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Meet Karen Chen

Karen Chen
Senior Associate Director Undergraduate Admissions
Oklahoma State University

How did you get become the Senior Associate Director Undergraduate Admissions for Oklahoma State University?
I had believers, not to be confused with Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers.” My parents are my biggest believers and they raised me to have a strong work ethic and to work with purpose. My dad used to say, "Time passes no matter what, so you might as well have something to show for it." I may not be taking center stage at a sold-out concert, but I am doing what I love to do and I have a pretty amazing group of believers to show for it.  My career is the result of a strong work ethic, persistence, and good timing. I have the support from my friends, in and out of the profession, to make each day even more interesting than the one before.

What is your favorite part of the job?
The opportunity to engage and connect with prospective students, families, high school counselors, and principals is definitely one of the many highlights of my job. I enjoy working for Oklahoma State University, a land-grant institution that’s mission is to provide access to students. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a great team, and that team starts with our leadership at OSU. A strong foundation and a supportive team are critical for success.

How does NACAC play a role in your career?
NACAC has played and continues to play an integral role in my career. I was fortunate early in my career to have supervisors who encouraged and supported my involvement in our regional affiliate, Great Plains ACAC. From my experience and leadership opportunities within GPACAC, I was exposed to the larger national organization beyond attending the annual conference. NACAC helps us stay informed, providing a platform to engage in challenges and opportunities. And most importantly, NACAC connects us with others.

The personal connections made through NACAC have made this career rewarding. It is easy to get in the minutiae of your own institution, but NACAC provides opportunities to truly engage and learn from others. The personal friendships created from this profession have helped shape who I am today. I am truly fortunate to know so many intelligent, amazing, and dedicated individuals in this profession. Their abilities and talents have had a profound impact on me.

Do you have any advice for professionals new to the field?
I absolutely love this profession, but it is a challenging one. It is a profession of constant change, high demand, and limited resources, but the purpose of our roles is to provide access and opportunity for students. The professional and personal growth are an added layer to the benefits of this profession.

The advice that I give to any professional, regardless of their field, is to have patience, observe, learn, adapt, take notes, be solution-focused, self-aware, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Take advantage of any opportunity presented to you, even if you’re not jumping for joy, as those opportunities tend to lead to even greater ones. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing counselors today?
The challenges differ depending on the counselor’s role, employer expectations, and your student audience.  We have members from all around the world and their challenges may differ greatly from each other.

I like to focus on the opportunities rather than the challenges. There is a strong network of people within our profession who work tirelessly to ensure we do what is right for the student. Regardless of what side of the desk you’re on, we are all faced with limited financial and human resources, but we do what we can to provide opportunities for all students. 

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
You can find me traveling to New York City to watch countless musicals. I also love live music, so I go to a ridiculous number of concerts ranging from country music to pop to 80s big hair bands. For those who know me, this will not be surprising: I am a loyal Faith Hill fan. We don’t need to go into how many times I have seen her or met her. 

I’m a foodie for sure, and I’m always game to try something new. I love my TV shows, cooking, and spending time with my family and friends. Did I also mention that I love to sleep? I don’t get enough, which is probably why I love it so much. 

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
Mary Poppins minus the children. She is smart, independent, determined, fun, and powerful. She can also fly, and fill her handbag with just about anything.

Describe yourself in five words.
Persuasive, Dedicated, Intelligent, Charismatic, and Entertaining

Is there anything else you would like to add?
It takes all of us to be a change agent. We can all positively influence and enhance change. Ellen DeGeneres says this at the end of her shows and it is a simple and powerful message: “Be kind to one another. Bye, bye.”

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