Erika Steuterman

Erika Steuterman with her daughter and brother at Wabash Center, where she serves on the board of directors and volunteers much of her free time. (Photo by Mark Simons)

A New Chapter Opens

Alumna Erika Steuterman transitions from military to nonprofit leader

"Women have no place in the military." Had Erika Steuterman taken her first military supervisor's admonition to heart, she might have chosen a completely different career path. But she didn't.

After receiving her MSM from Krannert in 1977, Steuterman began her career in the United States Air Force, retiring last year after 34 years of service, both active and reserve, with the rank of major general.

A career in the military made perfect sense to Steuterman. "I knew when I was a senior in high school that I didn't want to take a traditional female career — nursing, teaching or working as a secretary. I looked at what careers paid equal pay for equal work, and the military was the best and only way in the early 1970s."

Both of Steuterman's parents are Purdue graduates, so when it came time to choose a college, they offered to pay her tuition — but only if she attended Purdue.

"I knew that Purdue was a quality school, so I enrolled," she says. Her undergraduate major was French, primarily because she wanted to do a study abroad program. She spent her entire junior year abroad at the University of Strasbourg, France.

"I had no real intention to use the language or teach," Steuterman says. "I wanted the experience of living overseas, and I knew I was going to join the Air Force after graduation." She was a four-year Purdue Air Force ROTC member and one of the first women in the country to participate.

The language skills and management knowledge proved invaluable throughout her Air Force career serving posts in Germany, Nigeria and the U.S. Most recently she was mobilization assistant to the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force in Washington, D.C. In that role she assisted in developing, integrating, evaluating and analyzing the U.S. Air Force Future Years Defense Program, which exceeds $822 billion, and the Air Force Long-Range Plan to support national security objectives and military.

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