Alumna's annual gifts reflect confidence, conviction in Washburn Law education
Sunee Mickle, jd ’06, is fulfilling her lifelong aspirations to improve the lives of others, from pharmaceutical sales success to insurance reform meetings in Kansas communities and lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
As director of government relations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, Mickle, 38, coordinates activities with elected officials and regulatory agencies at state and federal levels. She attributes her career path to the myriad associations she has with Washburn University School of Law professors and alumni and honors their support by making annual gifts and internship opportunities available to students.
From 2007 to 2012, Mickle made a significant gift each year to the School of Law.
“Donors show enthusiasm for the school, and prospective students recognize that. My financial support of the law school is one of the most positive obligations I have in giving students advantages that donors gave me,” she said.
In 2013, she made a $10,000 pledge toward the new learning facility.
“Millennials are looking for so many more technological advances in a school setting, and investing in a new building that will fulfill capacity needs for the next 50 years is more cost-effective than renovating the current structure,” Mickle said.
Mickle came to Washburn in 2003, leaving a lucrative career as a sales representative with Merck Pharmaceuticals, where she earned the company’s prestigious Vice President’s Award within an unprecedented three years. Mickle’s parents, both Merck employees, instilled in her a passion for science and public health that she believed could be furthered by obtaining a law degree.
“Washburn Law faculty, staff and students were so welcoming when I visited, and the atmosphere seemed much more collaborative than competitive,” Mickle said.
Earning a law degree in the capital city facilitated fortuitous encounters beyond the scope of classroom instruction and faculty interaction.
Mickle, a new member of the Washburn University Foundation Board of Trustees, secured an internship with Kansas Health Institute, followed by a
full-time position there as a senior policy analyst after graduation. In 2007, Bill Pitsenberger, a senior vice president with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and an adjunct professor, encouraged her to join the company in her current capacity.
“The opportunities I had to interact with people at the Kansas Health Institute, the Kansas Insurance Department and the Statehouse would not have been available to me had I not gone to law school in the capital city,” Mickle said.
Initially Mickle planned to pursue positions with California pharmaceutical companies after graduation, but the KHI internship exposed her to the number of Kansans who needed health care and the scarcity of attorneys in the state working in the industry.
In her role with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, Mickle said, “I find it gratifying to visit with our customers and members and share their stories to improve the lives of Kansans and millions of others too. It’s similar to my sales experience in that we influence people to do things in the best interests of our customers, company and country.”
Mickle, a Piscataway, New Jersey, native, received scholarships as an undergraduate at Douglass College at Rutgers University, as well as the John and Grace Bohannon Endowed Scholarship and the Delano Lewis Award for Excellence at Washburn Law.
“I know how important the endowed scholarship was for me in selecting Washburn, and I know what my donations can do for someone else,” Mickle said.
Connection is a common theme for Mickle, whether she’s caring for her daughter, Ainsley, or volunteering at Health Care Access Clinic in Lawrence to improve patient wellbeing and alleviate emergency room costs and congestion. She values relationships cultivated with classmates and alumni from other eras who share a commitment to their alma mater.
“I am amazed at how many people who aren’t Kansans know about Washburn’s great reputation because of positive experiences they’ve had with graduates who work in D.C.,” Mickle said. “People think you have to go to Harvard to open doors, but when I go to Capitol Hill, I’ve found that a Washburn Law degree works well too. My friends who went to other schools marvel that I know so many alumni from different decades who have a sincere interest in reaching back to help others.”