Karen Pank ’92

Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

While Karen Pank has little spare time these days, she says: “I always have time for Gaels!” As the governor’s criminal and civil justice policy point person, Pank helps guide the direction of civil and criminal law in California. Her sensitivity to social justice, Pank says, was awakened at Saint Mary’s, and set in motion a series of events that shaped her life.

“I trace everything I’m doing to my time at Saint Mary’s,” Pank observes. “It was the only college I applied to. It offered the overall college experience I wanted: intimate setting, liberal arts emphasis, a true community. I took many courses outside my (business) major, and those broadened my horizons as a person.”

Pank’s first job was with an insurance company that recruited her on campus. Her job involved interacting regularly with attorneys, at which point “law school began to make sense,” Pank recalls. While studying at McGeorge School of Law, she was invited into an honors program in government affairs. That led to an internship with the Assembly Judiciary committee during which Pank “was bit by the political bug.” After law school, she served as a Senate fellow and policy adviser to legislative Republicans. After California voters recalled former Governor Gray Davis and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pank joined the new administration.

“Saint Mary’s was a safe place for me to push myself,” Pank said. “I now have the opportunity to use public policy to touch the lives of people affected by our criminal justice system. When I reflect on how far I’ve come, I look back and smile.”