Leading by example and by nature

Kariana Blaszak, a backup goalkeeper on Mason's women's soccer team, gets her framed jersey on Senior Day. Photo courtesy Mason Athletics.

Kariana Blaszak said she plans to use what she has learned at George Mason University to protect and to serve.

“That’s always kind of been my goal,” Blaszak said of working in law enforcement. “And the criminology program here is one of the top programs in the country.”

Blaszak is majoring in criminology, law and society, with a minor in intelligence analysis, and will be commissioned in May as a second lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Corps. After her time in the Army, she will take the next step into law enforcement.

A backup goalkeeper on Mason’s women’s soccer team, Blaszak said her teammates would probably describe her as hardworking and dedicated.

“I’d like to think the same thing,” she added.

Her list of achievements speaks to that work ethic. Three times Blaszak has been named a Provost Scholar Athlete—the highest academic award available to student-athletes at Mason—and has made the Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll every semester.

“It’s one of those things, when people ask me [how I balance academics with sports], I just kind of say I do it,” she said.

A Parker, Colorado, native, Blaszak said she was looking for a school close to Washington, D.C., with good ROTC and women’s soccer programs, and Mason fit the bill.

With a full four-year ROTC scholarship, she walked on to the soccer team after a tryout.

Blaszak quickly became a team leader, especially as she gained personal confidence through her ROTC training, women’s soccer coach Todd Bramble said.

Blaszak received a four-year ROTC scholarship. Photo provided.

At first that leadership came by example.

A hard and tireless worker, “she never made an excuse not to do anything. She was just tremendous,” Bramble said.

“But as she gained confidence in herself and moved up in the ranks of ROTC, and with the encouragement of the coaching staff, we wanted to hear her voice, and she became much more of a vocal leader,” Bramble said. “She was a demanding leader, day-in and day-out.”

“I’ve loved every minute of everything,” Blaszak said. “I don’t really know what I expected, but I also didn’t expect to come out here and love it as much as I did.”

The welcoming and educational atmosphere at Mason resonated heavily with Blaszak. She praised the people she has met and enjoyed the accomplishments she achieved.

"Each of my mentors have gone out of their way to help me navigate what classes I should take and various career plans I can look into,” Blaszak said. “My professors have had very extensive careers, and they have used their experiences to further their curriculum greatly. My coaches have continuously pushed me to grow as an athlete."

“What made her a good student was her drive, motivation and her ability to celebrate success,” said Larry Guerin, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society. “She worked hard and celebrated each success with a smile and with laughter. She encouraged and helped everyone within her reach. She strove for excellence and carried others with her. I have rarely seen any student with more positive drive than Kari.”

Blaszak has been keeping herself busy in her final semester with soccer, ROTC, intramural sports, and an internship with the Arlington County Police Department.

“I’ve always done better,” she said, “when I’ve had a busier schedule.”