Karen Wickwire, a 1995 graduate of the University Honors Program, attended UNH to pursue her passion for Marine Biology. Karen, an avid cello player who also dabbled in theater, chose to follow her own path after receiving her degree. After being out of the science field for years, she decided to switch careers and earned her Masters degree in Library Sciences. Below, Karen discusses her experiences at UNH, and the importance of being open to new opportunities in life.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
My father was career Army so we moved around all through my childhood. I was born at West Point, NY (Army Military Academy), lived in Kansas, New Mexico, Virginia, Belgium and Maryland. I graduate high school in Germantown, Maryland. I was always interested in science and math and wanted to be a marine biologist since I was in 4th grade. I also played the cello in high school and did some theater as well.
Why did you decide to attend UNH and what was your major?
Since I was interested in marine biology I started looking for programs in that major and found UNH. My major was Marine and Freshwater Biology.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities or sports?
I was part of the University Orchestra and also did some theater. I was a Resident Assistant at a large dormitory my last year at UNH.
How did the Honors Program contribute to your experience at UNH?
I enjoyed being part of the Honors Program. I think the best part of it was my thesis project. It allowed me to have a real taste of what was involved with a research project. My advisor was great and I really learned a lot about setting up and conducting experiments.
What is your most significant memory as an Honors student?
I enjoyed many of my classes. Unfortunately I have a really bad memory when it comes to names, but one of the courses that stick out is my genetics course. I thought that it was very interesting. At the time genetics was still largely unknown, though now I imagine the course would be quite different. My thesis advisor was very helpful and I learned so much from him.
What was your thesis project?
My thesis project was studying the life cycle of the nudibranch (sea slug). I had several nudibranchs that I monitored and changed different parts of their environment and noted the changes it caused. I also filmed their activity.
What did you do after you graduated from UNH?
I married right after graduation and moved to Manhattan, Kansas. The idea was that my husband was going to finish his degree and then we would move back to the coast and I would enroll in graduate school. Things happened and we were divorced, and I was working for the university as the Ticket Manager for the arts auditorium. I ended up staying at the university for ten years until I was married a second time.
Having been out of the science field for so long, instead of looking to go back that direction, I chose to pursue a different career path. I went to school and obtained my Masters of Library Science in 2007. I have been working for the Mid-Continent Public Library System for almost 8 years now, working my way up the ranks. I have been the Inter-Library Loan Department Manager for the last year and a half. At work, my department is high intensity with something always going on. I am currently coordinating a very large software upgrade, and working on team creating a new onboarding process for my organization.
Is there any advice you would like to share with incoming, current, or graduating students?
I think my biggest piece of advice I would like to share is that you need to be flexible in your thinking, as something will always come around to change your plans. I thought I was going to be a marine biologist ever since I was 10 years old and obviously that didn’t happen. However, I didn’t let that stop me and now I am in a career I absolutely love and have a family I adore. And while my degree at UNH may not be exactly a match to my career path, I still learned some valuable lessons and made some lifelong friends that I still talk to today.