Waters and her daughter, Kelsey
mission runs deep
Waters has been a bus driver, a consultant, a teacher, a wife
and a mother all while working toward a dual degree in
history and teaching from U.Va. Its been a 20-year trek
to her procession on the Lawn May 20.
37, credits her educational success to supportive teachers, such
as Eleanor Wilson, assistant professor of education in U.Va.s
Curry School of
Education. Wilson taught Waters as part of the Piedmont Virginia
Community College/U.Va. teaching fellows program.
Wilson: Karen represents and epitomizes the best of our
future teachers. She extended herself in a variety of quiet yet
significant ways to help and mentor other students.
her efforts, Waters received U.Va.s outstanding master
of teaching award in April.
jobs also helped Waters attain her degree. One such job included
a stint as a Jaunt bus driver for elderly and disabled residents
on weekends and nights.
safety reasons, Waters donned boyish-looking attire during night
shifts as she and her sleeping daughter traveled the city and
addition to her for-pay jobs, Waters has spent time volunteering
in several area schools and been involved in more than a dozen
civic organizations. Shes also not afraid to stand up for
rental fees were waived while she was president of U.Va.s
Housing Association at Copeley Hill, Waters took on the administration
to get lead-based paint removed from their buildings. U.Va.s
Office of the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
intervened, and the lead-abatement project was successful. That
act led Waters to a position representing state Sen. Emily Couric
at forums and meetings until last summer.
other nontraditional U.Va. students, Waters was hesitant about
returning to college because she hadnt done well during
a previous attempt in 1980. Friends and colleagues at various
places where she worked and volunteered encouraged her to enroll
and fellow PVCC transfer student Colleen Higgins were part of
the Philip Morris Teaching Partnership program, a collaborative
effort between U.Va. and PVCC to train teachers through U.Va.s
five-year masters in teaching program.
working at U.Va.s Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American
and African Studies, Waters renewed her interest in history. She
recently received the Albemarle County Historical Societys
Rawlings Prize, an annual award that honors outstanding essays
on local history. The paper was her senior thesis for her history
B.A. Its topic was residential segregation in early 20th-century
graduation, Waters plans to put her community organization skills
and her education to work at a local non-profit organization.
The first in her immediate family to graduate from college, she
has a 3.8 grade point average. Her husband, Samuel, also will
receive his doctorate in microbiology from U.Va. And daughter
Kelsey is an honor student in the second grade at Venable Elementary
School, where Waters has done volunteer work.
it took Waters 20 years to earn her degree, its been an
invaluable experience. Its never too late to get an
education. I am still very much a work in progress and believe
my best still lies ahead.