May 18-24, 2001
Back Issues
Waters' mission runs deep
Two graduates honored for their service to humanity
Student aids the homeless

Mellon winner redefines "Jim Crow" era

Pre-med student shares his passion for music
Fast-track grad driven to help his family
Student leads effort to install Braille on Lawn room doors
Creative recycling: Students convert crate into studio
Lawson lives richly
Can you go home again? Issues facing international students
Education delayed but not denied
Weaver finds election laws discriminatory
Quilter gets A+
Students to go abroad on Fulbright scholarships
Weddle will research Peruvian women
Graduate rich in lessons learned
Anthony defender of public good
Affinnih plays her cards strategically
After earning degree in two years, graduate going for two more
Student develops new sign language system
Student trio pushes for late-night joe
Karen Waters and daughter Kelsey
Stephanie Gross
Karen Waters and her daughter, Kelsey

Waters’ mission runs deep

By Katherine Jackson

Karen 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. It’s been a 20-year trek to her procession on the Lawn May 20.

Waters, 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.

Says 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.”

For her efforts, Waters received U.Va.’s “outstanding master of teaching award” in April.

Flexible 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.

For safety reasons, Waters donned boyish-looking attire during night shifts as she and her sleeping daughter traveled the city and surrounding counties.

In 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. She’s also not afraid to stand up for her rights.

Although 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.

Like other nontraditional U.Va. students, Waters was hesitant about returning to college because she hadn’t done well during a previous attempt in 1980. Friends and colleagues at various places where she worked and volunteered encouraged her to enroll at PVCC.

Waters 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 master’s in teaching program.

While 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 Society’s 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 Charlottesville.

After 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.

Although it took Waters 20 years to earn her degree, it’s been an invaluable experience. “It’s never too late to get an education. I am still very much a work in progress and believe my best still lies ahead.”




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