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Encouraging progress in policies and programs

Shye Robinson in Washington, D.C.

In 2023, Shye Robinson participated in Boilers Go to D.C., an experiential learning program coordinated by the Brian Lamb School of Communication. (Photo courtesy of Shye Robinson)

Purdue Student Government President Shye Robinson cares about community, legacy and integrity — always

What motivates the president of Purdue Student Government? 

“Giving back is my priority,” says Shye Robinson, a senior double-majoring in political science and brain and behavioral sciences with a minor in Spanish. “I am who I am today because of the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone and the experiences I’ve had at Purdue.” 

As the title of her self-produced podcast declares, “Shye’s Not Shy.” She’s bold, inquisitive and actively creating a more inclusive and supportive campus.   

Striving to serve  

“I’ve always known that I wanted to give back and help people,” Robinson says. “Before college, I had figured out that I wanted to be a dutiful servant somehow.”  

During her senior year of high school, she was accepted into Purdue as a biochemistry major with the goal of becoming a pediatrician who could help families in need. However, the summer of 2020 altered her aims even before her first semester started. Seeing the impact of various movements — particularly Black Lives Matter — pointed her toward a career in the American political realm.  

Robinson switched her major to political science with a minor in Spanish. The second language could open doors to more careers that influence laws and support societal well-being. She places a premium on large-scale security, ensuring everyone can access the aid they need to thrive. Interwoven in this passion is her decision to add a second major in brain and behavioral sciences after taking a compelling psychology course.  

Shye Robinson

I’ve always known that I wanted to give back and help people.

Shye Robinson  Purdue Student Government president  

Current events caused Robinson to pivot to political science; they also inspired her to create the nonprofit organization Roundtable Politics to promote respectful, productive discussions amid polarized atmospheres. “Talking to people with different beliefs can be a conversation, not a debate — I think that’s a big shift that’s needed, and we’re working on that with Roundtable Politics,” she says. 

Pursuing a double major and a minor, as well as leading club meetings, broadened Robinson’s outlook (and contributed to what she dreams of doing after college), but influential experiences haven’t been limited to campus. While at Purdue, she’s taken trips that have further inspired her to impact the world.  

Expanding her own perspective  

Traveling with the university enriched Robinson’s understanding of global conditions. She credits trips to Argentina and Washington, D.C., as instrumental tools in learning about the functions of government. 

Robinson spent two months of the summer after her sophomore year in Argentina, honing her Spanish-speaking skills and making connections with people. “It was my first time out of the country and such a beneficial experience for me,” she says. “I want to do a lot of traveling in my life — especially through South America — and I’m glad that my minor could lead me to a place like that.”  

Policies’ effects on the United States were further evident during Boilers Go to D.C., a two-week program through the Brian Lamb School of Communication that puts Purdue students in the same rooms as decision-makers and communicators in the nation’s capital.   

“Boilers Go to D.C. was unforgettable,” she says. “We were going, going, going all day.” She appreciated the schedule: mornings spent touring the city and listening to guest speakers; lunches with other attendees; afternoons focused on learning media relations.  

Boilers Go to D.C. 2023 participants.
Together, the Boilers Go to D.C. participants learned the connections between political communication, government, news media, nonprofits and other influential organizations. (Photo courtesy of Shye Robinson)

The students engaged with the guests, which Robinson felt prepared for thanks to her discussions in Roundtable Politics and classes. In addition, all attendees were assigned a Purdue alum as a guide, and Robinson made an instant connection with hers, Pablo Balcazar. 

Balcazar works for a nonprofit organization geared toward immigration policies and was immensely helpful in giving Robinson information about D.C., as well as about getting involved in civil rights systems and growing her personal network. The two keep in touch and see each other during visits.  

“The people are always the most important part,” she says. “Being with other students from the Brian Lamb School of Communication made everything even more memorable and fun because I was alongside my friends.” 

Robinson makes a friend anywhere — something that’s been a constant since her freshman year. 

Advocating for others  

Starting from day one, Robinson created connections across campus and wanted to help her peers.  

“When I got to Purdue, I loved getting to know people,” she says. “I would run into acquaintances on my walks, and I was always super excited to chat with them and get to know their stories.” 

After learning more about Purdue Student Government from friends in the College of Liberal Arts and the Political Discourse Club, Robinson joined as a senator during her junior year. When she started, she created the Black Boilermaker Experience, an ad hoc committee. She was motivated by a student she met from a different university while studying abroad in Argentina. At that student’s school, they gathered testimonials from underrepresented students who shared how their identity translated into their college experiences.  

“Studying psychology, I know that community — and specifically belonging — is super important,” she says. “It leads to having a good college experience. Getting involved in a community is essential, and it can be discouraging if you don’t see people who you identify with. So I decided to talk with Black students here, see from their perspectives and understand where they’re coming from.”  

The Black Boilermaker Experience produces documentary-style films that show diverse communities and spotlight students’ viewpoints. Working with the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, the committee has a goal to reach prospective students and show that they can find a place where they belong at Purdue.  

I want to make changes that are tangible.

Shye Robinson 
Purdue Student Government president 

“Seeing how Black students have connected with communities at Purdue makes everything even more worthwhile,” she says. “I’m a huge advocate of interacting with different cultures and getting to know people’s backgrounds. It’s how you grow.”  

For her senior year, Robinson planned on continuing as a PSG senator, since she liked the work she was doing. But a leader in PSG encouraged her to instead run for student body president, citing her strong network, social skills and leadership abilities as a solid foundation.  

After a successful election with running mate and now Vice President Andrew Askounis, Robinson is able to enhance opportunities for others at Purdue like never before. It’s a collaborative effort, from meeting with Purdue President Mung Chiang and university administrators to getting to know how other colleges operate during student government conferences with Big Ten schools.  

“I want to make changes that are tangible,” she says. “Can I walk away knowing students in the future will have access to even more?” 

Stepping toward what’s next  

Robinson’s persistent pace isn’t slowing down for her last semester in West Lafayette. Between health science courses and an absorbing class on Latin American history, she’s also researching and creating a Court of Claims database for her senior capstone project.  

Outside of class, she keeps up with world events, researching and writing scripts for “Shye’s Not Shy.” She started the podcast after a final project prompted her to find a creative outlet. In each episode, she shares what she’s taken in from the news, discusses crucial topics with friends and strives to educate audiences. It’s also about having an enjoyable time and a good laugh, too. 

“I want people to take away something after listening,” she says. “If you learn something new, that’s a win in my book.”  

Robinson’s base of selfless service is building up to what happens once she graduates. As a freshman, she planned to become a civil rights lawyer. Now she knows there are countless roles she could pursue that would still promote her lifelong calling: being present and serving the world.  

“Being a part of Boilers Go to D.C. was really impactful for me,” she says. “Getting to meet real-world professionals in D.C. and learn about their career trajectory and where they are now showed me that anything is possible.”