When Karen Chen speaks about the land- grant mission at Oklahoma State, the passion in the Tulsa native’s voice is unmistakable.
As the assistant vice president of enrollment management, Chen said providing educational access to Oklahoma students isn’t an obligation — it’s an opportunity. “We want to attract and educate students from all over the United States and the world, but specifically our Oklahoma students, we help them get a great education and then have them give back to their community and state,” she said. “That’s really important, and at a comprehensive research one institution, we have all the opportunities available for our students to be successful. We need to reach and engage with them.”
Starting out in Undergraduate Admissions and now assistant vice president of enrollment management, she brings over 15 years of experience in higher education to OSU. Karen is fully Oklahoma educated, growing up in Tulsa and earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Tulsa and her master’s at OU-Tulsa.
She truly loves what she does recruiting the next generation of OSU undergraduates because of the people. “It’s our faculty, our staff, our students. ... It’s important that our students have a diverse student body that they can interact with and learn from. That’s why it’s so important to have our international students, our transfer students and the traditional freshmen on campus. This is what encompasses our Cowboy family — you can’t have one without the other.”
Karen isn’t all work, though. She is also a country music fan and Faith Hill devotee,
having seen her perform 19 times (so far). “There’s just something about it for me.
... It’s a shared experience and the person standing next to you is right there, but
their experience can be completely different than yours.” The signed Martina McBride
guitar in her hands is one of her prized possessions. “At a lot of concerts, they
have one or two items signed by the artist that they put up for sale. I didn’t have a signed guitar, so I figured, why not?”
Another favorite experience of Karen’s is Broadway plays and musicals. She frequently travels to New York for shows. “Yes, I am one of those people who wait around by backstage doors to meet the cast members. Sometimes they come out and sometimes they don’t — but no matter, I have great respect for their talents.” The payoff is an impressive collection of autographed playbills. She has seen In Transit, Dear Evan Hansen, She Loves Me, Rent and Wicked, to name a few. “There are no bad musicals. Who doesn’t love something where somebody can break out into song? Anytime anyone can break out into song in the middle of a conversation is a win for me. I love it, it’s just fun.”