Socy Staff Spotlight: Katrina Knudsen (written by Aleia Clarke)

In general, things run pretty smoothly around here. As students of the Institution, sociologists are arguably more aware than most that while institutions seem to persist as if propelled by some sort of mystical force, there are individuals whose labor is responsible for the magic. We have quite a few resident magicians here in the Sociology department. Our benevolent editress recently gave me the opportunity to get to know one of the women behind the curtain, Katrina Knudsen.

A: Let’s begin with the demographics.

K: Ok. I was born in Gaithersburg Maryland, so not too far from here. My parents still live there, but we live in Columbia, MD now which is about an hour away from there. I have a younger brother who is a veteran of the Iraq War and now he is in school at Towson. He is on the hockey team. I finished undergrad at the University of Delaware, where I met my husband, Ken. I majored in Foreign Languages and Comparative Literature.

A: What language?

K: Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. It was a weird combination but I got to study in Japan and Costa Rica so my Spanish is still pretty good.

A: So you and Ken met in undergrad?

K: Yeah, he proposed to me on the day of our graduation. It was great but it was the day of graduation so we didn’t know exactly what to do. So, after graduation Ken went back to his parents who had just moved to Kentucky and I went back to Gaithersburg. We made a pact that whoever got a job first would dictate where we were going to live. I landed a job first, in the admissions office at Georgetown. It ended up working out really well.

A: How did you end up here at UMD?

K: Well, I really enjoyed my job at Georgetown and decided to pursue a master’s degree at UMD. Ken is also in school here, in the computer science department. He also works as their webmaster. Working on campus together makes our commute easier.

A: At the picnic last week you had two additional family members with you.

K: Yes! Lily and Logan, our puppies. A few months ago, we adopted two puppies. They are siblings, brother and sister, born to a stray Scottish Terrier-Poodle mix mother and an absentee father. We adopted them from a rescue organization. The mother was picked up when she was pregnant. They are eight months old now and they just graduated from Puppy School. Lily is the runt of the litter. The best way to describe her is feisty and determined, while Logan is much more laid back and playful.

A: Speaking of graduations, congratulations on finishing your degree.

K: Thanks! I’m really looking forward to being finished with school and having more free time.

A: Tell me about your research.

K: My master’s is in Higher Education and my research focuses on advising and mentoring in doctorate programs. My advisor and I are working on a paper using a case study of an Anthropology doctorate program. It focuses on how the structural and cultural components of the program interact to influence students’ trajectory through the program. We recently received an R&R from the Journal of Higher Education. We are also working on a second paper using the same case study that examines what students and faculty describe as components of a good mentoring or advising relationship. We are currently waiting to hear whether the second paper has been accepted for presentation at the 2010 Association for the Study of Higher Education conference.

A: Awesome. So tell me how can you do all that and work here full-time?

K: I went to school part-time and it took four years. But I enjoy my work here. I get the opportunity to be creative and see my input and suggestion be implemented in terms of policies and organization for graduate students. I am also interested in academic advising.  Professors are mentors and advisors when it comes to papers and dissertations, but I tend to field a lot of graduate students’ questions about coursework requirements, exams, and graduation and job searches. I keep an open door policy and I love the students and the faculty.

A: I cannot imagine keeping all of that in order. Where did you get your organizational skills?

K: Hoarding runs in my family, so my mom got to me early. She is a paralegal and taught me intricate organizing schemes. I like the size of this department. There are not too many students so I can get to know each of them. It’s really just about having a good system for organizing. I also really appreciate the volunteerism here. Things like Admitted Students Day are tough to do alone. It really helps that people are usually quick to help out when I ask.

A: What do you do with your free time? Wait, what are you looking forward to doing with your free time after you graduate this week?

K: Ken and I like to play golf at the PG County course. I think I will take the dogs out more often. My parents have season tickets for the Capitals, so we like to go to hockey games. We are big football fans. Ken is an Eagles fan and I am a Redskins fan. We have a room in the house that is split between Redskins and Eagles paraphernalia. But since the McNabb trade we are coming together, a little.

A: Oh, so you also live in a bipartisan household. I am a Giants fan and I live with an Eagles fan.

K: But we all come together over common hatred of the Cowboys.

A: Amen. Anything else you two like to do?

K: We like board games and video games. We sort of collect Legend of Zelda games and I sing expert on Rock Band.

A: Wait. You can sing expert on Rock Band?

K: Yeah [laughs].

A: So you can sing pretty well then? Were you ever in any choirs or anything?

K: I was in the choir in high school and the drama club. [Laughs] Once I played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A: Perfect newsletter fodder. Any last words?

K: It can get a little boring over the summer when most of the department is away. Can I make this an open plea for people to stop by if they are here during the summer?

A: Done.

Katrina is the Graduate Coordinator for the Sociology Department.

Aleia is a fourth year PhD student.

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