Must Love Dogs

Youngstown State University Reading and Study Skills coordinator, Karen Becker, has a love for animals along with a passion for education. Photo Courtesy of Karen Becker.

For the past 17 years, Karen Becker has been the coordinator for the Reading and Study Skills Center in the basement of the Maag Library at Youngstown State University.

Becker has always had a passion for education, leading to an undergraduate degree in English and Speech Communications and master’s degree in education from Allegheny College. She also earned her PHD in English Education from the Ohio State University and has written two books “The Art and Science of Quality Learning” and “Understanding and Engaging Under-Resourced College Students.”

Becker said she loves teaching at the R&SS Center at YSU.

“I moved here from Columbus, mostly to get closer to home to be with family,” Becker said. “I haven’t left, because I like the diverse population. My mentor from Allegheny always said that this [YSU] is the place where I belong.”

Aside from teaching, Becker has a love for animals, especially her three dogs and her cat.

“They’re my kids,” she said. “I’ve had dogs my whole life, and they’re just so sweet.”

In the past, Becker would volunteer her dogs at nursing homes and hospitals around the area in an attempt to bring a smile to the patients’ faces and to meet new people. She even met one of her best friends through the program.

Becker said even though she liked volunteering at the hospital, she loved volunteering at the nursing homes the most because of how the elderly reacted when they saw her dogs.

“There was an elderly man who we visited that ended up passing away the day after we saw him,” Becker said. “Even though he was sick when he saw the [dog], he immediately got happy.”

Becker would also bring her rabbit, Abbott the Rabbit, to the nursing homes and said the elderly would save their lettuce they got at lunch just to give it to Abbott when he came to visit.

“It’s very rewarding, but very time consuming,” Becker said. “I’m strongly considering going back into it.”

Samantha Streb, a graduate assistant, has worked with Becker for a little over a year.

“I love working for her,” Streb said. “It was a lot to learn at first, but she made me feel really comfortable with what I was learning and was very approachable.”

Becker said Streb was actually with her when she decided to adopt a puppy she got seven months ago from New Lease on Life Rescue’s Struthers website.

“Sam actually helped me pick which puppy I wanted,” Becker said. “I tell her she will forever be a part of Baron’s life story.”