UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- University Registrar Karen Schultz will retire June 30, after nearly 33 years as a Penn State employee and six and a half in her current position.
Looking back over her years as Registrar, Schultz has primarily viewed herself as a champion for the students at Penn State.
"My focus has been on reaching out to students, being an advocate for students," she said. "I have tried to bring a student's perspective to policy creation, and to bring to light how our policies and procedures impact our students."
Schultz became University Registrar in November 2006, with responsibility for maintaining complete and accurate academic records for every student at Penn State from the time they first enroll to the time they graduate. "We have every academic record for every Penn State student going back to 1855," she said.
In addition, the Registrar's office is responsible for facilitating various student actions and academic processes, and working with the University Faculty Senate and other academic offices in a wide variety of enrollment and support services. This includes the University's online student self-service tool eLion and degree audit systems. In addition, the Registrar's office provides transcripts of students' official grades.
"Our mantra is 'accuracy,'" she said. "We provide more than 100,000 official transcripts each year. We can't send out a single record that is not accurate. Students rely on these records to give to potential employers and for admission to graduate school, so they must be correct."
Schultz received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and her MBA from Penn State. She began her career at the University in 1980 as a senior systems analyst in Management and Systems Engineering, providing information technology (IT) support for units such as the Offices of Physical Plant, Human Resources, Parking, and Housing and Foods. In this position she helped design Penn State's first automated parking system.
"At the time, IT jobs were scarce," she recalled. "It was a great experience and varied and interesting work."
After 11 years, she became IT director in the Office of the Registrar, and learned more about the academic side of the University.
In 1991, she was promoted to director in what is now the Office of Telecommunications and Networking Services. For five years she was in charge of the office's internal IT needs, business and accounting offices, call center and a team of communications analysts.
Her next move took her to what is now Administrative Information Services, a unit of Information and Technology Services (ITS). As director of solutions and services she was in charge of data systems, including ISIS, Penn State's student information system, and IBIS, its business system.
In addition to serving on a number of University-wide committees, Schultz served as chair of Penn State's Commission for Women in 2005-06, a role she described as "a truly wonderful experience." That year the commission celebrated its 25th anniversary, and Schultz spearheaded a "re-envisioning process."
"I'm very proud of my work on the commission," she said. "The 25th anniversary year was a good time to reexamine our purpose and charge -- how we wanted to be, going forward. We made changes and refocused our efforts on addressing issues that still face women at Penn State. It was rewarding to be a part of helping to change the course of the organization." The commission also published a book as part of the anniversary, "We are a Strong, Articulate Voice: A History of Women at Penn State," written by Carol Sonenklar.
Schultz also holds a seat on the University's Administrative Council for Undergraduate Education, the principal administrative advisory agency to the president, executive vice president and provost, vice president and dean for undergraduate education, and the academic deans of the colleges, Outreach and the University Libraries on administrative matters that impact undergraduate education across the Penn State.
“Over the course of her Penn State career, Karen has substantially advanced the University in technological innovation and in making positive changes for students,” said Rob Pangborn, interim executive vice president and provost. “Her energy and enthusiasm have made a significant impact that will continue long into the future.”
In 2009, Schultz, with Roseann Sieminski, assistant controller and bursar, and Anna Griswold, assistant vice president for undergraduate education and executive director of student aid, established the Shields Resources Student Advisory Board.
"We worked with the leaders of student organizations to designate representatives and to incorporate representation on the board into their bylaws. We meet three times each in the fall and the spring and have conversations with the student board members. We ask questions and invite them to give their input and perspectives. We’ve made many improvements to services and processes based on their feedback."
During her tenure as Registrar, Schultz also was instrumental in bringing technological advancements to several aging University student data systems, including eLion in 2012 and the upcoming new ISIS student system.
Kaye Keith has been administrative support coordinator in the Registrar's office since 1996, and saw Schultz become the first woman University Registrar at Penn State.
"I have always looked up to Karen," said Keith. "She is perfect for this job, from her incredible insight to her technology background to her innovative ideas. She really cares about the students."
In retirement, Schultz is looking forward to gardening, reading and spending time at the beach. She and her husband, Martin Higgins, plan to divide their time between visiting their daughters, Amanda and Allison, in Denver, Colo., and relaxing at the Jersey shore.