Alumnae Spotlight: Karen Kinsman ’88

Karen KinsmanImagine…you’re strapped into your seat in a compartment with no windows, flying at 150 mph as the plane approaches the runway of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean. You are about to experience one of the most difficult things a navy pilot will ever do – land on a flight deck. Facing backward in your seat makes the anticipation more freaky as the tailhook snags the arresting wires stretched across the deck and the plane goes from 150 mph to 0 in seconds. Wow!

Karen Kinsman, RSC ’88 described her thrilling experience to us. She had the opportunity to be part of the U.S. Navy’s Leaders at Sea program, spending a day at sea aboard the USS John C. Stennis, touring, learning and experiencing what happens daily on an aircraft carrier. She said it was one of those things that was on her bucket list and she didn’t even know it until it happened.Karen Kinsman

Karen Kinsman, a 2018 Women of Influence Award recipient, is a member of the Russell Sage class of 1988. She went on from Sage to receive an MS in Management from Antioch University New England in 1993. Since 2002, she has been the Director/Senior Program Manager at the University of New Mexico where she directs operations at the UNM STEM-H Center and is on the Leadership Team for the Health Sciences Office for Diversity as its Director of Strategic Projects.

We had an opportunity to interview Karen recently about her time at Sage, her alumnae connections and where her life has taken her.

Your best memory of Sage?

Hands down my best memory was the incredible friendships I made. I don’t believe that would have happened anywhere else. There are several who are still close and have been a part of my life since my time at Sage.

What was it like coming back for Reunion?

Coming back for Reunion was amazing. Our class had a blast. It will always be home for me. I love the changes on campus, the gardens, the new building, and upgrades to older buildings…absolutely beautiful. But what I love the most is that with all of the changes, Russell Sage still maintains its identity as a women’s college. It’s such a special place.

What were some of your favorite places?

There was an ice cream place that was awesome but I can’t recall the name. Brueggers was a great hangout and I spent a ton of time in Schacht. Marion Terenzio gave me pipe organ lessons as part of my major and whenever I was stressed, I was able to go into Bush when it was empty (even very late at night) and play that grand organ. So much fun!

How did your time at Russell Sage inform the person you are today?Karen Kinsman

Sage was the perfect nexus for me to experience an incredible education and have opportunities to develop as a leader. My time here taught me that it was okay to have a voice and empowered me to take advantage of opportunities to use my voice. It is the intangible things, the life skills I learned here that shaped who I am today. My advisors and mentors at Sage had high expectations – they made me care about my education and they cared about me as a student and as a person. They didn’t just tell you what you needed to know, they modeled it for us everyday. Most of you will recognize their names…Syb Jennings, Jack Harris, Aggie Stillman, Mildred Dandridge, and Marion Terenzio. Marion was the toughest teacher I ever had – we still tell stories about how hard she graded her papers and how much she expected of us in terms of being able to actually apply what we learned. And Marion had a photographic memory, so no one ever dared to try turning in a former student’s paper! These precious people invested in my life and made Sage a special place.

What advice would you give to today’s Sage students?

Two things I would share:

Do whatever it takes to create balance in your life. I learned early in my career that I had a terrible tendency to be a workaholic. For many years, I felt I had to do it all and do it all now like everything was a race. In 1993, when working as the Support Services Manager with an organization serving adults with disabilities, I had a supervisor who recognized that trait in me. He challenged me with this question, “Is anybody going to die if you don’t finish this project by day’s end? If the answer is no, walk away and go home.” It took time to pace myself and find balance.

Karen KinsmanI am definitely not perfect at it even now, but when I pay attention to creating that balance, it makes a very positive difference in how I live my life. Getting to balance for me also meant creating a healthier version of myself. I began working out regularly, losing a bunch of weight, and taking better care of myself a number of years ago. You can achieve balance in work, family and other life commitments when you first work at caring for yourself.

And second…Don’t think you need to know what you are going to do with the rest of your life the day you graduate from high school or even when you graduate from college. The path from A to Z is not a straight line and the career you start out in may not carry through your life. That’s okay and it’s okay to change your mind along the way. My career has taken some amazing, yet unexpected turns since 1988 and I wouldn’t change any of it.

Our interview with Karen was so much fun. We caught her passion for what she does – creating strategic collaborations, coaching and mentoring others. It was easy to see how well deserved her Woman of Influence Award was.

Karen is equally proud and passionate about her family and friends. In 2016, she married her high school friend, Holly Lowe. They live in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their three dogs, a cat, and occasionally Karen’s son, Zack, a sophomore at Texas Southern University in Houston (adopted in 1998 with her then partner, Mary Beth Schubauer RSC ’89).