years now, and she’s in no hurry to move on.

“For me, this is a place to put some roots down and stay here for a long time,” she said. “For where I am in my life, this is my dream job. I’m excited every day.”