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Karen Meenan

Portland State University

Dr. Karen Meenan is a professor at Portland State University, located in Portland, OR.   Her research and teaching focus primarily on the well-being of poor and vulnerable families.  She is the author of several books, including, “So You Think I Drive a Cadillac?” Welfare Recipients’ Perspectives on the System and Its Reform; Families and Their Social Worlds; Exploring Marriages and Families; and Social Problems.  She is a fellow of the National Council on Family Relations, and a member of the American Sociological Association and the Pacific Sociological Association, where she has held elective offices.  She has received numerous awards for both her teaching and her research.

Dr. Meenan is a proud community college graduate and a first-generation college student.  She was able to attend college with the assistance of Pell Grants, Work Study, student loans, and part-time jobs.  She graduated from California State University, Chico with a B.A. in sociology, then received her M.S.W. from the University of Washington, and her Ph.D. in sociology from Washington State University.  Recently, Dr. Meenan was a Fulbright Scholar in China and spent six months living and teaching in Hangzhou, a “second-tier” city located inland from Shanghai.  She also had the opportunity to travel around both rural and urban China, and looks forward to sharing her stories with students and helping them prepare for their own adventures.

Currently Dr. Meenan lives with her family on San Juan Island, a remote island off the coast of Washington State accessible only by ferry or small plane.  The community of 6,000 year-round residents proudly boasts that they have no stoplights, big-box stores, or chains of any type.  Instead, writers, artists, and local shopkeepers abound, and coincide peacefully with the resident whales, eagles, deer, and harbor seals that call this magical place home.