City Club honors USC Rossier dean as difference-maker

April 4, 2018

The organization praised Karen Symms Gallagher’s work in Los Angeles

By Carla Wohl

Dean Karen Symms Gallagher (center), accepts an award from City Club Los Angeles, accompanied by members of the USC Rossier community. Credit: Richard Hernandez Chase/Chase Photography

Dean Karen Symms Gallagher was one of five women honored at City Club Los Angeles’ 11th annual event saluting outstanding women making a difference in the local and global communities.

The event, held on March 20 during Women’s History Month, singled out the dean for her 18 years leading the USC Rossier School of Education.

In her remarks, Dean Gallagher told the audience that as a PhD student, she planned to pursue a career as a school superintendent, but her mentor told her that being a woman was a strike against her.

According to AASA, the School Superintendents Association, women account for less than a quarter of all superintendents in the United States, even as women account for three-quarters of the teaching profession and about half of all principals.

Galllagher noted that more than 60 percent of the graduates of USC Rossier’s educational leadership (EDL) program are women.

Gallagher has been a trailblazer throughout her career:  She became the first woman dean at the University of Kansas School of Education in 1994, before becoming the first woman dean at USC Rossier in 2000.

Still, Gallagher said that her “greatest identity” is not necessarily tied to being a woman leader or as an educator, but to being a first-generation college graduate.

“By embracing that identity,” Gallagher said, “I celebrate all of the other parts of myself and I remain focused on the one mission that has been consistent across all of my jobs: to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed, as I did.”

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