Each Friday this summer, the Daniels Newsroom is telling the stories of the behind-the-scenes staff who empower students, faculty and the College at large.

Hodel has had many roles at Daniels since 2007, each supporting the journey of undergraduate students

With extensive family history and strong role models in the education space, teaching always seemed like a natural career path for Karen Hodel.

Hodel’s grandmother was a teacher in the mid-1900’s, and her mother followed suit as a junior high teacher and then elementary school librarian. She also had an aunt and uncle who worked in high school classrooms.

Above all of that, she fondly recalls her own time in the classroom.

“I had great teachers growing up; I had role models and experiences in the classroom,” she said.

So, when it came to choosing a major in college, Hodel leaned on her past experience and pursued a major in elementary education. She returned to Tucson, her hometown, upon graduation from the University of Evansville, where she taught fifth grade for three years. Hodel loved teaching subjects like art and science, especially the experiments, but struggled to recreate the magic of her youth.

“That wasn’t quite the experience I thought it would be,” she said. “It’s so much more than the teaching part, and that is not where my strengths lie.”

Her waning interest in teaching coincided with a strong desire to explore somewhere new. She was ready to leave Tucson, ready to spread her wings in a new career, in a new city. She enjoyed a past visit to Denver, so in 2007, packed her bags and moved to the Mile High City. It was close enough to home, but far enough away from her routine, affording her new opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

What she didn’t realize was how winding the path would be to where she is today. She was looking for roles where she could stay in education, leaving the classroom but still having an impact on student outcomes.

That thread led her to the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, taking a role in the newly formed department of undergraduate programs. Ever the team player, Hodel’s hand shot up whenever there was a new task to be assigned. Her early responsibilities as an administrative assistant included ordering supplies and ensuring the copier was in working order.

When the department needed someone to manage events, Hodel was there. When student groups needed support or business honors society Beta Gamma Sigma needed directing, Hodel stepped up.

“As the need arose, I said, ‘I’ll take that one,’” she said.

Now, 15 years after joining the team at Daniels, Hodel has grown to hold the title of program manager, Undergraduate and Executive PhD programs. She has a direct hand in student success and remains motivated by that mission.

“The students keep me going,” she said. “We’re a student facing office, and the student group kids are usually the go getters. That’s fun to work with.”

Whether it’s a succulent given to her by a recent graduate or a nice note written on their way out (she’s received plenty of both), Hodel is thankful to have even a small part in the student journey at Daniels. As a free resource on campus, she wants to positively impact as many students as she can.

“We’re all astonished by these 21- and 22-year-olds changing the world,” she said. “The fact that we gave a little help in [their journey] makes it worthwhile.”

When she’s not in her office in Margery Reed Hall, Hodel likes to tend to her garden of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini with what she calls a “semi-green thumb.” And if you pull up next to her at a red light, Hodel admits she might be belting out the chorus of one of her favorite songs, though she’s quick to reduce expectations.

“It’s not opera or anything,” she said with a laugh.