Graduating Student Spotlight – Karen Hanten

Karen Hanten

Karen Hanten first started working toward earning her undergraduate degree in the late 1960s.

“I followed my high school sweetheart to a small college in Oklahoma where he had a baseball scholarship, so I enrolled there as a student as well,” Hanten says.

The young couple married the summer after their freshman year. Hanten yielded to the culture of the times and dropped out of college to concentrate on her family.

“Married women were strongly discouraged from attending college in those days - at least at our small college in northeastern Oklahoma,” said Hanten.

The lack of a college degree did not stop Hanten from building a successful career in the oil and gas industry that included stints working for Sun Oil, Enron and Chevron.

But earning a bachelor’s degree remained one of her life’s ambitions.

Hanten worked for Sun Oil for 21 years, and was transferred twice during that time, to Dallas and then to Houston. While in Dallas, she began pursuing a degree by taking a few courses at Richland College.

“As a single parent, when I was transferred, not only was I trying to adjust to my new life, but my daughter was adjusting as well,” Hanten says. “My daughter always came first, so when we were transferred to Houston, I chose not to attend college and focus on her,” she says.

As her daughter got older and Hanten again considered returning to college, her mother fell ill and she helped take care of her for several years.

Her family was settled and comfortable in Houston, but again her company approached her and wanted her to relocate. Hanten decided it was time to put down some roots, and she made the difficult decision not to make that move.

With her daughter now an adult, Hanten decided that it was finally her time to complete her education. She enrolled at UH in 2005, taking courses while continuing to work full time. She will be graduating this month at the age of 66 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in sociology.

“Karen was an active student who participated regularly in online and in-class discussions, and who would come to me outside of class time to discuss the course materials. She brought an insightful and refreshing perspective to both online and in-class discussions. Karen is a diligent student who showed enthusiasm for the course materials, as well as learning in general. She serves as an inspiration to us all!” says Dr. Samantha Kwan, associate professor of sociology.

Now that she has a degree under her belt and retirement is on the horizon, Hanten is planning the next phase of her life.

“I am going to enjoy life without research papers to write and studying for tests,” she says. “In 2016, my daughter and I are planning our first trip to Europe to go up the Danube on a river cruise. The idea of working on a master’s in Sociology has crossed my mind several times. Possibly after the trip up the Danube, I shall explore that idea.”

- By Monica Byars