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Alumni Spotlight

March 22, 2019

Gracing our Alumni Spotlight this week is, Karen Schairer.  Karen graduated from UNM in 1990 with a PhD in Spanish Linguistics.  Currently she is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University.

“After graduating with a BA in Spanish from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon I trained at the University of New Mexico to become one of the very early Peace Corps volunteers, serving in the tiny tropical town of Cunday, Colombia.  Upon completion of my two years I was offered a Peace Corps scholarship to return to UNM to pursue a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies where I was mentored by an amazing corps of professors who guided my first forays into Latin American history, culture, politics, and the Portuguese language. 

Upon graduation, I worked in inner-city programs in Albuquerque, taught at a private high school for a few years, and became a Program Director at the YWCA.  After moving with my family to Arizona, I again taught at a private school, taught adult education at the local community college, became a photographic editor for a national photographer and, on a whim, accepted a part-time instructorship at Northern Arizona University where, for the first time I discovered a career that has never become routine, never ceased to challenge and delight me.  I returned to UNM to complete my PhD in the mid 80s, this time in Spanish Linguistics and, for the past almost 35 years, I've have been a tenured faculty member at Northern University.  At present I am working with colleagues in Bilingual Multicultural Education and in the Computer Science School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems to develop a cloud-based learning system based on my video archive of slightly over 600 Oral Histories collected across 19 Spanish-speaking countries, filmed in part with Fulbright support.  This will replace our ageing blog, Authenticspanishlanguage and pedagogy, used by teachers and students around the globe.  Should anyone be interested in collaborating with us, we would be delighted.  Sharing ideas and materials is what life is all about.

Life just keeps getting more exciting and I am grateful to the University of New Mexico for opening new horizons and preparing me for a career that keeps demanding the best of me.  Thank you UNM, thank you.”