MU professor’s career path was influenced by her grandparents


NEW CONCORD – Choosing a career can be a challenge. Influences often come from unexpected places. They did it for Karen Dunak.

“I loved history in school, but I think two things really heightened my interest in the past,” she said. “The first is that I was very close to my grandparents. Wanting to know the world they had lived in inspired an interest in recent American history.

“The other thing,” she continued, “is that my grandmother, when I was maybe 11 or 12, would give me her romance novels to read, many of which were about in the past, I loved the historical fiction I found there.

“I will also say that when I was at American University,” she summed up, “I really admired my professors in all the disciplines that I studied. The kind of life and work that I was very attracted to they modeled, which is when I decided to pursue an academic career.

Today Dunak is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of History at Muskingum University.

“I am also a co-advisor of American studies and gender studies programs,” she added. “I teach modern American history (youth in modern America, 1950s America, 1960s and American cinema, etc.) and women, gender and sexuality in the history of the United States. “

Dunak grew up in Neptune City, New Jersey. She graduated from high school in 1998, then graduated from American University in Washington, DC in 2002. At American, she majored in history and received a minor in literature and communication. She went on to obtain a master’s and a doctorate. in American History from Indiana University.

“When I was going to college,” she recalls, “I received the wrong advice not to major in history because there would be“ no job ”. I started as a major in communication. But after a few history lessons, I was like “Who am I kidding?” and switched. Even after I was done, people would inevitably ask me, “But what are you going to do with this?” I would tell them, ‘Write books.’ And I did.”

At the moment, she is writing a book on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

“I like to evaluate the evidence I find,” she said, “and put pieces together to tell a bigger story.”

Dunak started at Muskingum in 2010 after completing his doctorate.

“Dr. Dunak is a leading scholar who studies and writes on modern and contemporary American history,” assessed Jane Varley, professor of English at Muskingum. “She is known for her creative techniques that involve students in experiential learning Her students say her classes are eye-opening, offering new perspectives on the past and new ways of understanding the world we live in.

“Our university,” replied Dunak, “provides a place for young people to experiment and ask questions and find out who they are and what they want to be. Being a part of this process is a real gift, as are the relationships I have developed with students over the past eleven years.

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