Ren Harman: Good afternoon. This is Ren Harman, the Project Director for VTStories. Today is November 21, 2017 at about 2:54 PM. We are in the Graduate Life Center on the campus of Virginia Tech, and with us today is a very special guest. This is the only time that I will prompt you, but if you could just state in a complete sentence my name is, when you were born, and where you were born.
Karen DePauw: Okay. My name is Karen DePauw. I serve as Vice President and Deanfor Graduate Education at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. I was born in a snowstorm in Los Angeles, California on January 11, 1949.
Ren: Thank you very much. So tell me about the snowstorm.
Karen: I sometimes mention that and sometimes it's my fun fact that I share,1:00because people don't typically think of California and snow, and I have to say that yes, for California it was a snowstorm, because there was a snow person that was outside the hospital I guess the day after or the day before, I don't know. That was the day I was born, but I don't remember it other than through pictures. It's just kind of unique. I guess LA doesn't get snow.
Ren: Can you tell me a little bit about your mother and your father?
Karen: My mother Marjorie and my father Robert, Robert Ward and Marjorie Ward,they were both public school teachers, and my mom was kindergarten, primarily kindergarten/first grade teacher, and my dad taught oh probably 5th and 6th. I mean they were both elementary school teachers, and I remember vividly being raised by schoolteachers and I would learn later how few men were in elementary education, and so I then valued that a little bit more. But I grew up in a 2:00family of teachers. My grandparents on my dad's side were also teachers.
Ren: Were you an only child?
Karen: No. There's four of us. I was the oldest of two other females and then ayounger brother. I was born in the LA area and then Agoura Woodland Hills and spent much of my time in Thousand Oaks, California.
Ren: So you said that your grandparents were schoolteachers, your parents wereschoolteachers, I'm sure education played a pretty important role in your household.
Karen: Yes, it did. A couple of thoughts come into mind on that is that yes,3:00education was very very important, and I guess three things as I'm thinking about it. My grandmother and grandfather they taught in a little red schoolhouse, metaphorically a little red schoolhouse, so I actually purchased a book for them one time, The Little Red Schoolhouse, so I learned a lot about multi-class levels in a single building. So yes, education was important. My dad had a sabbatical leave when those existed for public schoolteachers, and my mom at that time wasn't teaching. She was taking care of me and my two younger sisters, and they had a sabbatical, or dad did, so we traveled up the west coast across Canada, down the east coast and then into Mexico and spent three months 4:00living in Mexico, and that was when I was about 8 years old. And the reason I mentioned that is because at that time I was not in the public schools, but I very definitely had an education, because you can't help when you have parents that are schoolteachers.
And then when we returned to California I essentially had to skip a grade, halfa grade, because I had started in January initially, and then after the sabbatical then I had to go into I think 4th grade or something. I can't remember for sure, and starting in August, and I went to a three-room 5:00schoolhouse outside of Thousand Oaks, California. So it was just kind of a quaint type of educational system.
And the last thing that I will share with you on this topic is I said I wouldnever become a teacher. And there are several other things that I said I would never be, and it's not that I didn't value education, but it was just I liked more of the informal setting than I did formal setting of teaching. And little did I know I would end up teaching.
Ren: Growing up in Thousand Oaks, California what kind of things did you do as achild and later into your teenage years?
Karen: Well at the time Thousand Oaks was home to the movie sets for Rifleman6:00and Wells Fargo, some of those real old westerns, and kind of the Ronald Reagan Slim Pickens type movies. So Thousand Oaks was really a rural area, so I spent a lot of time outside riding horses, playing out in the movie sets and enjoying life.
Ren: Where did you attend high school?
Karen: I went to Thousand Oaks High School. I started my freshman year there andgraduated, and as I recall we were the Alpha Omegas because we were the first class to go to be there for all four years. So we were the first to enter and the last to be the first to do all four years in Thousand Oaks.
Ren: Were you into sports or extracurricular activities?7:00
Karen: Yes, heavy into sports. I played field hockey. I played volleyball, basketball.
Ren: How is your jump shot?
Karen: Terrible now. [Laughs] My height is not such that I did well in--Iwouldn't do well today. It was a whole different time, and this continued into college, so I played sports throughout college.
Ren: So when did you first start thinking about college? The college that youattended was Whittier College, correct?
Ren: How did that decision to attend a private liberal arts college, how did8:00that come into the picture?
Karen: Well I knew from a very young age, probably due to the fact my parentswere teachers that I was going to graduate from high school, go to college, get married, and have children in that order. It was just kind of unwritten, so when it became time to look at colleges then it was just a matter of what my interests were. And at that time I was actually kind of interested in YMCA work and all that goes with that.
And so I did a brief look at Smith College and another one here on the eastcoast that I can't recall right now, but I just kind of ruled those out, Springfield -- Springfield and Smith, two great colleges. But it just didn't 9:00seem the right fit, and so then my parents did the tour of some of the colleges that I was interested in, typical. Santa Cruz, University of California Santa Cruz. It was very early after they had just opened. It was fascinating. I loved that school. Pomona College, again another-- I guess I must have been attracted to Pomona, the liberal arts type college, and Whittier. Whittier was really more connected, it was kind of the as I recall the west coast Springfield. So I don't think I knew that they were liberal arts colleges, but it was a good fit. I got 10:00admitted to all of them that I applied to, and Whittier actually gave me a scholarship, honors at entrance, and so I went there as a math major.
Ren: The Poets, correct?
Karen: The Poets, yes.
Ren: Whittier has a couple of famous alumni, one is President Nixon, correct?
Ren: And then also in doing some research on your college I found out--oralhistory pioneer Willa Baum, so she's a Whittier College graduate. I didn't know that. When you were there, I don't have the dates, but was Nixon out? Had he graduated?
Karen: I can't remember the exact dates, but I do remember having clarificationthat he went to Whittier, but he did not grow up in Whittier. I can't remember when -- I think the law school was named after him, but he was in trouble part 11:00of that time, so then I remember thinking okay, here's this famous alum that's kind of messy now. And when I went there it was, it still is a Quaker college, but we had the requirement of chapel once a week and convocation once a week, and if we missed we had to take more credits, so it was pretty strict.
I was not a Quaker, but it was a comfortable environment where I didn't feel anypressure. I mean it was not like going to a religious college where one's 12:00religious views were enforced. Chapel was chapel and it was more reflection on the Quaker lines, and convocation is really we would have speakers and things, so it was very educational.
Ren: You entered as a math major. What inspired you to major in math?
Karen: I really enjoyed math. I did well in math. In high school it was allhonors math, and I even started calculus in high school, and so I thought that's fine, I'll do math because I really liked it.
Ren: Is that what you graduated in?
Karen: No. But I could have, but I actually was bored with math in college,13:00because I had already had a lot of it. As you can imagine I was the only female. As I reflect back on it now it was the nerdy males with the pocket protectors [chuckles] and slide rules you know, a slide ruler or whatever they were. So I just kind of looked around one day and I thought oh, maybe this isn't for me, and I was also taking other courses and then that's where I really got interested in sociology, so that's my major.
Ren: My wife is a math teacher, so I've heard many of these same, and she's a public14:00schoolteacher, and she's a math teacher and I've heard many of these same things that you just mentioned about being in college. What year did you graduate from Whittier with your degree in sociology?
Karen: '70, I think. Yes, I graduated high school in '66 and then WhittierCollege and finished there in '70.
Ren: In California in college in the late 1960s, early 1970s was there civilunrest kind of playing out, protest marches, any type of activism going on? I'm sure there was.
Karen: Yes. As I said growing up metaphorically in the '60s and '70s, I mean Iwas growing up really and before that, but that I thought was a really wonderful time in California with all the social activism.
Because Whittier, and where it's located we had some things happening on campus,15:00but it wasn't like Berkley. But I did go up to Berkley a couple of times and did participate in some of those things, but it was a fun time. I guess you really got to see people expressing different views, and that to me is very important and I can tell that I have been informed by that, simply because there was unrest, but people were willing to speak out in different views, and so I got exposed to a lot of different things that has helped shape.
Ren: Was it primarily race relations and Vietnam War protests?16:00
Karen: It was more the war as I recall. I mean there were race relations aswell, but Whittier was a pretty -- I mean that's an open very progressive place, so I was actually in, you know my classmates many of them were individuals of color, not a whole bunch, so I had that kind of exposure.
Ren: So you graduated from Whittier in 1970. Where did life take you after that?
Karen: Into the public schools, interestingly enough, where I said I wasn'tgoing to be, but indeed I did. Actually it was in my senior year. My sophomore year I spent a lot of time going to school at the University of Copenhagen, Whittier College at Copenhagen, so that then opened my eyes to other things. And then the senior year I decided that maybe I would do some things with teaching, 17:00especially kids -- individuals with disabilities, because did an internship and then got really kind of attracted to kids with disabilities. My father actually ran a day camp for, as they would be called then the mentally retarded, but individuals with mental impairment. So I grew up around those individuals, found in college that indeed I did like working with them. And so then that opened up the doors to work in the public schools, and so I looked at LA city schools, LA county schools. And actually I just went visiting. I was actually offered a job in I think 2nd grade and 5th grade and I turned them down and my father said, "Do you realize that you're turning down jobs and there's not enough jobs out there?"
And then I went to LA city schools and they wanted me to do what was called thenadapted or developmental physical education, and they offered me a job immediately and said, "Which school do you want to go to to teach?" And that's 18:00how I entered into the public schools, LA city schools.
Ren: Working in those public schools what did that teach you do you think?
Karen: I guess a number of thoughts. One is as I already said I didn't like theformality of the classroom setting or the teaching, and I would learn to appreciate the value of education and finding flexibility and that what I thought was so rigid was probably not as rigid. From the students with disabilities I learned an awful lot about life -- their life, their experiences, that the typical attitude that an able-bodied person has is that we don't even know that we have able-bodied privilege. And so I actually learned that very 19:00early on from one of the students in particular. I was working with her trying to teach her to walk and navigate and these kind of things, and she finally got so mad at me that she said, "I can move a whole lot better in a wheelchair, so why are you forcing me to be like you?" And those aren't the exact words because it was so long ago, but I learned some very good lessons.
Ren: How did long did you spend working with those schools? How many years wereyou there?
Karen: I think I was with LA city schools for three years, and then LA countyschools for three years. And at that time I was doing presentations for other schoolteachers and really getting quite engaged, taking a lot of the children 20:00with disabilities into competitions that we would have sport competitions.
Ren: I want to ask you this as someone who also my mom is a preschool teacher,she was a special education teacher for years, my wife is a teacher, my mother-in-law is a teacher, my sister, what do you think makes a good teacher?
Karen: That's a good question. I think that good teachers are kind of born thatway. I think individuals can become good teachers, but there's just something in the DNA if you will that allows one to have the care and concern and the challenge. I don't know, it's really hard for me to say, but I've seen a lot of grad students and colleagues who really are not good teachers, and then there's some that are just masters, and I think it's in the DNA. 21:00
Ren: When I was teaching preservice teachers in the School of Education here onthe campus, one thing that I would tell them is we would talk about Nel Noddings and the ethics of care and caring about your students, and in return they will care about you and your subjects. I think that's something that when I talk to teachers I always find it interesting when they refer to their students as their kids. 'My kids need this. My kids were great today. My kids were awful today.' I think to your answer too, I don't know what makes a good teacher, but I think that definitely showing them that you care about them, not just that they make an A on a test. And seeing it through my step-son's schooling all are good teachers that you can tell really care about their students. So you're working in the county schools and working in the city schools, when did the master's degree come into the picture? 22:00
Karen: Sometimes in those first couple of years when I was with the cityschools, because I had an undergraduate degree in sociology, and course work in physical education that allowed me to get the teaching credential. So I decided I should probably get some education, get a degree in special ed if I was going to continue to do this. And so I worked full-time and went to school at night at Cal State Long Beach working on my master's in special education.
Ren: Once you finished your master's degree when did you start thinking23:00doctorate and PhD after that?
Karen: Well that's another thing, when I finished the master's, and by that timeI was also very interested in sensory integration therapy, Jean Ayers type work and perceptional motor therapy, and a number of those things, doing a lot of conferences. And then I was invited to a good friend and colleague that I would end up writing a book with, she asked if I was interested in teaching some of the courses at Cal State LA, and we developed a clinic actually for therapy, 24:00sensory motor therapy children with disabilities.
And so that put me into the college environment, and I was not thinking of a PhDat that point at all, because I was enjoying working with the kids, the students, and I was enjoying teaching the courses, and I was actually teaching graduate courses and helping her with some of those classes and then teaching some of them by myself. And then I thought okay, I like this and if I'm going to stay I'm going to have to get a PhD. And then that launched me into looking at PhD programs.
Ren: So you attended Texas Woman's University, correct?
Ren: Which is the largest state-supported University for women in the UnitedStates I found out.
Ren: How did you end up in Texas?25:00
Karen: [Laughs] That's a good question.
Ren: California -- Texas.
Karen: Well there's more stories than I can tell about my transition from livingin California to moving to Texas, which was quite a cultural shock for this Southern Californian. I looked at three schools, three universities only because I was interested in a combination of kind of neuromotor development, disability, special education, physical activity, kinesiology, all of those kind of things. There were three universities -- Indiana University, that was too special ed for 26:00me, because I already had a master's in special ed. The University of Oregon, which was a good program, and then the one that actually fit my interest because I really was into neuromotor development, and it was Texas Woman's University and they had a program where I could go summers and then spend a year residency there. By this time I had a 2-year-old son. I was married with a 2-year-old in tow, and when we moved to Texas he picked up a very thick Texas accent. But I could teach at Cal State LA and go in the summer time until I needed to do the residency. I was not on assistantship, paid my way.
Ren: How hard having this experience, having children and trying to complete a27:00doctorate is quite a juggle I'm sure.
Karen: Yes it was, because I was divorced at the time, so I had a 2-year-old intow, but I was also then solo. And often the kind of stories and the reflections that I have about that time is that I would drop him off at childcare, educational childcare that was provided there at the University. I would do all of my classes and spend time on campus and then I would pick it up, and it was his time from the time I picked him up until about 8 o'clock at night, and then I would do my work after those hours. And it was interesting to balance, because not only was he 2, 2½-- I completed by doctorate in about 2½ years, three 28:00summers and a fall. I was writing, co-authoring a textbook and writing my dissertation all at the same time, but I just balanced it.
Ren: You just did it.
Karen: I just did it. I mean there's no one else.
Ren: Did you have any family in Texas?
Karen: No. They were all in California.
Ren: So that was kind of a leap in faith just to kind of move away from familyand some type of help or support and to a state, had you been to Texas prior to?
Karen: No. Well except driving through when I was eight years old or something.29:00No, it was kind of a cultural shock. But I had gone to school at Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen and traveled a lot, drove all over California, so I was not worried about trying something new.
Karen: But it was a culture shock.
Ren: I'm sure. What year did you finish your doctorate there in Texas?
Ren: When did you start looking towards Washington State?
Karen: I don't really have a linear path that got me to wherever, so I was stillteaching at Cal State LA part-time, and when I went to do the fall residency, I did summer and fall residency in Denton, Texas.
That was at the time when Proposition 13 in California, some kind of tax reform30:00that was happening and the department head at Cal State LA said that she could hire me back for one semester but not more. Because I was part-time. I wasn't on a permanent faculty line at all. Then I was meeting with colleagues around the nation doing the adapted stuff, the disability sport, these kind of things I was getting into. And there were two of them from Washington State University who they had a grant and they wanted to leave WSU, and so they brought me on for a 31:00year as a project coordinator, whatever title I had to do some of the work on the grant knowing that they would then be leaving and I could take over the grant. And that seemed a year versus one semester in California. So I piled my then 4½ or 5-year-old in a California van and we drove to Pullman, Washington in January and I learned about snow.
Ren: [Laughs] And so this was in Kinesiology and Leisure Studies, is that correct?
Karen: Yes, that was the name of the department.
Ren: Leisure, that's kind of an older term, so what did that exactly mean?
Karen: Well I was involved in the kines part of the department, but the leisurestudies is recreation. It would be rec sports type things, or it would be outdoor recreation, and people who study leisure activities and travel, but I 32:00didn't do that part of it. I did the human movement kines part.
Ren: So we don't have time to go through your career at Washington StateUniversity where you served 22 years on the faculty as administrator. You remained Dean of the Graduate School in 1999. You were then Interim Dean in 1997, Associate from 1989 to 1997. So, you kind of had a pretty quick exponential increase in terms of positions and responsibilities. I guess my question is when did you get interested in getting into an administrative role and how did that come about?
Karen: Well that's another thing where I said I would never become anadministrator. It seems to be the path I followed.
I was always interested in graduate education. I was teaching 19 credits a year,33:00undergrad and grad students, and directing thesis and dissertations and all of that. There was a half-time project coordinator type position in the graduate school, and I thought oh that's interesting, so I interviewed and got that position. And that then exposed me to the activities of the graduate school, and it was half-time and I didn't want to leave teaching. I wasn't going to leave teaching or doing the research. So after I finished that, that was for a year, then the Associate Dean, there was an Associate Dean and an Assistant Dean and the Associate Dean was leaving to take another job, and so that opened up a position. The assistant dean was a three-quarter position. Associate dean was a half-time position, and I didn't want the three-quarter position, and so I 34:00decided that I would apply for the associate dean's position half-time because I still was then a faculty member, and I did that for a number of years. I kept up my teaching load as well. And then when the dean left to take another position I was then asked to be the intern dean and then dean. But that's then when I knew that I liked the challenges of administration.
Another story here is that there was, I almost left administration because itwas too restrictive. I felt everybody had to conform, and I wasn't like that, and it was very very frustrating. I remember walking across the bridge going back to the office saying I don't belong here. I don't fit at all. 35:00
Ren: Why did you feel like you weren't like them and that you didn't belong?
Karen: Just that I was much more casual, you know, comfortable in my skin. Iguess I thought they were more sophisticated and that I had to give up some of my values to be an administrator. And it was then that I also realized that no, I needed to stay in administration because we needed to have people like me who were different, female you know, and just coming from different perspectives, and I did not conform to the three-piece suit.
Ren: I was going to ask you, was it a bit of a boys' club?
Karen: Yeah. Yeah.36:00
Ren: When you were named dean in 1999, served in that role for a couple ofyears, how did Virginia Tech, the place that we currently sit, how did Virginia Tech come into your life?
Karen: I was nominated for the position. I wasn't particularly looking for ajob, but I was open to looking because either I was going to spend the rest of my career at WSU, or that was about the time that I could move and do something different. So I was nominated, looked at the job description and thought I can do these things. I knew about VPI at that time. I knew some people who were here, but it was kind of intriguing. I thought it was kind of a challenge. I liked some of the things that Steger had that was in the strategic plan and the 37:00vision, and so I ended up applying and coming for an interview, then kind of the rest is history. I ended up getting the position.
Ren: Right. Did you apply or look anywhere else around this time?
Karen: Yes. There were a couple of other places where I was encouraged to apply.I ended up having an airport interview and then on-campus interviews at two other schools around, around the same time. One was almost identical time, and one I think was a little bit before that.
Ren: When you came for your interview to Virginia Tech what was your firstimpression of the campus? Do you remember how you felt? What the campus looked like and smelled like or anything?
Karen: Yes. My first introduction to Virginia Tech on-campus was in Northern38:00Virginia, because I flew into DC, because the Northern Virginia center essentially reports to me, so I spent two days up there. So my first introduction to Virginia Tech was in Falls Church, and then in Alexandria. Buildings where Falls Church is still there, but the other one is not. And I was just watching. It was kind of interesting because I was seeing the satellite, the other location first. And then I guess a couple of other quick stories is we 39:00flew the Hokie Bird back down here and of course growing up in California the Hokie bird, the Hokey Pokey is very different than here, another cultural shock, right. But the pilot of the plane, I was walking towards the plane and he said, "I just flew up the new dean of the graduate school." And the search committee people are standing behind me, they heard that, so I can sense that they are kind of freaking out. And I just matter of factly said, "Yeah, I'm applying for that job as well." And it was the interim person, and he truly had just flown up there.
So anyway, we fly on the Hokie Bird. We land here, and that was a novelexperience. And then I get walked into the President's Board Room and it was very dark with all these photos on the wall, and on easels, so that I remember very clearly, and there were all men 40:00sitting in the room. And the first question I was asked is would I create a graduate faculty, and that I knew had been controversial. But I remember kind of looking around the room and thinking this is really dark. There's all these--
Ren: Were there oil paintings on the wall?
Karen: Yes, of all the-- They've changed it now so it doesn't look as ominous asit did. And I remember I walked out of there and I said, "So where are the women?" Because I had actually not seen very many women in my interview. It was 41:00very -- women on the search committee that was fine, but in terms of who I was--
Ren: Upper administration?
Ren: I guess the most basic question is why did you say yes to coming to join inthe graduate school?
Karen: A lot of that has to do with Mark McNamee. I mean I really didn't, Iwasn't real sure this was a good fit for a number of reasons, and then in talking with Mark, I don't mean it to sound as arrogant as it might, but I had already done a lot of the things that he wanted me to do, because I had been in the grad school for a while, so I knew I could clean up admissions and I could do these kind of things. But there were other things I wanted to do differently, 42:00and that has turned into now transformative graduate education initiatives and all the things that we've been able to accomplish. And so basically Mark said, "Yeah, come do that job and yes, I will support you to do these other programs," and I thought okay. And it felt like I could do, I would be comfortable here doing the job that needed to be done.
Ren: Mark McNamee is the provost.
Karen: The former provost, and he was hired from Davis, California. He wasoutside hire and I was his first hire and I was also from the outside, and we had not had a whole lot of hires at the senior level outside of Virginia Tech. 43:00So that created some interesting tensions as I was not born and bred in Virginia nor came up through Virginia Tech.
Ren: Right. So when you accepted the position as Dean of the Graduate School andyou arrived at campus there was a bit of a controversy I guess you could say that a lot of people know about the history of this University, and your appointment as Dean of the Graduate School, you want to tell that story I'm sure.
Karen: Yeah, and I don't need to do the long version. There is a longer versionof it. I interviewed here, was offered the position, accepted the position, and then Mark McNamee, the provost, or before accepting he said, "Is there anything else that we need to have in order to bring you to Virginia Tech?" And I said, 44:00"Yes, my partner," 'she' using the pronoun, "She is a tenured associate professor of English and would need a job here." He didn't bat an eye, eyelash, so we then proceeded with all of the paperwork. And so then after that was happening we flew here for a house hunting trip on Memorial Day weekend, around that time when the Board of Visitors, but before that, it was in April that I got an anonymous email, truly anonymous email and I learned about how it was anonymous, and you couldn't figure out who actually sent it. Sent me an email saying that I was not qualified for the position, and that I had gone to a 45:00second-rate university. I was coming from a second-rate, just really not saying anything flattering about my background, and so all of that was in there. And then there was a statement that said they kill gays in Roanoke with a link to the murder of Danny Overstreet in Roanoke. And so I was a little concerned about that, and I kind of ignored it. I talked to my provost at Washington State University who was actually the former Dean of Sciences here at Tech.
Ren: Bob Bates.
Karen: Bob Bates, and so I talked with him and so he didn't want me to leaveWSU, but he also was pretty loyal to Tech.
Ren: I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.
Karen: Did you?
Karen: Yeah. That's right, because he was here and I missed seeing him. Soanyway, I talked with Bob and then I just kind of kept it quiet and just kind of 46:00worked through the emotions of that. So Shelli and I came to visit and on Memorial Day weekend, the same weekend of the Board of visitors. We were house hunting and essentially bought a house. We didn't actually buy it that day, but found places. At the time I thought Mark McNamee was a little bit different, but I didn't think much about it. And so then we flew home, and the Board of Visitors met on that Monday as they typically do to review personnel actions. 47:00And then McNamee called me the next day and he said essentially, "The Board of Visitors approved your hire but not Shelli's. They took her name off the list and approved everybody else but hers." And so he said, "The President and I will support whatever decision you have to make on this." Pretty shocking to hear that. And so Shelli and I chatted. Lucinda Roy was talking to Shelli because she was tenured associate professor in English. So we chatted and then I called McNamee back and I said, "We're coming," because I knew both Shelli and I had been very active, social activism in social justice and these kind of things in our lives and this then became a personal challenge. And essentially, I thought 48:00if they can do that to me, because it was my hire, and it wasn't really about Shelli, I mean it wasn't about her, they didn't want me to come and they couldn't not approve my hire. And so I said, "We're coming, because I'm going to face this head-on," face it head-on, and so we drove 2,701 miles.
Karen: And by that time some people were starting to get wind of it. I did notknow until we got here that the email that was sent to me was also sent, a version of it was sent to the Board of Visitors and sent to the President and the Provost. So they had that kind of information. 49:00
You would have to ask them, but I don't think that they really expected us tocome, and so we came and that was in 2002, and we're sitting here in 2017.
Ren: Right. When we were interviewing someone early with VT Stories and theywere talking about kind of the protests and the demonstrations that put this issue kind of at the forefront in a lot of peoples' minds and people really bonding together to support your appointment, as well as Shelli's appointment to 50:00the English Department. How did all this, again, you really took a leap of faith in coming here and facing this as you say, how did that make the both of you feel?
Karen: It felt very good, and because both of us grew up in Southern California,a different timeframe, but we expected people to stand up and protest or make their voices heard, and that was not the culture here. And so it was like oh wow, we can have a demonstration. And I kept a little bit of distance from that, because I thought it was appropriate, and I know it was very very supportive for Shelli, because she's the one who I had a job. She didn't have a job, and then she would ultimately get back her associate professor tenure position. But it was I think very supportive for her. I was so pleased in general, well we both were to see the communities coming together, because the gay community as it was 51:00primarily known then, and the black community did not interact. But it was starting to because there were other things that were happening, and it was faculty, women studies and strong feminists who said this is wrong. This is dead wrong, and so they took on the-- You know I don't even really know all the things about how the letter-writing campaign and the protests and all of that, but we are very thankful to them, because they brought it into the limelight.
Ren: How long was it after once they said, they pulled Shelli's name, how longwas that gap before they finally approved her appointment?
Karen: Well she had a temporary position, we got here in August and in January52:00that's when she assumed a position in TLOS, Learning Technologies, doing contemporary Pedagogy, which is something that she was very skilled at, and she had been a faculty member in comparative American cultures in a number of places. And so I think then that spring she had that kind of employment which was helpful, and then English re-voted and she was able to assume that, be the Associate Professor in English. Most of her paid experience here was in Learning Technologies, but she also served in a couple of roles and was an active faculty member in English.
Ren: I want to ask you, this was maybe a challenging or difficult time, yourarrival to the campus. That was in 2002, so here we are 15 years later. As the Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education what are some of your favorite 53:00memories or experiences during this 15 years?
Karen: I think it revolves around, obviously for me it revolves around graduatestudents. Commencement is a wonderful time when people get to celebrate their accomplishments, and so it's those moments with graduate students who are feeling good about who they are and what they have accomplished and we would like to celebrate that here. Being able to initiate the transformative graduate education and teaching the future professoriate course, and the other courses doing the global perspectives, it's all focused on creating opportunities for 54:00the grad students to better prepare themselves for wherever it is that they are going. And so it's those little moments where somebody just-- We had lunch with the grad students today and there were probably 200-250 that came in and came out of there. And just to see them in that space, talking with each other, enjoying very cross-discipline, cross-cultural and they come in and thank me. It's like I didn't do anything except help foot the bill. It's just the fact that we have been able to create this graduate community and continue to develop it.
Ren: When I was teaching I always told the preservice teachers that were55:00pursuing a master's degree I said, "Ladies and gentlemen this is going to be the best time of your life." I absolutely loved my coursework from graduate school, because I graduated with a degree in biology and was considering going to medical school and ended up in ed psych for my master's degree, which is a complete kind of 180. And then foundations of education looking at LGBTQ life in rural Appalachia, which is where I was born and raised, and I always told them being in graduate school this is some of the best years of your life. I know people say that about their undergraduate career, but I think for me it was always graduate school.
Ren: And I know that you've been a huge proponent of diversity and equity inhigher education and really have built a sense of community at the graduate level at this University. Can you talk a little bit about the graduate school in terms of the programs and kind of the faculty and numbers, just like a general rundown of the graduate school?
Karen: Well right now we have close to 7,000 grad students scattered throughout56:00the commonwealth. Most of them are in Blacksburg, but we have a presence in the national capital region, 150 different graduate programs, masters and PhDs, so those are kind of the numbers. It has increased a lot in the last 15 years. The support for the grad students in terms of stipends and health insurance Chicago, tuition remissions, those things have really helped. The Graduate Life Center in which we sit right now is unique. There is nothing like it in the nation. It stands as a model for my colleagues to try to develop this space and place for graduate education. So yes, it's both a space and a place. 57:00
Ren: Can you talk about the history of this building? Because it has a unique life.
Karen: Yeah, and I don't know all of it, but this building was, a long time agothe Alumni Hall and I think this was a faculty residence, where faculty lived here and in the front entrance down here was kind of their dining room. Then they built Donaldson-Brown, the wing that's attached to this. I think that was built in, I don't know, the 50s 60s or something. Then the Alumni Hall as well as in Donaldson-Brown was the Donaldson-Brown Hotel and Conference Center. So where we're sitting right now was a hotel room. This was a hotel room.
And interesting, when I interviewed here this was Donaldson-Brown, and down thehall where admissions is right now, that's where I stayed. That was the suite where they put me up. But it was the Hotel and Conference Center. When I 58:00interviewed there was some talk that perhaps the grad school could take over this kind of facility. It wasn't part of the agreement, and within two years after my arrival when the Inn at Virginia Tech was built they vacated this and so we took over. And so what we have is the graduate school offices which are on two floors. We have grad students living upstairs, living in the other bedrooms. It was converted from a hotel and made it single rooms for grad students. Downstairs was the Conference Center, so we have now a coffee shop, a 59:00multi-purpose room, a computer lab, hangout spaces, the TV room, the auditorium, and we just now have a new health and wellness space. We originally had the health and wellness space, and then April 16th the murders happened and that had to be converted to a classroom, so now it's back. So this is a unique place and it's for graduate students. Undergrads, everybody is welcome during the day, and the people who live upstairs obviously they can enter any time, but the grad students have access with their Hokie passport, so it's their unique space.
Ren: You mentioned April 16th, what are some other difficult experiences thatyou've had as an upper-level administrator at this University in your tenure here? 60:00
Karen: Well April 16th was obviously very challenging, and there were nine gradstudents, I think nine, seven or nine that were killed, and I was the one that talked with some of the families and tried to manage some of those things. When commencement happened President Steger and I gave rings to each of the families individually. And one of the hardest things was at graduate commencement, and the grad students were given posthumous degrees, and I had to read a little bio about each one of them. And the families were sitting in the front row and they would come up on stage, and my voice cracked partway into reading the first, and 61:00I thought I can't-- I've got to not do that. And so I got through all of them and tried to make it as personal as possible under those circumstances, and I don't think there was a dry eye during that.
Ren: I can imagine.
Karen: So that was hard, and then that was in April and then in January a fewmonths later that next year, '08 is the beheading in the graduate school. I'm sure people are aware of that, but that happened in Au Bon Pain, the coffee shop, and I was actually just down the hall with the Global Perspectives course 62:00that I was teaching at that time. All of a sudden the police arrived and then everything was happening, and I was the person that was here. I had to call the family in China that night, so I think I was here until about 3 o'clock in the morning.
And I remember there was a conversation about closing down the GLC; I said, "No,we're not closing it down. Au Bon Pain," yeah, but I said, "We are not going to stop this environment. We have to keep things going." So I had no idea that in my life I would be dealing with the murder of the 32 and then beheading in the grad school. So those were obviously tough.
Ren: Right. I want to ask you in a conversation we had earlier about graduate63:00education in 2017 and the changing nature of graduate education. A lot of conversation that I think universities and colleges across this country are having as it relates to free speech, what is your position or what do you think in terms of allowing a safe and welcoming conversation to be had, but at the same time recognizing something as dangerous and volatile?
Karen: Well, given my history of growing up in California and my kind ofactivism in social justice things, I was and continue to be a strong proponent 64:00of academic freedom, and even more so freedom of speech.
And that I learned early on and I still subscribe to that, that I may not agreewith all the speech and the peoples' views, and in fact I don't. I had to learn from a more liberal California to a more conservative Virginia and Southwest Virginia that we have to value that, or I value it. And so I need to protect grad students, everybody's, and the staff's right to have their own views. And I think universities are one of the few places where we can really have conversations and we need to have the difficult dialogues. And that goes back to the work on diversity inclusion that I've done for most of my life as well. 65:00
We have to be able to talk about things, and some people might think that somespeech -- yes, there's hate speech and that is not protected, but what I try to do here is make sure that people's views -- progressive, liberal, conservative, whatever, don't interfere with learning. I mean they can't, as an individual I have my every right to my own views. What I don't have the right to do is impose my views on others, and so I'm one that wants to understand what the principles are for our actions and my decisions, and therefore a student who may have differing views has a right to express them but not to impose them. And we do that in a GTA training. It could be research. It's with other initiatives. I 66:00developed an Ombudspersons office, that nothing else exists like that in Virginia Tech. I have a new initiative on disrupting academic bullying, which I think is unacceptable in my view. Somebody can have their beliefs about the value of another person, but they do not impose that or mistreat everybody, so civility, respect. If something is, and that's not ignoring threat, because in my job and things there have been a number of threats that have occurred that were real. Some were not real. That's the nature of these things, but it is protecting people from harm that might be done. 67:00
But if there's no harm and no threat then sometimes we have to live with thetension. But the way that we have in terms of another, and a number of things here recently, you know we have conscious dialogues, difficult conversations, conscience conversations, difficult dialogues. And I teach a class on inclusion and diversity in a global society where we really have to talk about how we're not going to learn if we don't engage in conversation and hear opposing views.
Ren: I want to ask you something, and this may be a little sidebar, but I'm justcurious as someone who grew up in Southern California and has really tapped into a lot of these issues in higher education. From a progressive or a liberal standpoint oftentimes, are they oftentimes not wanting to have these conversations and instead just push these people to the fringe and not wanting to engage? Do you believe that to be the case of some maybe the individuals who 68:00kind of fall themselves in progressive or liberal circles that they don't want to have these difficult conversations? They want to disinvite the speaker or whatever it may be.
Karen: I think there's a lot of truth to that, and I would say that it's fromvarious perspectives. In the 60s and 70s, yeah, I think there was a lot more openness and irritation, yes, to deal with. But having some of the confrontation, the conversations, maybe they were harder in some ways.
And what I'm seeing now is less tolerance, less willingness to talk and justdismiss and that concerns me. And that's on the conservative side and the 69:00liberal side if I can divide it that way, because we've had controversial speakers on this campus. We had it at Washington State University. I remember having to make a decision in my role there. They wanted to bring essentially, it wasn't called white supremists, but that type of ideology there. And the students wanted to bring the speaker and I was part of the decision that said, "Yes. Bring the person. We don't have to listen." But there's some people who want that, and then there's others that were counter demonstrations if you will and counter-- That was a way of expressing the concerns. So yeah, I know in 70:00today's society controversial speakers make people feel very uncomfortable, but we need to allow the space where we educate from that, not just protest.
Ren: Kind of counter program?
Karen: Yes, counter program. Yeah.
Ren: To a lighter set of questions, in 2016 you received a couple of awardshonored by the Council of Graduate Schools' Board of Directors with the first Debra W. Stewart Award for Outstanding Leadership in Graduation Education. You also received the Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education Award in the Southern Region for CGS. And I know you have a pretty long and detailed history with them. What do those words mean to you?
Karen: Well, any award or all awards are recognizing something that an71:00individual has accomplished, obviously stating the obvious here, and I was very pleased to be recognized for the work that we have done. The Deborah Steward Award, because it was the first one and it was quite an honor and still is an honor to have received that, because it was the first. And to be recognized in that way then I see the results of the work that we have done in the grad school, because yeah, I'm the VP and Dean, but I don't do the work myself.
I mean I do some heavy lifting, but it's really all of us, so it is arecognition given to me, but it really is for recognition of all the hard work 72:00that has gone on. Because what we have created here in the grad school is unique, not only the building, but the transformative graduate education and all the programs. I mean people around the world look at what we're doing, and so to be recognized by the national organization that's pretty significant.
Ren: Absolutely. Congratulations on that.
Ren: I want to ask you, if someone just simply says the words Virginia Techwhat's the first thing you think of?
Karen: If I'm sitting outside, that's really a hard question. The first thingthat actually came to my mind was Hokie, the Hokies. And I think that's because it's just so prominent, and that's part of how we have packaged and marketed 73:00ourselves. Getting to a different level Virginia Tech is a land grant university, and I'm going to call it, and I have for probably ten years now a global land grant. I'm very fond, I feel very comfortable in the land grant universities. I am very much focused on that academic mission, and I think Virginia Tech is wonderful in many ways, but as a land grant university, because that serves a very unique purpose and I don't want us to ever lose that mission, that goal to be a land grant.
Ren: When you look across the state of the University what inspires you? Andthen on the other side what concerns you about this campus, this University? 74:00
Karen: What inspires me are the students that come here, the grad students thatcome here primarily. Of course I'm going to say that, but also the faculty. I think what we collectively have been able to build here is a place where faculty and grad students can come together across disciplines, like all the interdisciplinary things to help make the world a better place, to make Virginia Tech a better place. And so I've been very pleased to work with a whole good number of folks who want to roll up their sleeves and show that they care.
We talked about that earlier, but really take the opportunity to make adifference, and they really are concerned about the future citizens, and that's 75:00either as our faculty members, but it's really the future. I mean the grad students I consider to be, they are the future. The undergrads are too.
Ren: Looking at the campus what concerns you, or the University as a whole?
Karen: Let me talk about the campus. I don't think the campus structurally,physically is as welcoming as it could be. It's very welcoming for some but not for a lot of people. Sometimes the brick and mortar, the Pylons and others, which I know people have great respect for, and I don't have disrespect, but the messages that are sent sometimes by our physical structure are not as welcoming. We are a PWI, a predominantly white institution, and that concerns me, because 76:00we have to be focused on retaining, yeah, recruiting, but if we're not retaining and respecting the individuals of all kinds of diversity we're going to remain a PWI. We will be a PWI just because of the population for a long time, but we can do a better job, so it concerns me. We've got efforts, but we really have to own that and feel it.
I am a little bit concerned about the future. Actually I'm excited about thefuture as a 21st Century university, but for us, for Virginia Tech to be that university we have to have a greater understanding of what it means to be a 21st Century university and not just create certain things that are not superficial, 77:00but that they could be just to do them. We are a land grant university. We have to keep all three of those missions key, and not just focus on one or the other. We have to do research and scholarship. That's absolutely wonderful that we do. We need to tell people about it. We should not be focused primarily on that. We should not lose the emphasis on teaching and service engagement, it's got to be there.
So I guess what kind of concerns me is that the external pressures from fundingagencies, from legislators, from government that are-- They need to hold us accountable, but they need to allow us to be what we need to be for the students 78:00and the future, and I'm concerned about the external pressures.
Ren: I was talking to a colleague of mine and I told him this interview wascoming up. Originally, we were going to it last summer, but my father passed away. I was like, "Yeah, I'm going to get to interview Dean DePauw," and they said, "Man she's fearless." That's how they described you. And I think just listening to knowing a little bit about you and just listening to your story I think that's a good descriptor of you I believe. What would you like people to know about you maybe that they don't, or what would surprise people about their Dean of their Graduate School?
Karen: Well, I think that many people know me, so I'm not sure that there's too79:00much that would surprise them, because I'm out and about and doing a lot of things and interacting.
Ren: I do see you out on Facebook and Twitter and you're very active in thecommunity, the grad school community.
Karen: And I do see and interact with a lot of grad students and faculty andothers for that matter. You know I wish I could be in contact with more grad students, because a lot come through the building that I interact, but I want for all of our grad students to be as prepared as they can be for the variety of jobs. And some people don't have a clue who I am. A lot of people do, so it's less about, I want them to know that they have a community here. They have 80:00people who care and are concerned.
Ren: Absolutely. Just wrapping up here and thank you for being so generous withyour time. I know it's Thanksgiving break coming up and I know your work never stops. In your 15 years as the Dean of the Graduate School you probably could have gone anywhere else to be a dean or a provost or a president or whatever it may be. I guess my question is why stay at Virginia Tech and what does Virginia Tech mean to you in that way?
Karen: I'm regularly contacted and have been from the very beginning essentiallyfor jobs. Once you get into these kind of positions then one is on the list, so I want to acknowledge that. But then also some people have, headhunters and others have come and wanted to recruit me for provosts and presidents' positions. 81:00
And I have never been looking for a job, and if there had been one that I wasreally interested in and a good match then I might have considered it, but I am not a person that seeks position after position. I see tasks that need to be done and programs to be built, and so I spent a long time at Washington State University and now I'm spending a good number of years here. And so I feel good about being able to develop all the things that we have and see the results. I hear from grad students alumni all the time. Around the world I hear from them 82:00and I see them and they remember what they've gotten here, so it then serves as kind of a model for others. So it's the job that needed to be done, the tasks, the opportunities that drive me more than the title. And some people have said well you could go be president. So yes, I can go be president, but guess what? If I can stay here, if I stay here I touch more lives and we can make a far greater difference by all of the grad students and then who they touch, as opposed to just the number and the size of the University. I said earlier there were things that I said I would never be and I ended up being, but I'm not about a position. It's about what we can accomplish. 83:00
Ren: Right. Is there anything else that you thought I would ask that I didn't,or is there anything else you would like to say?
Karen: Oh, I don't know, we've chatted a long time. I just really appreciate youall doing the stories. I mean one of the things, in our communicating science efforts and the things we've done here with that it is all about the story. It is about the narrative, and I don't think we have spent enough time in our lives in general, but in higher education focusing on stories. That's what we remember more. We may not remember a name or title or those kind of things, but we remember the stories.
Ren: When I was interviewing John Dooley yesterday he was talking about thebuildings around campus and he goes, "I see these buildings. I don't see names, 84:00I see stories." And he said that, and I was like oh that's perfect.
Ren: He talked about Slusher Tower and some other buildings on campus. DeanDePauw thank you so much for sitting down with VT Stories and speaking with us, from Southern California to the mountains of Blacksburg, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Thank you so much. It's great seeing you again.
Karen: Yeah, you're welcome.
Ren: Thanks again.