Scott Hillkirk receives SIA’s inaugural Alumni Service Award

Scott Hillkirk, a member of SIA's first graduating class, is now the first recipient of SIA's Alumni Service Award.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Scott Hillkirk, a former journalist, international educator, and now a federal consultant in Washington, D.C., has been for a part of many “firsts” for the Penn State School of International Affairs.

He was a member of SIA’s first cohort of students. He was the first president of the SIA Student Government Association. He was also at the start of some SIA traditions, like the annual SIA Welcome Picnic at Sunset Park and the SIA Thanksgiving dinner, that continue to this day. As an alumnus, he became the first former student to serve as a member of the SIA Advisory Board.

It’s only fitting then that Hillkirk, who has remained committed to the SIA community since his 2011 graduation, is now the recipient of the inaugural Penn State School of International Affairs Alumni Service Award.

“Thinking of SIA in terms of service started when I was a student, and I’ve tried to hold myself to the same standard now as an alumnus,” Hillkirk said. “But when I learned that I’d been chosen for this award, I was very surprised. I grew up here and as a true Penn Stater, I consider this a great honor.”

SIA Director Scott Sigmund Gartner said that Hillkirk embodies what it means to be a member of the SIA family: an accomplished and hardworking professional who has dedicated himself to giving back to SIA, helping current and former students, and creating a tight-knit and supportive community that will be with students and alumni for the rest of their lives.

“Scott has been truly tireless in his commitment to this program and to our students,” Gartner said. “He has gone above and beyond in making himself available to students for career advice and networking, made multiple trips to campus to participate in alumni career and national security panels, has helped organize and host multiple sessions on national security careers in D.C. for our students, and has truly been an invaluable asset to SIA."

“We are grateful to have him as a member of the SIA family, and honored to be able to recognize him with this award,” Gartner said.

And while Hillkirk is equally honored and grateful to receive it, he said that he never expected any sort of award or recognition for his work with SIA. For him, it’s simply the right thing to do.

“As a member of our first graduating class, there was no SIA alumni network to help with getting a job afterwards and it was a tough time in the economy, so we all had to help each other,” Hillkirk said. “I resolved to help our students in the future, to constantly work to build and improve the community and the network we offer our students.”

And Hillkirk, like many SIA alumni, made good on that resolve. For the past four years, SIA has boasted a career placement rate of over 95 percent, due in no small part to the efforts of alumni like Hillkirk who have offered support, networking, and career advice to each new class of SIA students. In Hillkirk’s case, he even helped a student land a job after graduation at the same federal consulting firm where he works.

“People have done that for me all my life; when I was at SIA, for instance, a former SIA professor, Jeff McCausland, helped me get a position at the U.S. Army War College and the Carnegie Council,” Hillkirk said. “Now I just want to give back. I want students to know that when they leave SIA, they’re a part of an amazing community that will collaborate with them and support them for the rest of their career.”