Rubbing Elbows

The Catalyst: On Track

Pinpointing your purpose


Sarah Grimmer Yurasko

Sarah Grimmer Yurasko, WCL/JD ’05, SIS/MA ’05, pushed full steam ahead toward what she thought was a final destination in international law.

Then, after her second year in AU’s joint JD/MA program in international affairs, Yurasko found a new track after landing an internship with the Federal Aviation Administration. She enjoyed challenging work in the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel and field trips to infrastructural marvels like Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. But more than that, she realized that “being able to facilitate moving goods and people is working for the greater good.”

A great 17-year run has followed. Yurasko landed a job in the safety law office of the Federal Railroad Administration after graduation, and she hasn’t wanted to choo-choo-choose another field since. Now the senior vice president of law and general counsel for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, Yurasko provides contract, litigation, training, and other support to small businesses that have a big impact on our nation’s freight network. Short line railroads, of which there are more than 600 in the United States, average fewer than 30 employees and 80 miles of track—yet they provide critical first and last mile service for one in five rail cars and help small rural communities stay connected to the national economy.

Beyond work, which has also included stops at Amtrak and the Association of American Railroads, Yurasko was recently appointed president of the League of Railway Women. The professional association offers networking, mentoring, and educational opportunities to boost women’s representation in an industry long dominated by men. (Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern, two of the country’s largest railroads, report that only about 5 percent of their employees are women.)

“I’ve seen a lot more women enter the field, which is great,” Yurasko says. “More diversity means a broader array of ideas, more creativity, and additional problem-solving resources.”

With her help, a 200-year-old industry is fast-tracking into the future, toward a greater good.