Class of 2014 | College of Business | Graduate student majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management
Karen Munoz is living proof that you can find strength in the face of difficulties and unfortunate circumstances. No doubt it was her sense of determination that moved her forward to accomplish a journey she started more than 32 years ago.
Karen’s college journey began in 1983 at TSU majoring in Architectural Engineering. Three years into her college work, things began to unravel for the young, promising student. Married at the time, with children and a physically and mentally abusive husband, who insisted she seeks full-time employment, she quit school to work with the Metro Public School Harris Hillman as a Para Professional.
Although Karen eventually walked out of her marriage, having to care for her children alone, a series of unfortunate events soon began to unfold that would change the course of her life forever.
In spite of multiple surgeries and operations to repair a crushed vertebrae, head injuries and a broken neck and back, that left her in constant pain and in a state of severe depressive disorder and anxiety, the Fort Hood, Texas, native will receive her college degree when Tennessee State University hold its spring commencement May 10.
“I live by trying to improvise as my father told me,” Karen said about how she was able to maintain a near 3.0 GPA, despite her disorder, which has left her unable to fully concentrate, think or remember “as others.”
“I had to study twice as hard as the average person to concentrate and retain,” said Karen, who keeps sticky notes “everywhere” to help her remember.
As if fate had an unfinished business with Karen, while recovering from one injury, she was in a car accident that left her with a broken back and neck.
“I was in a concussion that lasted two years,” she said. “My vertebrae had to be fused from the top to the bottom through a process called spinal track titanium fusion. That’s the only thing that’s holding my head up. I do not have any peripheral view because I cannot move my head side to side. I can only look ahead.”
For Karen, being able to cope through all her pain and suffering have not come without a good sense of humor.
“I am the ultimate bionic woman,” she said. “If you move all of the titanium from my body I will never move again. My condition is irreversible.”
Karen decided to return to school after she found out that she could reenroll as a senior and finish her course work. “I decided I would pursue my degree in the hopes of changing my circumstances. I studied twice as hard, using my sleeplessness to my advantage to take in as much as I could,” she said.
Even at that, Karen, whose father is also a TSU graduate, said many times she wanted to quit, having been out of school for nearly 32 years, but a sign on the Business Information board at the Avon Williams campus that read, “You are never too old to achieve your goal,” inspired her to press on.
“It was at that moment that I went full steam ahead stopping at nothing to achieve this goal which I had dreamed of all these years,” she said.
So at 48-years old, this “Bionic Woman,” will finish what she started so many years ago, with hopes of continuing her graduate education and eventually opening a preparatory school in El Salvador for underprivileged high school students.
“This is my lifelong dream. This is what God has sent me forth to do, and I intend to improvise in anyway possible to accomplish that...screws, nuts, bolts or not.”