Karen Szymanski, Interview with Melissa Newman, 2021


Karen Szymanski, 1971 (WLA, Mundelein College 1971 Class Photograph)

Interview Transcript


Karen Szymanski, Interview with Melissa Newman, 2021


Karen A. Szymanski was an English major and graduated in just three years from Mundelein in 1971; she says her “peeps” graduated in 1972. She talks about living in Northland Hall for a year, then moving into an apartment with some friends. Karen cannot say enough good things about the English department at Mundelein. The lessons she took from classes with Mary Griffin, Mike Fortune, and Yohma Gray have stayed with her throughout her life and professional career. She recounts that it was from Mundelein professors that Karen began to develop her critical thinking skills and was encouraged to take a stand on issues with a clear voice. Karen remembers social life at Mundelein including casual hang outs with friends in Northland Hall, going to Hamilton’s for a burger and coke, and having parties down by the beach. Overall, Karen felt Mundelein had a lasting impact on her as a person in how she carries herself and her ability to effectively and persuasively communicate with others.

Content Note: These collections may include language or descriptions of events that may be upsetting to some users.

Date Created

November 29, 2021


Karen Szymanski (née Appelt) was born on the south side of Chicago in 1958 before moving to Clarendon Hills with her parents when she was four years old. She originally went to Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri to study drama, but was put off of the program after a professor told her that women could not be directors. Karen decided to transfer to a college closer to home, but still wanted to live on campus. Mundelein ended up offering the most in financial aid, which convinced her to attend.
Her time at Mundelein helped Karen grow her confidence on how to articulate and support her points of view. She demonstrated her advocacy by participating in demonstrations in downtown Chicago with her friends for the feminist movement and anti-Vietnam war protests. Along with her English major, Karen worked in the English Department helping with administrative tasks as part of her work study. Karen and her friends liked to frequent Hamilton’s for burgers and a coke and fondly remembers the sign of the waving knight at Sir Whoopee’s sandwich place. She finished her senior year studying abroad in Stuttgart, Germany.
After graduating, she began working for Mundelein which is when she developed stronger relationships with the nuns that used to teach her. Her life eventually took her out of Chicago, but in 1990 she returned to the city to do freelance communication work and got involved in the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership and helped develop its strategic plan.

Interviewer Biography

Melissa Newman was a graduate student in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago and a graduate assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives 2020-2022.

Time Log

0-5 Minutes: Szymanski’s childhood, family background, education background, and her decision to transfer to Mundelein College.
5-10 Minutes: Szymanski discusses her choice to go to Mundelein, the political climate of the 1960s, her experiences with staff and faculty at Mundelein, her major, classes she took, and religion at Mundelein.
10-15 Minutes: Faculty and critical thinking at Mundelein, Szymanski’s experience graduating in three years.
15-20 Minutes: Szymanski’s experience with a correspondence course and her time studying abroad in Germany.
20-25 Minutes: Szymanski’s time in Germany, her work study with Sister Frances Shea, Szymanski’s early feminism.
25-30 Minutes: Changes in the Catholic Church and Mundelein College, feminism and anti-war activism on campus.
30-35 Minutes: Szymanski’s activism and protest experience and her time in Northland Hall.
35-40 Minutes: Szymanski's experience living off-campus, changes at Mundelein, and classes that had an impact on her time at Mundelein.
40-45 Minutes: Szymanski’s relationship with faculty such as Jean Kellogg, student life off-campus, recreation, socialization, and the relationship between Mundelein College and Loyola University Chicago.
45-50 Minutes: Dating at Mundelein, Szymanski’s decision to not attend graduation, Sister Ann Ida Gannon and Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
50-56:35 Minutes: Working at Mundelein, socializing after graduation, Szymanski’s post-graduate career, her involvement as an alumni, working with the Gannon Center and Women and Leadership Archives.


1968 Democratic National Convention, KS 25-30,
Argonne National Laboratory, KS 0-5,
Blake, William, KS 35-40,
Bönnigheim, Germany, KS 20-25
Broadway Avenue, Chicago, IL., KS 40-45,
Cambridge University, KS 15-20,
Chicago, IL., KS 0-5, KS 5-10, KS 15-20, KS 30-35, KS 50- 56:35
Chicago Historical Society, KS 15-20,
Clarendon Hills, IL., KS 0-5,
Columbia Avenue, Chicago, IL., KS 30-35, KS 45-50,
DePaul University, KS 40-45,
Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL., KS 35-40, KS 40-45,
England, KS 15-20, KS 35-40,
Farrell, Carolyn KS 50- 56:35
Fleisch, Joanne, KS 35-40,
Fortune, Michael, KS 5-10,
Gannon, Ann Ida (Sister), KS 45-50, KS 50- 56:35
Garanzini, Michael J. (Father), KS 50- 56:35 Germany, KS 15-20, KS 20-25, KS 45-50,
Gray, Yoma, KS 5-10, KS 10-15,
Greece, KS 15-20, KS 20-25
Griffin, Mary, KS 5-10,
Hamilton's- A Chicago Bar-Grill, KS 40-45,
Hill, Bill Sr., KS 10-15,
Hinsdale South High School, KS 0-5,
Johnson, Alice, KS 35-40,
Kellogg, Jean, KS 5-10, KS 10-15, KS 40-45,
Lake Bluff, IL., KS 0-5,
London, England, KS 15-20,
Loyola University Chicago, KS 40-45, KS 45-50,
Mundelein College, KS 0-5, KS 5-10, KS 10-15, KS 15-20, KS 20-25, KS 25-30, KS 30-35, KS 35-40, KS 40-45, KS 45-50, KS 50- 56:35
Mundelein College Coffey Hall, KS 30-35,
Mundelein College Gannon Center, KS 50- 56:35
Mundelein College Learning Resource Center, KS 35-40,
Mundelein College, Northland Hall, KS 5-10, KS 30-35, KS 35-40, KS 45-50,
Mundelein College Skyscraper Building, KS 15-20, KS 40-45, KS 50- 56:35
Mundelein College Tea Room, KS 50- 56:35
Nazareth Academy, KS 0-5, KS 10-15,
Northwestern University, KS 0-5,
Notre Dame Grade School, KS 0-5,
Oakbrook, IL., KS 0-5,
Palatine, IL., KS 0-5,
Pell Grants, KS 15-20,
Posmantur, Myrtle, KS 5-10, KS 35-40,
Schiller College, KS 15-20,
Sister Jean (Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM), KS 45-50,
Shea, Frances (Sister), KS 20-25
Sir Whoopee’s, KS 40-45,
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), KS 25-30,
Sorbonne University, KS 15-20,
St. Joseph’s Seminary, KS 0-5,
St. Louis, MO., KS 25-30,
Stuttgart, Germany, KS 15-20,
Syracuse University, KS 0-5,
War in Vietnam, KS 5-10, KS 25-30, KS 35-40, KS 45-50,
Webster College, KS 0-5, KS 5-10,
Women and Leadership Archives, KS 50- 56:35


The materials contained on this portal are freely available for scholarship, or non-commercial research under the “fair use” provisions of US copyright law. Prior written permission is required for any use that exceeds “fair use” including publication, broadcast, for placing on another web site, or for any paid or commercial use. Contact wlarchives@luc.edu.

Item sets