"CEW+ is important to the U-M community because it supports women throughout the numerous challenges they face in their path to obtaining their degrees of education and makes it possible for women to achieve their goals."
The University of Michigan was always there when CEW+ Scholar Dr. Karen Downing felt like she needed to further develop her education. After majoring in History of Art as an undergraduate, Dr. Downing went on to complete her Master’s Degree in Information Sciences, and later, after working for the library system at the U-M for eleven years, she completed her Doctorate in Higher Education. Obtaining her Ph.D. was not an easy feat; Dr. Downing often experienced self-doubt and symptoms of Imposter Syndrome due to the fact that she was the first person in her family to pursue a Doctorate Degree and often thought, “This is so far out of my reach!” Balancing the responsibilities of running a household, working, taking care of a child that had just started grade school, and studying for her Ph.D. was a real challenge. However, Dr. Downing found various means of support throughout her journey which were able to help succeed in her journey of education; CEW+ was one of these supporters.
In 2003, Dr. Downing received the Margaret Towsley Scholarship, which enabled her to invest in a laptop that she could use to work on the go, saying, “The laptop made me so much more productive and the fund itself was truly a vote of confidence”. As time passed, the Center quickly became more important to Dr. Downing as she met other women from her cohort that had also received scholarships from CEW+. After realizing their connection, these women grew very close and banded together in classroom projects and often attended CEW+ events as a group. Dr. Downing states that these relationships enabled her and her friends to feel more productive and empowered as a cohort, motivating throughout the most difficult times on their journey to graduation. After eleven years, Dr. Downing and her friends have continuously kept in touch and many of their children were able to grow up together in Ann Arbor. From this experience, Dr. Downing believes it is of utmost importance for current and future generations of CEW+ Scholars to form relationships and maintain these connections beyond graduation.
Throughout her education, Dr. Downing realized that certain disciplines within collegiate levels of education are extremely difficult for women to enter, and mentions that CEW+ is important to the U-M community because it supports women throughout the numerous challenges they face in their path to obtaining their degrees of education and makes it possible for women to achieve their goals. From her personal experience, Dr. Downing states that the Center was able to help by providing her with funds and necessary support systems that both help women and conduct research that shows underlying trends within overarching patterns of college statistics regarding gender.
Today, Dr. Downing works as a liaison librarian at the U-M School of Education and has become part of the American Library Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation. She is proud of all she has accomplished and thinks it has been an amazing experience to have developed a career in one institution.
To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of CEW+ awarding scholarships, please consider making a gift to our Potential Made Possible Scholarship fund. Your donation can help ensure the next 50 years of CEW+ scholars. Click here for more information.