As a county supervisor, state representative, a state
senator, and an Arizona member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Karan
English always kept one issue front-and-center: environmental protection. It
seems only natural, then, that when she ended life in politics, she drew upon
her political savvy to incorporate environmental values into higher education.
After English’s defeat in the 1994 election, she looked
to Arizona’s three state universities for opportunities to infuse environmental
philosophy with higher education. Ultimately, she chose Northern Arizona
University. “While I was in politics, NAU was the only one of the three
[Arizona state] institutions that emphasized conservation and environmental
education,” she says.
Shortly after arriving at Northern Arizona University,
English brought her political experience to the classroom, and taught a course
called “The Real Congress,” to provide students with an insider’s perspective
on Congress. She also donated her congressional papers and other political
papers to Cline Library, which spans 14 years of English’s political work.
The environment is
As a university staff member, English became involved in construction
projects, classes, and scholarships to instill environmental values into every
aspect of the university.
“Through all these different projects, those are examples
of how the environment and conservation are not a three-unit class to be added
to a student’s course list, but in fact, it’s part of everyday life,” she says.
"I really believe that every aspect of our society relies on a healthy
environment–social, educational, economic, even spiritual–I can't think of a
part of society that doesn't rely on the environment. The future will require
us to make that connection. Students who are aware of those connections will
have better opportunities."
Some of English’s achievements at the university include:
- establishing scholarships for students pursuing
- founding a twice weekly-program on KNAU called Earth Notes, which discusses
“the positive side of conservation and environmentalism”
- donating a San Juan River Permit for the
- involvement in the university’s Environmental Caucus, a group
of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members who work together to
build environmental initiatives that impact everything from campus construction
- earning her master’s degree in sustainable
communities in 2011
English was also instrumental in the design of the Applied Research and Development
(ARD) building. She worked with a “green team” to choose an architect who would
move the design in the most environmental direction possible. “We wanted to
build the greenest university building in the country,” she says. In addition, English
says she wanted to capture cultural sensitivities in the building’s site
selection and materials. For example, the main entrance points to the East to
regard Native American traditions that revere the East.
In pursuit of
She continues to pursue her passion for democracy, by
participating in the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs.
Through the organization, she travels to countries–many of them developing–that
are trying to establish democratic governments. English and a team of up to
seven representatives from other democracies help oversee elections, train
women to run for office, or talk to new legislative bodies about how to
interact with other levels of government.
English's many hats don't end there. She also finds time
to head to Washington, D.C. each month to serve the Office of Congressional
Ethics. As one of eight nonpartisan board members, she oversees complaints that
come from the public or elsewhere, investigating questionable activities of
members of Congress and their staff.
"I believe the work we're doing will help Congress
be more aware of the rules they make for themselves," she says.
"Hopefully, over time we will help to establish trust and bring back faith
in the congressional body."
While it may seem like English's many roles are diverse,
she believes that they all help strengthen her capacity to facilitate the
changes she'd like to see in the world. "The environment is a key issue
worldwide, so if I can help bring it to the forefront, I will do it," she