Karen Cajka, Doctor Of Philosophy, English
Karen Cajka recently found a treasure in a Connecticut bookstore: a grammar book from 1779. She was delighted to find the little book, bound in leather with marbleized board, and it was not the first time she had seen it. The book was one of many she had studied at the British Library in London while doing research for her dissertation on female grammarians of late 18th-century England.
Cajka spent two semesters in London as assistant director of the University's Study Abroad program there, where she supervised extracurricular activities in the program for undergraduates and master's of education students. She also spent time in the library reading old texts and taking copious notes for her dissertation.
"I was fortunate to be able to do my research in London and also help students," says Cajka, who recently earned her Ph.D. in English. She says working with students is one of the things she loves most.
She has been the academic coordinator in English at Student Support Services (SSS) in the Center for Academic Programs for six years. The SSS program is for low-income or first-generation college students who attend the University for six weeks the summer before their freshmen year. They take classes in English, mathematics and study skills. "It's wonderful to watch the students grow," says Cajka. "By the end of six weeks, they make great strides."
While she worked on her dissertation, Cajka was also Tri-Campus freshman English coordinator for a year. Based at the Waterbury campus, the position involved administering all aspects of the freshman English writing program at the Waterbury, Torrington, and Hartford campuses.
Cajka, who came to UConn in 1996, was awarded a three-year Outstanding Scholar Fellowship, a pre-doctoral fellowship offered by the Graduate School to help recruit outstanding graduate students.
She also was a graduate representative to the University Senate; a graduate representative to the Graduate Faculty Council; and a member of the Graduate Student Senate.
She will be heading to Tennessee in the fall, where she has accepted a tenure-track position at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, as a professor of British literature and women's studies.
While she says she loves "teaching and the one-on-one relationship you have with students," she ultimately would like to become a college administrator. "I really do like the administrative part of academia," she says. "You have the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping a large number of students."