AMP Alumni Spotlight: Katrina Pierson

UTD is consumed by a perpetual endeavor to achieve greater recognition and awareness nationally. However, accolades and rankings take time to acquire — decades of research and growing an alumni network are required to solidify the university’s reputation.  Thankfully, UTD alumni are starting to pave the way for the university’s future fame by reaching new heights of public visibility. And no UTD alumna has been more visible and more vocal on the national stage than current Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.

Born in Kansas but eventually residing in Garland, Pierson embodies a prime nexus between the out-of-state and the local student lifestyle, two large communities of students eager to find role models among our school’s most accomplished graduates. However, Pierson promises to be an extremely valuable example to all UTD students, past and present. Anyone who has ever stepped foot on this campus would do well to closely observe Katrina Pierson and internalize the lessons she demonstrates on how to be a conscientious and productive member of society.

Having graduated with a bachelor’s in Biology, Pierson is a shining example of the fact that it is possible to be a Biology major without going to med school. For the many pre-med freshmen who will never end up setting foot in a medical school, Pierson shows that it will still be possible to have an impact with their Biology degree. Refocusing from medicine to one’s true calling (political commentator, for instance) will not be easy for many of these students, but they can take solace in the fact that although Pierson didn’t pursue medical school, she still worked in the health care industry for a time before finding her way into the spotlight.

However, Pierson should not serve as an inspiration solely to Biology majors; students of all disciplines can learn something from this alumna. After all, as a political spokeswoman, Pierson regularly provides commentary on the plethora of topics that a presidential campaign addresses. Speaking to a national audience, many of Pierson’s most memorable statements demonstrate the astounding humanities curriculum that UTD ensures is finely woven into the fabric of all students’ education.

History students, for example, should be keenly aware that history can be interpreted quite differently by varied sources and that a healthy amount of skepticism is warranted in any popular dialogue concerning the field. Pierson, speaking to CNN, astutely claimed that it was “Barack Obama [that] went into Afghanistan” and initiated an American military presence there. She also told CNN in August that “it was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” that the son of memorable Democratic National Convention speaker Humayun Khan lost his life in 2004. While some may try to frame this as revisionist history or complete balderdash, true academic historians know that these statements are evidence of Pierson’s commitment to not let biased popular narratives dominate historical discourse. Although challenging to follow, this brilliant example of not accepting facts because they are reported by supposed “experts,” of not making the naive assumption that the year 2008 came after the year 2004, should be copied by all UTD students looking for fruitful intellectual careers. Pierson’s commitment to ensuring historical truth, or the closest thing to the truth that one can approximate when studying the distant past of a decade ago, should be a model to all UTD students.

Pierson’s demonstration of humanities ability includes her impressive knowledge of the tools and tricks of the English language. Literary Studies and Communications majors know the tremendous power that can be wielded with the turn of a phrase and that detailed analysis of language is key to comprehending true meaning. Language can both reveal and conceal, making a nuanced analysis of the language of a candidate such as Donald Trump extremely difficult. Thankfully, distinguished UTD alumna Pierson has been on news outlets to interpret for the average, uneducated voter. Addressing Trump’s recent immigration discourse, she clarified to viewers everywhere that “Donald Trump hasn’t changed his position on immigration. He’s changed the words that he’s saying.” Such a profound analysis of Trump’s rhetoric and the ways in which seemingly conflicting words and phrases are, for all practical purposes, identical is a feat that should arouse awe in those currently studying English at UTD. The importance of their field will certainly be impressed upon them by watching Katrina Pierson.

Pierson is, of course, no stranger to politics. Political Science students aspiring to transform their field can observe the ease with which new constitutional theory can be constructed from Pierson’s interviews. Concerning Marco Rubio’s eligibility to run for president, Pierson questioned in a CNN interview whether Rubio was “a naturalized citizen” and argued that “his parents were not citizens at the time [which] makes a huge difference.” Although CNN host Jake Tapper was quick to correct her by informing her that all people born in the U.S. are natural-born citizens, regardless of the citizenship of their parents, it’s obvious that Pierson was merely offering a revolutionary interpretation of the Constitution that could have far-reaching effects for constitutional law. If one blatantly ignores the language of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment, one can easily appreciate the degree of intelligence and sound scholarship inherent in Pierson’s theory.

Thankfully, while acquiring the diverse expertise she displays on CNN, Pierson hasn’t let her biology degree go to waste. On Twitter, in February of 2012, Pierson summoned her scientific background to justify her claims that homosexuality is “not normal.” Calling it “an aberration,” Pierson supported this theory by stating that she had “studied the science being genetic, or hormonal.” Not only does this shown that Pierson hasn’t forsaken her studies of the sciences, it demonstrates an interesting career intersection of science, politics, and morality that may excite some UTD students. Those that feel like they are stuck in a scientific vacuum should feel inspired by the ways that Pierson has brought together these seemingly disparate fields.

Now, some students may be concerned about her response to the notion that Trump desires to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Specifically, her comment of “So what? They’re Muslims.” on CNN could initially be perceived as alarming. Is this an indication that UTD’s diversity initiatives and acceptance of Muslim students failed to sway Pierson to treat Muslims with an air of tolerance? Not so! In fact, critics are merely choosing to interpret her remarks offensively. Rather, Muslims students should feel empowered by her words. “So what? We’re Muslim!” can be a rallying cry for Muslims across campus. Failed a test? So what! Flat tire? So what! In fact, if you alter the original inflection and place emphasis on different words in the sentence, the phrase “They’re Muslims” can be read in a way that’s uplifting. UTD’s Muslim students should not be alienated by this model alumna’s words, so long as they properly reimagine her words to mean what she probably intended.

As our university grows and becomes more steeped in tradition and success, it’s important for students to be able to look toward alumni to see the heights that they can really achieve. Katrina Pierson’s public discourse and insightful positions have touched on a wide array of academic fields, and she continues to display to the entire country, on live television, the caliber of graduates that UTD has, can, and will produce. Truly a trailblazer, Pierson has redefined the bar for what all UTD students are capable of becoming.