Beyond the Classroom: Dr Karen Cody

English and Modern Languages Professor shares her passion

By Aubree Bailey
On April 5, 2018

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Dr. Karen Cody, a professor in the Department of English and Modern Languages, began her university education at TCU.

“I went to TCU as a music major, actually, but I was also a National Merit Scholar. I was really fortunate that after my first semester I realized being in music required me being in a practice room all the time, I changed my major, and my scholarship didn’t change. I wound up being in the humanities honor sequence. There were four semesters where we were really concentrating on art, music, literature, and history.”

Cody said that this intensive track helped her grow as a student and a thinker.

“Though I had been in a college prep track in my high school, and I had taken a trip to France, I was not prepared for the level of thinking that was required. I was a French and Spanish double major, and I spent my junior year abroad. It was a mythical year studying in the French university system.” 

She obtained her master’s at UT Austin before entering the work force.

“After I returned to Fort Worth, I worked in sales and marketing for an international petroleum business. I was the in-house assistant, but I knew more about the products, handled international banking, was organizing distributer training\ and I did fully everything but was very frustrated to be only the assistant.  They could not have done their job without me, but they would absolutely not have a woman being a salesman.”

Cody then made the move to Kansas City, where she continued working in international business, before coming back to Texas for a doctorate.

“I ultimately decided to go back to grad school and work on a PhD. I went back to UT in 1996. I was able to teach while I was there both in French and Spanish, but also I really pursued linguistics for my PhD. It’s the science of language; it’s about how all languages are structured and used.”

While in Austin, Cody began conducting research.

“My dissertation, where I compare the world of language to identity in Montreal to that in San Antonio, was personally important to me. I had grown up in Texas always speaking Spanish, but I don’t look like what Spanish speakers are considered to look like here in Texas. I was never fully accepted into a Spanish-speaking community but did not, however, feel this exclusion when I married into a French-speaking family in Montreal. I was really interested in examining why that was; the language structures themselves are very similar and the role of the Spanish and French speaker was similar historically, but it is very different now, so that also got me interested in sociolinguistics, which looks at how we use language in society.”

In 2001 Cody became a professor at ASU; she chose the university for the versatility it offered.

“It was the only place I interviewed where I could work in all three fields. I could do French, Spanish and linguistics.”

Cody praises the academic and social communities she has found in San Angelo.

“It has been a great fit here for me in my teaching and my research and for me to continue my music. The resources here are phenomenal. I have also stayed very busy in the community.”
Cody is a founding member of the San Angelo Chamber Singers, serves on the Symphony Board and several committees at ASU and as well as supports the Civic and ASU Theatres and various avenues for art, music, and education: “I would be hard pressed to have found a more perfect community for me to be an active member in: a scholastic community, a professional community, but also with all of the arts and opportunities that are available.”

Additionally, Cody has traveled extensively around the globe. She was selected to participate in a Fullbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program in Senegal during the summer of 2016: “I really feel like the understanding I got of the country was authentic. I have a lot of confidence in the research that has come as a result of this.”

Cody contributed to this research significantly: “My piece on that was on teacher preparation. Senegal is a relatively small country where there are some 15 tribal languages that are spoken, but education happens only in French, so everyone who goes to school goes in a foreign language. I was looking specifically at how they scaffold these children in early grades so that we may improve our ESL instruction in San Angelo and West Texas.”


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