Karen Kashmanian Oates

A nationally recognized consultant, scientist, science educator, and higher education leader, Dr. Oates joined WPI from the National Science Foundation, where she had been serving as deputy director of the Division of Undergraduate Education. At the NSF, Karen managed a budget of over $380 million and a staff of more than 35 charged with supporting innovative programs to strengthen undergraduate and graduate education and helped revitalize American entrepreneurship and competitiveness.

Karen brings a variety of perspectives on faculty development, career and executive counseling, leading change and setting a collaborative culture as well as service learning and business-higher education partnerships.


Among the honors she has received are the Bruce Albert’s Award, presented by the American Society to Cell Biology for excellence in science education reform, and the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest civilian honor presented by the City of Harrisburg Pennsylvania. In 2012, she was inducted as a fellow into the prestigious American Association for the Advancement as  Science Education fellow, and in 2016 a Sigma Xi distinguished lecturer. She now leads the University efforts for National Academy of Engineers – Global Grand Challenge Scholar program.


After receiving her Ph.D. at George Washington University Medical Center in Biochemistry, she worked as a visiting scientist at the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute Oncology and Hematology Division. She began her academic career at George Mason University, where, as associate dean for the newly established College of Integrated and Interdisciplinary Studies, she helped create George Mason’s New American College environment. She later served as inaugural provost for the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, where she established the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement and helped secure NSF funds for Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities, SENCER which works to improve undergraduate STEM/STEAM education by connecting learning to critical civic questions.

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