Alexandra Hudson (Vankevich, ’14) could hardly contain her excitement when she was appointed to a position in the US Department of Education. In many ways, this was a dream come true. She brimmed with optimism when she arrived at her Washington D.C. office for her first day. She couldn’t wait to help America’s students thrive!
To her great surprise, the experience was far more challenging than she ever expected. After just over a year of government service, she left to recover her ideals after becoming disillusioned with the slow-moving, inefficient federal bureaucracy. She wondered how the true, good, and the beautiful—the things she loved most in this world—could exist in a place like this.
A YOUNG VISIONARY
From an early age, Hudson was challenged by her parents—both educators—to think critically and love ideas. They constantly stimulated her and her siblings and taught them to love reading. When she was old enough to begin her undergraduate studies, she was primed and ready to absorb as much knowledge as she could.
Choosing Trinity Western was never a question for Hudson. Her mother, Judi Vankevich (Johnston, ’85) is an alumna, as are the other three Johnston sisters. In addition, her father Ned Vankevich is a professor on campus. But it was more than just familial ties that influenced her decision to study there. Hudson loved Trinity Western’s rich tradition as a Christian liberal arts institution.
Hudson knew that the earliest educational institutions had a liberal arts focus and were dedicated to creating well-rounded humans with skills and awareness in various fields. Trinity Western was part of a tradition that helped develop the exact type of person she wanted to be.
“The years I studied there were the most formative and intellectually vibrant of my life,” says Hudson of the experience. “I adored every second of it.”
APPLYING WHAT WAS LEARNED
As much as Hudson loved learning, she wanted the things she learned to actually help others. So she enrolled for her Master’s in International Comparative Social Policy at the London School of Economics as a Rotary Scholar.
The purpose of the program was to explore pending social problems in the developed world, to examine what solutions countries are trying, and to learn from what was working. She had a particular focus on education, drug policy, and social welfare programs.
“This program was oriented toward problem-solving and intertwined my love of the true, the good, and the beautiful with my passion for helping others,” says Hudson.
After graduating with her Masters, Hudson yearned to put her learning to good use. When she moved to Washington D.C. in 2016, she thought she would finally be able to start making a real difference in the world.
But after being appointed to the Department of Education, Hudson quickly found herself disillusioned with government specifically, and the current political arena more broadly.
DISILLUSIONMENT IN THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
“You have to be in government for years to see something happen,” says Hudson. “I love the notion of creating something that will be able to help people. But the best you can do in Federal government is roll back counterproductive programs. This is important work, but it’s the opposite of building something.”
While in federal government, Hudson felt far removed from the students she went into education to help in the first place. “In the United States Federal Government, you take what Congress gives you then administer it. If you deviate from that, you get sued,” she says, with a half-smile.
Additionally, Hudson also says the political climate at the time was very toxic.
“It felt like you couldn’t trust anyone,” she recollected. “Because of my association with the current presidential administration, I felt a sort of paranoia that the career staff with whom I worked were looking for any vulnerability to exploit in order to embarrass the president or secretary. It was not good for the soul.”
Things only got worse in the year she was there. In many ways, it felt like ideas didn’t matter and that the people who succeeded did not have the best interest of America’s students in mind.
“Can you be a good person—of principle and integrity—and operate in this environment? I didn’t have answers and wanted to find them before there was irreparable damage to my soul,” says Hudson.
MOVING ON TO MOVE AHEAD
In January 2018, Hudson left her role to try and recover her ideals and gain perspective on ways that she could make a difference in the world. She threw herself into writing a book on human dignity, civility, and democracy. This, it turned out, was the best way to process and overcome the negative environment in government service.
“I was made to write and create and synthesize ideas,” says Hudson. One of her great passions is getting people interested and excited about ideas that matter.
One of these ideas is that all humans were created in God’s image and are owed at least a basic level of respect, whether or not we agree with everything they say.
In the last few years, Hudson has had several articles published in the Wall Street Journal, developed a consulting business, been a guest speaker at a number of prestigious events, and she’s nearly completed her book. But among all of her successful endeavors so far, what excites her most is how she’s been able to help people rediscover ideals they may have once held, but perhaps lost in the rough and tumble of life.
“My life’s end and purpose is to generate interest in the ideas and figures from history that so nourished and challenged my soul during during my time at Trinity Western— to give my readers an opportunity to step into the great conversation and contemplate ideas of human origin, meaning, and the human condition,” says Hudson.
Though advocating for ideals in a world of cynicism has been an uphill battle, she admits—not to mention the fact that it’s hard to champion universals in an era of deep division—she remains steadfast in her resolve to do her part in shining light on the true, the good, and the beautiful.