Karen Akom, Ed. D. – Anthropology ’98

Akom Karen

Special Education Liaison

Chesterfield County Public Schools

In the Spring of ’95, I sat in Dr. Jordan’s Intro to Anthropology class, and after hearing not only the content but the excitement he shared, I quickly changed my major to join the ranks of students taking courses and expeditions with Dr. Jordan, Dr. Dalton, and Dr. Bates.   Learning the broad strokes of cultures and discovering the past through archaeology led me to pursue a Master’s degree at ODU focused on Early Modern European History.   During that time, I realized how much I enjoyed teaching others about the past.  I strived to emulate the teaching style of Dr. Jordan as I worked with undergrads taking required courses in which they weren’t really interested.

There came a time, however, when I needed to stop being a full-time student, and much to my parent’s delight I became their definition of successful, i.e. employed with a full-time job and health insurance.  I left the collegiate arena to teach students who were incarcerated on a boat.  It was truly a unique experience that led me to become a special education teacher.  Over the years, I have taught middle and high school in Virginia, Georgia, and Arizona.

Upon returning to Virginia, I felt the call of academia once again and was able to earn an Ed.D. from the University of Virginia.  As a Special Education Liaison for Chesterfield County Public Schools, I focused my doctoral research on leadership practices that support the inclusion of students with disabilities.  It is nice to finally have a degree directly related to my career field, but I would not have become the educator I am had my path not been so circuitous.

Studying Anthropology under Dr. Jordan, Dr. Dalton, and Dr. Bates widened my worldview, encouraged an eye for detail, and instilled in me a sense of patience and belief that great things will be revealed (often after hours of sifting through the soil).  Plus, as the mother of three boys, it’s a bonus that, more often than not, I’m the one encouraging them to play in the dirt.  You just never know what you may find.

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