Students standing in front of capital hill in washington D.C.
Kristian Erskine, second from right, went to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., during the fall 2023 semester as part of this cohort of political science students from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Erskine will receive his master’s degree in public affairs and policy during UAH commencement ceremonies on Dec. 11, 2023.
Courtesy Dr. Noelle Hunter

Kristian Erskine will graduate from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) with a master’s degree in public affairs and policy on Dec. 11. Before becoming one of 2023’s success stories from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHS), he faced failure in his first major but found the wisdom and resilience to stage a comeback.

Erskine entered UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, in 2018 with an aerospace engineering major and dreams of becoming an astronaut.

“I took the standard engineering courses, and I was doing well in that until I hit calculus,” he recalls. “I was actually at risk of academic probation. It was discouraging. I was doing extra help sessions, doing everything to improve in my courses, and I was unable to succeed.”

Erskine’s parents advised him to regroup and focus on his strengths.

“After praying about it as well, I realized I was good with writing, good with reading, and I loved history.”

So Erskine chose political science. To get his academic career back on track quickly, he took Political Science 101, 102, 103 and 260 in the same semester, spring 2020. It was a heavy load, but he thrived in this challenging environment, boosting his GPA.

“When I switched to political science and really immersed myself in my studies, not only did I pass all the courses with A’s, but I ended up on the President’s List for the first time.”

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in May 2022 and then continued at UAH to pursue his master’s.

Dr. Noelle Hunter, clinical assistant professor, Department of Philosophy and Political Science, taught Erskine in her PSC 260 International Relations course. Based on his performance in her class, she says she never would have imagined his earlier struggles.

“He immediately excelled,” she says, “and he began to distinguish himself among my colleagues and myself in all of our classes. He was awarded the CAHS undergraduate excellence award last year.”

Erskine says his political science classes have expanded his outlook and forced him out of his comfort zone on several occasions. That happened this semester when Hunter chose him to be part of a cohort of political science students who went to Washington, D.C., for a practicum. They advocated for the prevention of international parental child abduction.

“He was a natural on Capitol Hill,” Hunter says.

Erskine studied how the problem is defined and what can be learned from those definitions.

“While I was studying this aspect, I was speaking with parents, many of whom haven’t seen their children in decades,” he says. “It meant being truthful with the information but also being considerate of their feelings. It was a very emotional time. It was a bit tough, but I’m glad I did it because it gave me a taste of advocacy and reaffirmed my desire to study law and how to improve our Constitution and foreign policy as a whole.”

Erskine is actively pursuing his legal dream. He’s already studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which he plans to take in February.

Sometimes the dreams you bring to college carry you into your future. Sometimes college helps you discover the dreams that take you where you really want to go.


Kristina Hendrix

Elizabeth Gibisch