First Secretary Finds Balance in Morehead-Cain

Aug 16, 2018

Erika Karasiewicz ’00 will be one of the featured SEVEN Speakers during the 2018 Morehead-Cain Alumni Forum, taking place October 19 through 21 in Chapel Hill.

Erika Hamilton Karasiewicz ’00 grew up with parents in the military, so it wasn’t much of a leap for her to leave Capitol Hill for an embassy job in Amman, Jordan. As First Secretary, she reports directly to the acting U.S. Ambassador. She loves being on the ground, seeing the formation of foreign policy first-hand, and interacting with all kinds of different people on a daily basis.

“Because we have such a strong relationship with the government here, it enables us to do so many things within the broader Middle Eastern context,” she says. 

In her current role, she has briefed four-star generals and met with Vice President Mike Pence as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Erika says she enjoys learning about and representing U.S. foreign policy and national security interests.

She likes learning about other cultures, too. Though she often travels for work, she also travels for pleasure, seeking out hikes and opportunities to wield her photography skills. She cherishes opportunities to have conversations with new people to learn about their lives and about their opinions of the United States. Erika has been to 70+ countries and every continent except Antarctica, but she hopes to add that one to the list soon.

When you look at her career path and personal interests, it’s clear the Morehead-Cain was a perfect fit for her. Through a Morehead-Cain Alumni connection, she landed a “Private Enterprise” summer internship with the White House Chief of Staff office.

“That summer solidified my interest in international relations and wanting to be in Washington,” she says. “It was my foray into government.”

Another Morehead-Cain summer—this one in the Dominican Republic—taught a valuable lesson she still uses in her work today: be flexible. Erika was working with a team building latrines for a rural community, and she felt frustrated when the raw materials for the project didn’t arrive on time.

“Halfway through, I recognized the importance of the connections I was making with the people in the community,” she says looking back. “I learned to take advantage of having a more holistic experience.”

That translates to agility in managing any kind of project.

“In government, you’ll find people who either don’t have the same expectations as you or don’t approach problems the same way, or things just don’t happen as you intended,” Erika explains. “You just have to find a work-around.”

Though every summer offered its own lessons, the key takeaway Erika says she gained from her four years as a scholar is a sense of balance.

“When you look at [the four pillars of] character, scholarship, physical vigor, leadership—whether it was in me to begin with, it might have been amplified more with the Morehead-Cain: to not be one-dimensional,” Erika says. “With the people I manage, those I coach or mentor, that’s one thing I’ve tried to pass down: Look inside yourself and be a multidimensional person. And give back when you can.”


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