Red, White and Purple: Political science major rising star in Austin, District of Columbia
Story by Donna Parish '99 & '07
Purple is Karina Erickson's '14 favorite color.
As a child, she traveled the world with her parents, who were both heavily involved in scuba diving. That's when she became interested in political science.
"My father was a World War II veteran. He was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge and awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal," Erickson said. "After the war, he cofounded the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. He met my mom when she signed up to take her PADI course."
Erickson recalls spending her formative years in exotic locations — tiny islands across Indonesia, Central America and Europe. She saw her parents work to comply with strict scuba diving governmental policies. She also grew up hearing battle stories from her father's days of fighting for liberty and against oppression.
"Collectively, those experiences inspired me to pursue a career in public service and politics," Erickson said. "I quickly realized if you want to make a difference and implement change, doing it yourself is the best way."
And that is precisely what Erickson is working to accomplish. In just seven short years since her SFA graduation, she has compiled a very impressive résumé:
- student intern during the 82nd Texas Legislative Session
- campaign manager for Texas Rep. Travis Clardy while still an SFA student
- Facebook campaigns and politics team member
- communications director for former U.S. Rep. Ted Poe
- master's degree from George Washington University in political management, named Outstanding Young Alumni
- communications director for the General Land Office, assisting Commissioner George P. Bush
- and communications director for Bush's current campaign for Texas attorney general.
Erickson found her way to SFA after a campus visit. She had been accepted to several schools, including Texas A&M University, but after a meeting with Dr. Lee Payne, SFA professor of government, she chose SFA.
"Dr. Payne told me there wasn't a thing he could say that would discourage me from attending A&M," Erickson said. "However, if I did decide to come to SFA, he promised I wouldn't be just another student. I would develop long-lasting relationships with my professors and have the opportunity to learn from individuals who had dedicated their careers to teaching students. I wanted to be somewhere I could build relationships. His promise was the deciding factor."
At SFA, Erickson's involvement in several clubs and organizations helped launch her career. She was vice president of the Pre-Law and World Politics clubs, a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, president of the SFA Diving Jacks, and chapter chairman of Young Conservatives of Texas, to name a few.
As a freshman, Erickson expressed an interest in applying for an internship with the Texas Legislature.
"I recall walking into Dr. Payne's office and asking him if he thought I was good enough to apply for the university's Legislative Internship Program," Erickson said. "I remember him jokingly saying if I didn't apply, he would kick me out of his office. My time in the legislature solidified my desire to work in politics and government."
Red, White and Blue = Purple (and White)
After the internship, Clardy's chief of staff asked Erickson to be the campaign manager for his re-election. So, at 20 years old, she was thrilled for the opportunity.
Fast forward after her SFA graduation, and Erickson worked for Facebook on its campaigns and politics team. That opportunity led to her three-year employment in the U.S. Capitol working for Poe while pursuing her master's degree.
During the past three years, Erickson has served as the communications director for the GLO, working for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a member of the famous Bush political family. Bush is currently running for attorney general of Texas, and during the summer, Bush asked Erickson to head his campaign. She left her position at the GLO in June to assist.
"We kicked off the campaign June 2, and the general election will be held in November 2022," Erickson said. "If we win, I plan to join his staff and continue working for the people of Texas."
Purple Mountain Majesties
While many vicenarians are still trying to figure out where their career will lead, Erickson is certain of her path.
"My dad used to tell me, ‘The world is yours. All you have to do is reach out and take it.' People call it naive, but I'm out to change the world," Erickson said. "I love this country, and I'm dedicated to seeing it continue to thrive for generations."