Next stop for Rebecca Rumptz is the U.S. Department of State
Spring 2016 Edition
While the majority of Rebecca Rumptz’s J-School peers were finishing up elementary school, she was off to basic training for the U.S. Army. Before her classmates graduated from high school, she had served three deployments in Iraq, Qatar and Afghanistan, all the while being stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
And while they may be spending the summer as interns at news organizations or advertising agencies, Rumptz has an internship at the U.S. Department of State.
Rumptz's journey to the School of Journalism has been far from typical.
Rumptz, 30, knew she wanted join the military immediately after she graduated from high school in 2004.
“I talked to the Army recruiter when I was 17,” Rumptz said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do. They asked me what my hobbies were, and they were kind of ‘nerd activities.’ I liked to watch the news. I liked to do debate. Every business-type club in high school I was a part of. He just looked at me and said, ‘You’re an [intelligence] analyst.’”
Rumptz worked as an intelligence analyst in the Army for 7½ years. After that, she spent two years as a government contractor, retaining her position as an intelligence analyst, based in Washington, D.C.
She first deployed to Iraq for 15 months spanning 2007 and 2008, but her second deployment in Qatar in 2010 is where her love of journalism reignited. Over that time, she worked with the Psychological Operations Group.
“They’re really just strat-comm soldiers,” Rumptz said. “They do messages to different populations, whether counterterrorism or peacekeeping operations. That gave me a lot of insight as to what I wanted to do for the future, which helped me choose the strat comm track within the School of Journalism.”
This summer, Rumptz will return to Washington, D.C., as an intern with the Department of State. She has been placed within the Political Military Bureau in the Office of Security Assistance.
"Out of all the places I've ever lived, Kansas will be one of the hardest to leave."
Rumptz didn’t think she was going to make the cut. She said 400 to 500 students on average apply for the internship, and the top 24 are selected. To make matters even more selective, the application process is open for only five days.
“Because the application process is so rushed, I didn’t have anybody edit my essay answers,” Rumptz said. “The essay was pretty much prior experiences of working with cultural diversity type of situations.”
Rumptz said she drew on her military background, giving answers that might be touchy for a government agency. But Rumptz said her answers were honest, and she doesn’t regret answering the way she did, even though it was going to make or break her application.
Rumptz, in her penultimate year of study, is double majoring in global and international studies and strategic communication. Her global and international studies major makes sense, but journalism? For some, that seems counterintuitive after a career in the military. Rumptz acknowledges that.
“I chose strategic communication because it gives me the journalism background, but I think it makes me more apt to keeping a career background within journalism agencies. News and information and government seems conflicting in certain situations, especially with my background as an intelligence analyst,” Rumpz said.
Even before her days in the military, Rumptz knew she wanted to pursue a career in a journalism-related field. She said when someone would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said journalist.
“Now that I’ve grown up and have the opportunity to go to school and do whatever I want to, I chose journalism. I love writing and talking to people,”Rumptz said.
Even within the military, she found avenues to listen to people’s stories.
“In all of my adventures, I’ve always met somebody who has an incredible story,” Rumptz said. “I feel that everybody has some type of story that needs to be told or at least listened to. I have talked to Afghans who have been around since the Soviet invasion and told me their entire life stories and how the U.S. has changed their lives. I have talked to people on airplanes who were World War II veterans who were on the Midway. I come from a really small town and I think the seclusion made me a very outgoing person in wanting to learn about people and being curious.”
Rumptz hails from Ubly, Michigan, a town of 860 people on Michigan’s lower peninsula. She and her 62 classmates attended a community school with kindergarten through 12th grade in the same building.
“It’s one of those things that you either love or hate,” Rumptz said. “After living in places like Washington, D.C., I know small-town living is not for me.”
Her internship is a two-summer program. The first summer is a 10-week stint in Washington, D.C., and the following summer takes place at a U.S. Embassy abroad. Rumptz isn’t sure where she’ll be placed in 2017, but she would prefer somewhere in Russia or Eastern Europe, as that’s her regional speciality for her global and international studies degree.
“I already have experience in Europe and the Middle East,” Rumptz said. “I would like to venture off into a different region of the world.”
Rumptz isn’t alone for the majority of her adventures. She has her 9-year-old daughter, Kadence, along for the ride.
Kadence was born in 2006 when Rumptz was stationed in Germany and has been with her for almost every move they’ve taken.
“When I would deploy, she would stay with my mom and dad,” Rumptz said. “She’s a little old person at heart.”
When Rumptz was looking at universities, she asked Kadence where she wanted to go. Kadence wanted the beach. But Rumptz, having grown up in a smaller Midwest community, wanted a similar experience for her daughter.
Rumptz looked at UMKC and Missouri before expanding her search to KU. One of her determining factors was that the KU J-School had two tracks.
“A lot of people from home thought I was absolutely crazy to pack up all my stuff and move out here,” Rumptz said. “We came out here, and we fell in love with Lawrence.”
And Lawrence is where the two of them will be for at least another year.
“As long as Kadence is willing to travel, I will be willing to travel,” Rumptz said. “I always joke that we’re nomads. I enjoy going wherever employment or opportunity take me and as long as she’s up for it, we’ll continue to do that.”
Just because Rumptz considers herself a nomad doesn’t mean she hasn’t grown attached to the community in her short time here.
“Out of all of the places I’ve ever lived,” Rumptz said, “Kansas will be one of the hardest to ever leave.”
––Amie Just is a junior from Funk, Nebraska, studying news and information.