The University of Alaska Southeast's new dean of career education is new to Alaska - but she's used to cold climates.
Earlier in her career, Dr. Karen Schmitt spent time on the opposite end of the globe - Antarctica - while working with the Antarctic Research Program.
As dean of career education at UAS, Schmitt will oversee programs including marine, construction, welding and automotive technology and computer and office information systems.
Schmitt started in her new position in mid-November. She came to UAS from the University of Washington, where she worked for 10 years, most recently as an assistant dean in the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences.
Schmitt said the location and opportunities the UAS job offered led her to accept the position.
"It was a combination of a chance to live and work in Alaska ... and a chance to have a leadership role in the programs (the university is) developing," she said.
Schmitt said goals for the career education program include expanding course offerings and trying to get more students who finish half-year and year-long programs to return for a full two- or four-year degree at UAS.
Schmitt said all the pieces are in place for positive changes.
"We have some new faculty with some new ideas, and they want to take programs to a new level of quality," she said. "We want to get the programs really working well for students.
"The people here are really exciting. There's a really good atmosphere for trying to do things better ... and a lot of new energy."
Schmitt has a Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University. In addition to her time with the Antarctic Research Program, she previously worked in Chile and New Zealand, and has worked in both public and private-sector jobs.
Schmitt said she and her husband, Mike Rentel, are looking forward to bringing their boat up from Seattle in the spring and exploring Juneau-area waters.
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