March 20, 2023
Karen Hamilton, BS IE ’87, has been honored with the James E. “Bud” Moulder Distinguished Alumni Award for her contributions to Mizzou, the College and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE).
“It’s quite an honor to be among the people who have received this award in the past,” she said. “It’s a nice recognition for the different things I’ve been involved in.”
Hamilton is semi-retired following a long career at Schneider Electric, Invensys and Motorola. When she left Schneider Electric, she was senior vice president of supply chain, quality and customer satisfaction.
Today, she’s pursing two diverse passions—helping start-up companies and photography. Hamilton is currently serving as executive partner at Techfides, a start-up information technology company. She is also an instructor and photographer at 319Photography with plans to start showing her own work later this year.
About seven years ago, Hamilton and colleagues from Schneider Electric met with ISE Chair Jim Noble to discuss ways in which the company could work with the University. Together, they identified a CELDi project and agreed upon a collaboration. It was through this engagement that she began to get more involved in her alma mater.
“I realized how energized I was from being back at Mizzou,” she said. “It was a really positive thing, so I decided to make it a priority and began connecting with Mizzou, ISE and Women in Engineering, contributing financially as well as volunteering more.”
Since then, Hamilton has made significant contributions. This year, she is president of the ISE Hall of Fame, in which she was inducted in 2017, and was instrumental in starting a Professional Mentorship Program that connects seniors to Hall of Fame members who are leaders in industry. The mentorships continue for at least six months after a student graduates.
“Mentoring is important to me,” she said. “I was really blessed and fortunate from my first job to having outstanding mentors along the way. I found it to be invaluable opportunity to have people who could share and gain insights as well as people I could bounce ideas off of. I thought it would be a great idea for us to provide that to students – especially after graduation, as the Hall of Fame is loaded with people who have had amazing careers and experiences.”
And the mentors benefit as much, if not more, from the experience, she said, as they learn what’s important to recent graduates entering the workforce and connect with a different generation.
“The ISE Hall of Fame is always looking for new ways to connect with students and give back to the university and this was a great opportunity to do this,” she said.
In 2018, Hamilton began a 10-month sabbatical during which she and her husband, Curt, traveled the world, including spending time in the U.S. visiting national parks across the country. Following that life-changing experience and her decision to retire from the corporate world, the couple decided to move to Colorado Springs.
Getting involved with the Rocky Mountain Tigers alumni organization in Colorado has proved instrumental in helping her connect to her new community.
“The Rocky Mountain Tigers turned out to be an amazing organization,” she said. “They’re a very active group and it was a great way to connect with people who have shared interests and give back to the university. It also has helped deepen my connection with the University.”
Hamilton is now president of the organization after just one year of membership.
If there’s one regret she has, Hamilton says it’s waiting to reconnect and get involved in Mizzou. That’s why she encourages younger alumni to stay connected to campus.
“When you start your career and family it’s easy to put all of your energy into that because there’s only so much of you to go around,” she said. “But staying connected to networks through alumni organizations can be invaluable. All networks have value, but alumni organizations are special as you have a common bond with the University. The connections you establish can be invaluable in helping when you want to change jobs or move to new cities. It’s a great network that you graduated with and connections come pretty easily. I can’t emphasize enough how important that network is. I’m so happy that I finally figured that out and I have prioritized the time to be connected with the University.”