Medical school names Karen Eley Sanders chief diversity officer

Karen Sanders

With more than a dozen years at Virginia Tech in positions ranging from director of the Center for Academic Enrichment and Excellence to interim vice president for diversity and inclusion, Karen Eley Sanders has been named chief diversity officer at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Sanders currently serves as the university’s associate vice provost for undergraduate affairs and director of student success, positions she will continue to hold along with her new role.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Sanders join our leadership team,” said Dr. Cynda Johnson, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Her extraordinary leadership in areas relating to student diversity and inclusion is illustrated by her steady and impressive rise through the ranks at Virginia Tech. We look forward to tapping into her expertise as we move forward in our diversity goals, which are of the utmost importance to us.”

In her current role at Virginia Tech, Sanders oversees an extensive array of services and programs designed to facilitate academic achievement, retention, and graduation for undergraduate and graduate students. The departments that report to her specialize in such areas as learning assistance, academic enrichment, and academic advising.

In her new role, Sanders said she would like to develop a pipeline program that prepares interested Virginia Tech undergraduates for medical school, much like the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program that she has been involved with at the university. This program is an academic success community founded upon the principles of self-efficacy, mentoring, and peer support. Central to its mission is the promotion of diversity within the student body.

“I believe my years of experience in the areas of student retention and success and preparing undergraduates for postbaccalaureate programs will benefit the medical school,” Sanders said. “One of my goals is to identify students who are underrepresented in medicine and help prepare a path to make accessibility easier.”

Underrepresented students include those who are first-generation college students, those who are from low-income families, and underrepresented minorities, particularly African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.

Last fall, Sanders was appointed by former Gov. Bob McDonnell to the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Awards Committee. The scholarship program gives awards to eligible Virginians to attend approved education programs in the commonwealth. Recipients must be people who were unable to attend public school in Virginia between 1954 and 1964 when some schools closed to avoid desegregation.

Sanders earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from Virginia State University and a doctorate in developmental education from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She also received a developmental education specialist credential through the Kellogg Institute at Appalachian State University.

Written by Catherine Doss