ASU alumna’s interdisciplinary path leads to military career

By

Celina Daniel

During her senior year of high school, with an appointment to West Point, Katie Richardson thought her plans were set. However, a severe concussion that year quickly changed those plans. With her family’s history in the military, Richardson knew that when she made a last minute decision to enroll at Arizona State University and its Army ROTC program, she was making a decision she would not regret.

“My grandfather was a two-star general, my dad was a Marine and undercover narcotics detective, and my brother was a Marine rescue swimmer and now is a deputy U.S. marshal. Service is in my blood,” Richardson said.

Starting out with as a psychology major in Barrett, The Honors College, Richardson decided to register for Political Ideology taught by Tara Lennon, a senior lecturer in the School of Politics and Global Studies (SPGS).

“Understanding the foundations of how people think politically really interested me, especially since I was already majoring in psychology. Plus, Dr. Lennon rocks,” Richardson said.

It was in this class where Richardson decided to add another major onto her plate: political science.

“ASU is a major institution but it is filled with opportunities for students to follow their unique passion. SPGS was the cornerstone of those opportunities for me,” Richardson said.

It was through the school, which is an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where Richardson found professors, leaders and mentors who truly cared about her education and future.

“Working on my honors theses with Professor Daniel Rothenberg as my adviser really challenged me to deep dive into an area that interested me and was a cross-section of my dual major,” Richardson said.

As a junior, Richardson was selected for the Policy Design Studio and Internship Program, which is supported by the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington, D.C. The internship placements span a variety of interests, including the White House, Congress, courts government agencies, lobbying and consulting firms, advocacy groups, media outlets, museums, think tanks and nonprofit organizations.

“We spent one day a week at the McCain Institute learning about different entities of the government, policy research and working on a final policy recommendation presentation. The rest of the week we all completed separate internships across Washington, D.C.,” Richardson said.

Richardson interned with New America, a D.C.-based think tank with a unique partnership with the Center on the Future of War at ASU. She worked with Peter Bergen, co-director for the Center on the Future of War and senior fellow at New America, and the New America International Security Program team on research projects about national defense and international conflicts. Richardson also supported many panels and events, including the first Annual Future of War Conference, now the Future Security Forum.

“Being able to intern for the McCain Institute and New America really opened my eyes to all the opportunities available for someone studying within SPGS,” Richardson explained.

Richardson graduated summa cum laude from Barrett, The Honors College with a BA in political science and a BS in psychology, a degree combination she says aptly prepared her to thrive in her roles in the military.

“My political science studies made me more aware of the complex and ever-changing world that could require military interventions. My psychology studies prepared me to be responsible for soldiers, their well-being and their family’s well-being, which made me a more aware person and leader,” Richardson said.

After graduation, Richardson moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she has been stationed on active duty. She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2019, where she supported special operations units in combat operations.

Reflecting on her future in the military, Richardson said, “I want to continue my service to the nation, whether that is in the U.S. military full-time or in another capacity. Leading those who chose to serve as well will always be a defining career goal for me.”

She credits ASU for her preparedness for life after college.

“I feel proud to tell people I am an Arizona State alumna because ASU produces graduates who uphold the university’s reputation of excellence, innovation and success.”