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Week of November 22, 2010

Staff Spotlight

Events coordinator knits her way around town

Karen Holland learned how to knit when she was a child, but she mastered the art of simple crocheting this past summer by watching videos on YouTube. She uses these combined skills to contribute mittens, hats and blankets for volunteer projects throughout the community.

Holland has been part of the MLK Community Service Day planning committee for 15 years and coordinates knitting and fleece groups for this event. For Community Service Day, volunteers knit hats, scarves and mittens, and also sew fleece hats, mittens and blankets, for distribution to service groups including the Salvation Army, Ruth Ellis Center and Ozone House.

Photo by Jennifer Thelen.

“The event is in January, but I knit and crochet all year long. I have piles and piles of finished goods that I made over the summer,” Holland says.

She also contributes mittens and hats to KnitWits, a volunteer group based in Ann Arbor. These goods are then distributed to service groups throughout the United States in conjunction with Alternative Spring Break projects.

For the past 22 years Holland has been working at the Office of the Chancellor at UM-Dearborn. “This place is like home, and many people around here are like family,” she says.

Holland started her career at UM-Dearborn in 1979 as an undergraduate. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology in 1982 and a Master of Public Administration in 1996.

Holland says that most days her job as a special events coordinator is “atypical.” She has several duties on her plate but mainly is responsible for coordinating social and institutional functions for the chancellor. These include commencement, Board of Regents meetings and donor recognition functions. In addition, she works with departments at the university and drafts correspondence for the chancellor.

Holland also coordinates the Fair Lane Music Guild, a chamber music organization on the Dearborn campus. “It’s ironic, given that I prefer rock, jazz, funk, blues, everything except classical and country. But I really enjoy working with the people.”

Despite her busy schedule, Holland finds time to be involved in other activities outside her full-time job. She is a clay artist who works with stoneware and porcelain. Holland trained at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit and participates in a few shows each year.

Holland’s interest in Pewabic Pottery was sparked in her 30s when she was living in Indian Village, an historic district on the near east side of Detroit. “Many houses there have vintage Pewabic tile work,” Holland says. She took an introductory class at Pewabic Pottery, followed by a tile course and a variety of other classes.

“My goal is to make people happy and if they smile, that’s enough for me,” Holland says. She calls her style “simple and a little whimsical.” She mainly makes nature-oriented garden decorations and jewelry.

In addition to creative work like knitting and pottery, Holland also has been a member of Toastmasters International for more than 12 years. She initially joined to overcome the fear of public speaking. “How I survived oral presentations in college is beyond me,” she says. Today, Holland is active in five clubs and enjoys mentoring newer members.

With a diverse set of job responsibilities and other involvements, Holland says there are periods when her calendar gets very full. “At those times, I make sure to do several things: prioritize my ‘to do list’; separate materials for each event into distinct stacks or boxes; take my vitamins; and most importantly, warn my husband.”

Holland married Frank Cooper in November 2008 “Since I do special events as my day job, rather than dealing with planning a wedding, we planned a vacation in Hawaii instead.” The wedding, a small, private ceremony, was at a beach on Oahu. Holland says they love Hawaii and returned for another vacation last May.

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Karen Holland, special events coordinator, Office of the Chancellor, UM-Dearborn, on making Pewabic pottery and decorations: “My goal is to make people happy and if they smile, it is enough for me.”


Anna Grzymala-Busse, “The Sacralization of Politics in Europe and Beyond,” 4-5:30 p.m. Dec. 2, Room 1636, International Institute, School of Social Work Building.

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