Stephanie Schriock ’95 came to Minnesota State Mankato to be an athlete. She wanted to swim competitively, but there weren’t many universities with that option in her home state of Montana. So her parents, who had both graduated from Minnesota State Mankato, suggested she consider their alma mater.
But when Schriock arrived on campus and found opportunities to become involved in student government, her plans changed.
“Once I got engaged in student politics, my athletic career got pushed to the side,” laughs Schriock.
In fact, politics have since become Schriock’s career. After graduating from Minnesota State Mankato in 1995, she earned a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. She was the finance director for Howard Dean’s 2004 run for president, then the manager of Jon Tester’s senatorial campaign in Montana. When Tester was elected, he named Schriock his chief of staff. After managing Al Franken’s successful campaign for a Minnesota senate seat in 2008, Schriock became the president of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to helping pro-choice, Democratic women become elected to political offices.
“I had hoped that big things would happen in my life,” Schriock says. “But I don’t think I could have anticipated what path I would actually take. When I went to Mankato, I don’t think I knew anything about what was going to happen.”
She does remember the moment that changed everything for her, however. Not long after arriving on campus as a pre-med major, Schriock became the student senator for the freshman class. “That one thing changed my life,” she says now. “It changed my whole career path.”
“I had hoped that big things would happen in my life. But I don’t think I could have anticipated what path I would actually take.”
Schriock remained involved in student government throughout her time at Minnesota State Mankato. By the time she was entering her senior year, she even considered running for president of the Student Senate. Although she says that she “chickened out” as a candidate herself, another opportunity presented itself: to serve as the campaign manager for a young woman named Mona Wallace, who was running for president.
“She ended up becoming the first African-American woman to be elected president of the Student Senate,” Schriock says. “It was quite an honor to be her campaign manager. But I have to say that it wasn’t my brilliant campaign strategy that won; it was Mona who won.”
Although that experience was critical in shaping her current career path, Schriock also credits the support she received from her professors and her fellow students for her success.
“I was always encouraged to try new things,” she says. “I always felt empowered to take chances and to take risks. There was no question about being from Montana or being a woman; they were just open to everybody. I have taken all of that with me to every position I have held: to be inclusive, to bring new people to the process, to engage young people and, especially now at EMILY’s List, to empower women.”
On Saturday, September 21, Schriock is returning to Minnesota State Mankato as the keynote speaker for the 19th Annual Truman and Reta Wood Scholarship Dinner. In 1993, she was the second recipient of that scholarship. “I’m really very honored to be coming back for this,” she says. “Dr. Wood gave me the optimism that I could do anything. That’s a gift he’s given to so many young people.”
The spirit of optimism has followed Schriock on every road she’s traveled since—and she’s proud to share it with others as well. She’s especially proud to be doing that at EMILY’s List, where her job is to help support women in politics and create opportunities for them.
“It’s such a great privilege to lead an organization committed to equality, to bringing women’s voices to every table so that they can make a continuing impact on the world,” she says. “Everything that I’ve done up to now is connected here.”