Christalyn Steers McCrum: Helping combat HIV/AIDS from Washington D.C.
Data Scientist for Department of State
Philosophy and Political Science (International Affairs) majors 2010
Christalyn Steers McCrum says she moved to Alexandria, Virginia, to be at the epicenter of American foreign policy. The 2010 Seattle Pacific University graduate and political science major (international affairs concentration) is a data scientist for the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. Because she double-majored in philosophy and learned both how much and how little we can actually know, “I get some sort of odd comfort from using statistics and probability to reach a decently satisfying level of assurance.”
That assurance, coupled with Christian faith, are the building blocks of Steers McCrum’s belief that in her government role she has a part in building God’s kingdom on earth. Her hope is to use the data she collects and analyzes to isolate the most effective means of reducing and halting new cases of AIDS.
“Ultimately, that’s what SPU taught us how to do: to leave the world better than we found it,” says Steers McCrum, who holds a master’s degree in international management and policy analysis from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
“There is no place in God’s kingdom for the physical and emotional pain caused by HIV/AIDS,” she says. “There is quite a bit of room in government for improved access to data and how data is leveraged to improve programs and policies.”
Located in the State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Steers McCrum contributes to PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. “Both the Democratic and Republican party platforms support PEPFAR,” says Steers McCrum, a former communications intern at Hillary for America. Since being signed into existence in 2003 by President George W. Bush, PEPFAR has supported many anti-AIDS programs, including currently life-saving treatment for 9.5 million people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.
— Clint Kelly
How does your time at SPU connect to the work you’re doing today?
SPU emphasizes following in Christ’s footsteps. That service mentality combined with the theme of engaging the culture creates an educational environment that does not focus on how students can help themselves, but instead on how they improve the world for everyone. I hope to represent that service culture in my professional life as I work to see a decrease in the incidents of new AIDS cases around the world.
Who made a difference in your SPU education?
Dr. Ruth Ediger challenged me to set a high bar for myself. From weekly reading reviews, to geoquizzes, to very comprehensive exams, I had no choice but to work hard. But these amounted to incredible learning experiences. I remember leaving each class of hers feeling like my head was full of new and important information and that I needed to spend a few hours sorting through it all.
What advice do you have for students about life after graduation?
You don’t have to have everything figured out right after graduation. You do have time and it is OK to rest.