From an early age, Dr. Karen Falconer Al-Hindi has negotiated her own space. Intrigued by the relationships between people and places, Falconer Al-Hindi’s natural interest in geography has allowed her to forge new understandings between feminism and geography. From student, to part-time professor, to tenured professor, to Department Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, Falconer Al-Hindi’s work and research has impacted thousands of students as well as her colleagues at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). Since joining the campus in 1993, Dr. Karen Falconer Al-Hindi has become a valuable asset and an active voice in the conversation about women at UNO and in the Omaha community. She models an effective melding of a personal life with a professional one, and has undoubtedly commanded her own place in the world.
As a young girl, Dr. Karen Falconer Al-Hindi often eluded the confines of her diminutive house to roam the tree-lined streets and dense woods of her Michigan neighborhood. Born in Ann Arbor, Falconer Al-Hindi recalls her home as small compared to today’s standards, making the outdoors a place to play and explore with her two younger siblings. As the oldest child, and a girl, many family responsibilities fell to Falconer Al-Hindi, and she found she “could avoid the work by escaping to bike or play in the neighborhood and beyond.” After her father completed his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, he accepted a position as associate dean at Muskegon Community College some two hours away. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Muskegon provided Falconer Al-Hindi a fresh venue for exploration and inquest.
During graduate school, Falconer Al-Hindi became absorbed in women’s studies and feminist issues. At the urging of a friend, Falconer Al-Hindi joined the campus group, “The Women’s Forum,” whose yearly project was a consciousness-raising “Take Back the Night” march, a rally where participants speak out against sexual violence toward women (“History”). After the march, Falconer Al-Hindi began to wonder how much the fear of sexual assault by a stranger influenced undergraduate women’s travel and activity decisions on campus. At the same time, Falconer Al-Hindi struggled to complete a research proposal for a research methods seminar. The medical geography topic she researched interested her only a little, and she found herself drifting from her inquiry while in the library. “The books I was supposed to be reading for my proposal and the books on sexual assault and women’s fear were
Falconer Al-Hindi’s interest in feminism and geography continued to evolve, and with her master’s degree complete, she enrolled at the University of Kentucky to begin work on her Ph.D. By amalgamating her interests in human geography and women’s studies, Falconer Al-Hindi wrote a dissertation titled Space, Gender, and Work in the Context of Technological Change: Telecommuting Women. With her Ph.D. completed, Falconer Al-Hindi was ready to begin her professional career as a geography instructor. Dr. Karen Falconer Al-Hindi joined the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) faculty in 1993 as an Assistant Professor of Geography. The first classes she taught were Introduction to Human Geography and a graduate seminar titled History and Philosophy of Geography. She served as the Acting Department Chair for the Department of Geography and Geology during different periods. Falconer Al-Hindi was also the Graduate Program Committee
The Women’s Studies Program at UNO began in the early 1970s with the development of the first women’s history course. More courses developed as issues within the field of women’s studies progressed, and the program began offering a minor by 1988. As interest in the program grew and the number of students increased, the validity of apportioning a major in women’s studies became viable. Professors such as Mary Ann Lamanna, Dr. Falconer Al-Hindi, and several other faculty members developed the major, with Lamanna receiving valuable time to create and implement the program. In 2000, the University Board of Regents approved a Women’s Studies Major. Falconer Al-Hindi cites the demand from students for such a major as well as wide community support as driving forces behind its development. As Falconer Al-Hindi attests, “The program is designed to prepare students for graduate
In addition to her teaching, student and community outreach are important to Dr. Falconer Al-Hindi as well. As a reoccurring theme imbedded in her work, Dr. Falconer Al-Hindi believes community involvement is an essential role of universities that is sometimes threatened by the increasing commodification of higher education. Falconer Al-Hindi insists that colleges can continue this vital link by working together to promote collaboration among professors, students, and citizens. Along with other members of the University faculty, Falconer Al-Hindi has been instrumental in bringing guest speakers such as Dr. Karen Morin of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and Professor Mona Domosh from Dartmouth College to UNO, as well as entertainment programs such as The Heart’s Compass to fulfill UNO’s outreach mission. Falconer Al-Hindi is also involved in the No Limits! Conference. No Limits! is an interdisciplinary conference on Women’s Studies
Dr. Falconer Al-Hindi’s teaching and community involvement has been duly recognized. In 1998, she won the UNO Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award. This award honors eight teachers each year for distinguished teaching in the classroom (“Criteria”). In 2002, she also received the University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women Outstanding Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual who has contributed significantly to women’s issues and/or gender equity. In 2008, Falconer Al-Hindi was the third recipient of the Mary Ann Lamanna Award for Excellence in Women’s Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. According to the press release, “the award recognizes outstanding teaching, research, service, or a combination of the three, to women’s studies at UNO.” As one colleague noted in a nomination, Dr. Falconer Al-Hindi “consistently approaches the challenges of sustaining a Women’s Studies
In addition to her career, Dr. Karen Falconer Al-Hindi is married to Musa Al-Hindi, who emigrated to the U.S. from Beirut. They met when both she and Musa showed up at a mutual friend’s house to help her move. After they were married, they had two children (see Figures 3 and 4). Dr. Falconer Al-Hindi takes pride in the fact that her two boys have been raised by her and her partner to respect those who are different. She explains family life as follows:
“Although I respect [the traditional wife] role and am fortunate to have full-time homemakers among my friends, in my life and our family that is not my role. Musa and I do refer to each other as “my wife” and “my husband,” but it’s more accurate to say that we are spouses or life partners, because how