James Madison University

Karen Myers Joins Social Work Department

PHOTO: Karen Myers

When new Social Work faculty member, Karen Myers, was a kindergartner, she proudly stood up in front of all of her classmates and many of their parents on career day to proclaim she wanted to be a truck driver when she grew up. While she continues to love a good road trip, her career aspirations changed many times as her education progressed and her interests developed. During middle school, one of her teachers remembers her inquiry about what job would allow her to read all the time. She also loved to run and thought cross country coaching might be in her future or teaching yoga when that became a passion as well. Throughout her coming of age, her family was involved in public service work. Her desire to help other people became clear to her no matter which career she chose.

After her college graduation, she spent two years in New Orleans where she was instrumental in establishing a learning center at a homeless shelter in the city. The goal of the learning center was to not only serve the shelter’s residents but also provide after-school activities, GED prep, and a library to benefit the local community. Through her work at the shelter along with volunteer shifts at a local rape crisis program, she honed her graduate school interests to a joint degree program in law and social work.

Myers attended New York University as a Root-Tilden-Snow public interest scholar. During graduate school, she sought out a wide array of internships in the areas of foster care, family law, victim rights advocacy, HIV-related discrimination, reproductive law and policy, and post-conviction capital defense. Upon graduation with a joint J.D./M.S.W., she was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work with impoverished youth in New York City. She initially took on a variety of legal cases but began to specialize in education litigation while continuing to co-facilitate therapeutic groups for at-risk teenagers.

In the summer of 2000 she joined Rockingham County Public Schools in Virginia as a Licensed School Social Worker, which is where she spent the past fourteen years. Throughout her time with RCPS, she worked in elementary, middle, and high school settings providing school-based services to individual students and their families. In her role as a school social worker, she conducted home visits, wrote sociocultural reports, and participated in interdisciplinary meetings related to special education eligibility, truancy, discipline, and school safety. When necessary, she collaborated with community-based agencies to provide more comprehensive services for students and their families. Due to her legal background, she was sought out to provide system-wide trainings on mandatory reporting requirements.

Over the years she particularly enjoyed working with interns, facilitating the connection between what they were learning in their classes and the practical application in their internships. Guest lecturing in college classes always left her feeling inspired by the exchange of questions and ideas. As an adjunct professor at JMU, she quickly realized teaching full-time was a career she would love. She is thrilled to be joining the Social Work Department at JMU as an Assistant Professor this fall. She is eager to bring her years of practice experience in varied roles to the classroom. She knows she will be busy but plans to continue to find time for road trips with a suitcase full of books, early morning runs, and teaching yoga and Bodyflow classes.