Abilene, TX has been home to Dr. Karen Maxwell for as long as she remembers. From growing up with both parents serving as ACU faculty members, to becoming a faculty member herself, she can’t imagine life apart from the Wildcat community. After teaching in-person on the main campus from 2006-2015, Karen joined ACU Online where she currently serves as program director and associate professor for the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Organizational Leadership program. Keep reading to learn more about her ACU journey.
Karen currently resides with her favorite furry companion, a mini Goldendoodle named Bella, just 5 blocks away from where she grew up in Abilene. With both parents working in the ACU Brown Library, she was known as what people called a “faculty brat” as a kid. While she became accustomed to the Wildcat-life early on, she never imagined returning to the West Texas town, much less, teaching in higher education once she left for school.
Karen went on to do her graduate work at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, TX and doctorate at Nova Southern University in Florida. While she enjoyed the universities she attended, she knew there was something special about ACU. As a child, she saw her parents exemplify their Christian values and dedication to higher education. After getting married, having kids and working in K-12 for years, she returned to Abilene and joined ACU’s faculty where she worked on campus for 10 years.
As her family circumstances changed, ACU was simultaneously beginning to develop their online master’s program in education. She returned to the university, this time virtually, where she taught and developed courses. Shortly after, through generous oversight from the board, ACU Online came into being, providing a doctorate program to students online everywhere. Today, she serves as program director and associate professor for the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership.
While she still has multiple friends that work on campus, and enjoys attending homecoming festivities in person, Dr. Maxwell’s true love is working with ACU’s Ed.D. students online. Many of Karen’s students are adult learners, secure in their careers with families and busy lives outside of their education, making teaching a mutual learning experience for Dr. Maxwell.
Though she wears many hats within the two roles she occupies, Dr. Maxwell is a teacher first and foremost. As associate professor, Karen teaches and works with students within organizational leadership to grow them into scholar practitioners. She believes being a professor is more than providing her students with academia or skills, but creating a community so they can develop relationships and explore their purpose in life. Looking back, Dr. Maxwell reflects that she doesn’t think she would have ever taught at another higher-ed institution other than ACU.
As program director, she gains a birds-eye-view on how each moving piece works together to provide the best courses and curriculum to Ed.D. students as well as the university as a whole. “I don’t work alone. We have a community of scholars that work together to better the program,” said Dr. Maxwell. “We’re always looking for ways we can improve together.” While the doctorate program isn’t for everyone, she explained, ACU provides a variety of support and resources along the way to help students navigate this terminal degree.
In addition to teaching, Dr. Maxwell serves on different committees to help students during their dissertation. During this process, Karen has been exposed to an array of new perspectives, as well as opportunities to apply practical elements needed to strengthen ACU’s curriculum.
A community of care
Karen enjoys visiting her daughter and 3 grandsons in New Mexico when possible, making working virtually an added benefit. She also has a son and daughter-in-law that recently moved to Washington D.C. whom she plans on visiting in the near future.
“The Abilene community has been such a blessing to me,” said Dr. Maxwell. “There is something so comforting to me to be back in a place that was so special to my time growing up.”
With that being said, Karen’s investment doesn’t end once her students leave her program. She enjoys grabbing coffee with those around the Abilene area and continues to keep up with a number of graduates to see where their career paths have taken them. “I love to see how students have grown and it makes me feel wonderful that I might have had a small part in that,” she said.
Are you looking to pursue your online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Organizational Leadership and strengthen your leadership skills from incredible professors like Dr. Maxwell? Visit acu.edu/online or contact us at 855-219-7300.