Kim Heinle’s at her best when she’s doing whatever she can to make a difference in the lives of others. It’s what makes her happy. Receiving accolades and being in the spotlight, on the other hand, is nice, but it’s not why she does it.
“I’m incredibly humbled,” said Heinle ’11 (MA, International Relations) when asked about being named the 2012 USD Staff Woman of Impact Award winner at the Dec. 7 USD Women Center’s Women of Impact luncheon. “I’ve attended the last two ceremonies and it’s always been an inspiring luncheon because you get to hear all the wonderful things that other women on campus are doing. For me to be chosen as the Woman of Impact award recipient? I’m blown away.”
Heinle shouldn’t be too surprised. In the short time she’s been part of the USD campus community, she’s made quite a mark.
“Kim Heinle is the strongest, most loving, resilient and courageous person I know,” stated an excerpt from an anonymous nomination letter written on Heinle’s behalf. “From the IR program to the Center for Community Service Learning (CSL) and now the Trans-Border Institute (TBI), Kim’s contributions at USD are truly immeasurable. She has touched so many lives through her passion and commitment to building lasting relationships on campus and in many local and international communities. Kim takes the time to ensure that each relationship she creates is truly reciprocal.”
That’s never been more true than after a Oct. 8 accident in which a car turning left hit Heinle, who was operating a motor scooter, in San Diego. She’s back at her family’s home in New York doing physical therapy to recover from serious head and leg injuries. Evidence of Heinle’s impact on others was visible right after the accident. Students and USD colleagues expressed concern, visited her in the hospital and rallied to support and care for her.
“They’ve been amazing,” she said. “Students were signing up to help take care of me. It’s reflective of the kind of impact that USD has had on me. We all take care of each other here. It’s been incredibly humbling.”
Heinle, a east coast native who applied to the graduate program at USD on the advice of a west coast friend in Los Angeles at the time, felt that a beautiful city such as San Diego, despite not knowing anyone locally, was the right place to grow as a person.
“It just felt right here,” she said. “I fell in love with San Diego and thought it would be a cool place to be if I’m going to try a change. I’m very happy I took that plunge.”
The degree program brought opportunities such as taking part in University Ministry’s El Salvador Intersession immersion trip and working as a graduate student leader in the Center for Community Service-Learning and took undergraduate students on immersion/service day trips to Tijuana.
Since graduation, Heinle’s focus has been working for TBI as its operations coordinator and editor of its Justice in Mexico Project. Her work on a joint capstone research project between the National Defense Intelligence College and USD entailed gathering research in Mexico and presenting it on human rights abuses tied to Mexico’s security issues in Washington D.C. She’s also co-authored a report with TBI Director David Shirk, “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico,” for the Justice in Mexico Project.
“Working for TBI has been remarkable,” she said. “I’ve found that I really love journalism. I realize how much reading, editing, writing goes into it and what we’re doing is so useful for the public and academics. Through this experience, I’m finding that I’m really passionate about it.”
Another of Heinle’s roles is leading TBI’s student internship program. She was a month into this latest opportunity for her to help USD students with professional development, when her accident occurred. She plans to return to USD this month and work a part-time schedule for TBI in January before resuming her full-time duties.
Heinle said the time off, while obviously spent to heal from her injuries, has been good, too, because it has allowed her to reflect on the impact that USD has had on her.
“It’s been one of the absolute joys of my life to be at USD and work with so many great students — it’s a family there — and all the different skills I’ve learned,” she said. “It feels good to think about all of it.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
Photo courtesy of Kim Heinle