Karen Møller started as Lecturer and Language Program Coordinator in the UC Berkeley Department of Scandinavian in 1991 and retired July 1, 2021, exactly 30 years later.
During her years with the Department of Scandinavian she ended up wearing quite a variety of hats. She taught a long list of undergraduate courses during her time: history courses spanning from the Vikings to Modern Scandinavia; the original Scand 75 course (the precursor for the current Nordic Culture and Values course); all levels of Danish as a foreign language; and more recently a graduate seminar in Nordic intercommunication and pan-Scandinavian language reading strategies.
She also mentored an entire generation (or more!) of GSIs teaching Scandinavian languages, directed and promoted the Nordic language program, and served as the first academic coordinator at the newly minted Berkeley Language Center in 1994. She is one of the longest-serving members of the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship committee (an assignment that delighted her), having interviewed hundreds of fresh-faced and hopeful high school seniors applying to Cal.
In the late 90’s she and professor emeritus John Lindow created an innovative combined version of the second-year language courses in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, taken advantage of their unique status as “neighbor languages,” in which instruction is anchored around a weekly linguistics lecture common for all three languages. Thanks to this set-up, language instruction in all three Scandinavian languages has been secured every semester.
The program in Scandinavian languages has been steady under Karen’s firm hand on the wheel. Her unique background in Nordic Studies from University of Copenhagen gave her a natural competence interacting with all three languages equally. She focused on furthering inter-Nordic communication by showing her students that they could, too. She was a dedicated participant at all the annual Nordic conferences (SASS, ASTRA, NORTANA, and others) and can today count many colleagues across the field as friends. Being a fervent believer in inter-Nordic communication, she made a point of speaking Danish at Nordic conferences, actually making herself understood against all odds. She took that dedication to inter-Nordic communication to a new level when she met her Norwegian husband at a NORTANA conference in Ogden, Utah.
Karen undertook a successful collaboration with Professor Timothy Tangherlini (then at UCLA) pioneering a synchronous online sharing of Nordic language classes. It launched in the AY 1999/2000. In the beginning it was only offered between UCB and UCLA, but in the last 20 years it has been expanded to all UC campuses and copied by many other UC programs and languages. The online program started as a “collegial handshake” between two campuses, and currently any student in the UC system can learn a Nordic language through The Innovative Learning Technology Initiative platform (ILTI), now UC Online. The technology was rather primitive in the beginning – starting with huge, clunky TVs and slow video systems progressing to sleek zoom set-ups. Suffice to say that when the UC switched to zoom classes in March 2020, the Nordic language classes were already there!
In 1992 she was in the right spot at the right time at UCB, meeting and hence becoming a close collaborator with Professor Claire Kramsch. Together with her and fellow language coordinator in Hebrew, Rutie Adler, she was part of the founding force behind the creation of the Berkeley Language Center (BLC). Karen was appointed the inaugural three-year academic coordinator for the BLC and has been a steadfast supporter and participant since then.
In 2017 she was a BLC Fellow, studying the use of canonical historical paintings in language teaching to promote a deeper student competence in decoding cultural markers in the target language. Through her work with the BLC she has made connections with language lecturers across all languages offered at Berkeley, creating what is often referred to as the “BLC extended family.”
Being of a practical nature, Karen also added some non-academic tasks to her to-do lists. Watering the common plants, fixing broken furniture, opening wine for receptions—she would often refer to herself as “the resident custodian.” In taking supervision of the departmental library in Dwinelle under her wings she fought valiantly to create order out of the constantly ensuing chaos. For years she co-catered the large festive gatherings for the department and the friends of department around holiday time, at times decorating the Scandinavian space to make it extra hyggelig or cooking a three-course holiday meal for 40 plus attendees, then leading the sing-along with the band afterward and of course cleaning it all up at the end of the evening. She always took great pride in always being the last person to leave a party. This attention to the small, practical things contributed greatly to the positive social milieu of our small department.
Her door was always open—not so much at 8AM, but you could always count on it after 5PM for a chat about how the day went or anything else. Having been granted the title of emerita she will still have “a door” in the department. It may not be open daily—but she will stay engaged with the department, her field, attend conferences, and occasionally teach a course on recall.