Dr. Karen B. Patterson is a professor of special education and serves as the associate vice president for Faculty Resources and dean of Undergraduate Studies. In her role as dean, Patterson oversees academic advising and academic support services, as well as undergraduate research. Her professional experiences have included teaching students with emotional and behavior disorders and autism in the Cleveland Public Schools. Her research focuses on improving practices for underserved students, college students with disabilities, collaborative partnerships and parental involvement for students at risk for failure. Patterson co-sponsored UNF’s student chapter of the special education national organization, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and is an Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award recipient. She served as Chair of the Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education Department. Patterson received her doctorate from Kent State University.
Get to Know Dr. Karen Patterson
What brought you to UNF?
I came with family. We moved to Jacksonville when my husband accepted a job as an assistant professor of mathematics at UNF.
What’s the most rewarding academic experience you’ve had at UNF in or out of the classroom?
Teachers have strong influences on student outcomes, and good teachers know that in order to be effective, they also need to be reflective and critical about their performance while taking active steps for continuous improvement. However, the preservice teachers I work with do not have a range of experiences from which to draw upon and so it is necessary to create those opportunities for them in our courses. I recently taught a classroom management course in one of our technology labs where students were able to watch the recorded performances via lecture capture and then critique the observations. They could then use that feedback to improve their future presentations over the duration of the course. For me, what was most rewarding was that students saw the value of self-reflection and recognized that they could be “critical friends” to each other. I was not the only “teacher” in the lab, and it was great! This process allowed preservice teachers to examine their beliefs and reflect on their performance, so that they could gain insights on their abilities and level of preparedness for managing even the most challenging student behaviors.
What advice would you give to a student who is about to graduate?
Be courageous. Stay focused on your goals and and consider mentoring someone who is just starting out. Although you may feel you lack experience, it is always good to reach back and help others, because your contributions could be invaluable to someone who really needs you.
What is the biggest change that you’ve encountered in higher education since you entered the field?
I don’t think it’s a change so much as the fact that the challenges expanding over the course of my being in higher education. Access, affordability and using new knowledge and instructional techniques were all challenges when I started, and in my opinion they are still challenges but to a greater extent today. As things become more internationalized, the disparities that exist in higher education are more evident.