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Karen Uehling retires from the English department


Karen Uehling, Professor Emeritus of English, retired from Boise State University after 38 years of service. Uehling first began teaching at the university in 1981 and specialized in basic writing and creative nonfiction courses.

Along with her Boise State colleague Chuck Guilford, Uehling founded the Council on Basic Writing, a national organization that continues to promote teaching and scholarship. Since its founding, Uehling has become a national figure in the developmental writing movement. Throughout her long and illustrious career, she has had a deep and abiding concern for students on the margins – the first generation college student, the basic writer, the adult learner returning to school – in short, those most in need.

Uehling began her work when Boise State had a community college mission. She was teaching five, sometimes seven sections per semester of mostly basic writing courses. She began doing research on how to teach writing to students who struggled to write a paragraph, for example, let alone an essay; who were smart and motivated but found it painful to share their passion through the written word.

While other faculty were throwing their hands up in despair with these students, Uehling was working one-on-one with them, studying the research and pedagogy that was beginning to emerge on basic writing, and then contributing to it herself. Her students are stunned by the amount of time she spends mentoring them outside the classroom and name her as the reason they’ve received awards for their writing. Local and national policy makers have turned to her for advice, and when they want to get something done, they ask her to serve on task forces and committees.

Uehling has left an extraordinary legacy in the English department. She will be missed.