Karen Gross is an educator and an award-winning author and artist.  She has written adult and children’s books, many of which are trauma sensitive/ responsive. She specializes in student and organizational success across the educational pipeline and focuses her attention on students who are traumatized or otherwise at risk based on socio-economic status, race or ethnicity. 

She has worked all along the educational pipeline — with early childhood educators and professors and academic leaders as well as students at all ages and stages. Her work has included policy makers, including serving on the Biden Campaign Domestic Policy Committee (focusing on student mental health).  She teaches in the continuing education program at Rutgers School of Social Work and serves on the Advisory Council of Rutgers Graduate School of Education’s group on Minority Serving Institutions. Recently, she participated in the Army War College’s National Security Seminar from which she received a Certificate in Leadership Development. 

She has a trilogy of adult books on trauma.  The initial book, Breakaway Learners, published by Columbia Teachers College Press in 2017, describes and examines a new concept she developed called “lasticity,” a comprehensive approach and process for enabling student success that is distinct from (and an extension of) concepts such as resiliency, grit and mindsets.  The next book (also from Teachers College Press 2020), Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door, extends the arguments from Breakaway Learners into settings where lasticity is absent and needs to be advanced and nurtured.  The latter book has been used in a variety of settings during the Pandemic to help institutions deal more effectively with the Pandemic induced trauma.  It also won the Delta Kappa Gamma Educator Book of the Year Award in 2021. Co-authored with Dr. Edward K.S. Wang, her forthcoming book  and the third in the trilogy focuses on Pandemic positives and is titled Mending Education: Finding Hope, Creativity and Mental Wellness in Times of Trauma. It will be released by Teachers College Press in 2024 and completes the trilogy of books on trauma.  The newest book is filled with the voices of educators and strategies that can improve educational outcomes in the midst and aftermath of a crisis.

Gross’ artwork has appeared in online and in-person settings. She has also done art as part of her presentations to both adults and students and has worked on installation art projects. Much of her artwork intersects with her trauma work, creating works that message about trauma and its impacts. She is a recipient of a 2022 Massachusetts Cultural Council grant to further her trauma art efforts. Her work has been donated to educational institutions in conjunction with workshops she has conducted. Her newest book contains selected of her art and a sampling of her artwork can be seen at www.artpal.com/karengross

Past Career Highlights

Gross started her career as a teacher in Northampton, MA and Philadelphia, PA. in the 1970’s and also served as a teaching assistant while in college. She continued her professional life initially as a lawyer, working in two major law firms, one in New York City and the other in Chicago, Illinois (1977—1984). 

Thereafter, she became a well-known, award winning, law professor at New York Law School where she specialized in contracts, commercial law, consumer finance, and over indebtedness, having also studied and written specifically about women and money (1984 – 2006; tenured in 1989).

During her term as a successful college president for 8 plus years of then small, private, career-launching, liberal arts institution in Vermont (2006 – 2014), she employed a series of initiatives designed to support student success, including lasticity.  She also developed a broad network within the world of higher education, serving on more than a dozen local, regional and national boards. While a college president, service included serving as President of a DIII Athletic Conference and on the NCAA DIII President’s Advisory Group.  She also developed a large philanthropic network, raising over $10 million for her institution which, when she arrived, had yearly giving of $360,000. 

In 2012, she was secunded for 13 months to the federal government where she worked as a Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education. Her work there also involved a major interagency effort aimed at improving post-service civilian re-entry for service men and women; the effort involved the Department of Labor, Department of Defense, Small Business Administration, Office of Personnel Management Department of Veterans Affairs and the President’s Domestic Policy Council along with each of the Military Services, the Reserves and National Guard. She spent time on military bases and at the Pentagon, expanding her engagement efforts. Some of her early trauma and “lasticity” work began with her experiences with the military.

Trauma Expertise and Focus

All of Gross’ professional efforts, now over 40 years, have focused on asset building in low income communities, community economic development, over indebtedness and the success of more vulnerable populations including low income individuals, diverse populations, first generation students.  

Her work does not stop with writing. She is regularly engaged with students at all ages and stages. She reads to children of all ages across the US and Canada and Tanzania. She consults with schools and universities and leads faculty/staff development seminars and workshops designed to improve institutional culture and student success. 

Several examples of her work in the trauma arena are as follows:

She has assisted advocates for detained children in managing their clients and conducted workshops with teachers and administrators in Las Vegas after a mass shooting. Her books were delivered to children in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes. She has worked with young children and their teachers at an Indian Reservation. She has engaged with and assisted teachers at an Oregon middle school following shooting on their campus.

Much of Gross’ work for children has been translated into Spanish and she often reads to children in their native tongue. Two of her new children’s books will be bilingual, with English and Spanish text appearing on the same page to facilitate language learning by both students and parents. Several of her children’s books have won awards.

Writings and Speaking Engagements

During her academic career from 1984 to 2006, Gross published more than 15 law review articles in leading academic journals, several book chapters in English and Spanish, and an award-winning book from Yale University Press (reprinted in paperback) titled Failure and Forgiveness. She was named and worked as an editor of the leading bankruptcy treatise, Colliers. One of her academic pieces was on the first women to seek bankruptcy relief in America in 1802, co-authored with Marie Newman et al. 

She has spoken widely and frequently across the US and abroad. Several more recent examples include the Massachusetts PTA; the Massachusetts School Counselors Association; the British Columbia School Counselors Association; The Attachment Trauma Network; and Delta Kappa Gamma (a women educators’ honor society). She, along with three other educators, founded and still run the Virtual Teachers Lounge, a forum online in which educators can share their experiences and receive feedback and support.

She was cited frequently in and wrote published Op-Eds with The New York Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times, and The Chicago Tribune among other leading newspapers. Her academic work has also been cited with frequency by other academics, lawyers and members of the press.  (Gross’s body of work has been cited over 1000 times.)

Gross has had an active presence in the higher education space since 2002, publishing articles and blogs on higher education (including graduate education). She has also blogged about the preK – 12 educational pipeline.  She has had pieces in virtually all of the well-known education publications including InsideHigherEd, Chronicle of Higher Education, Hechinger Report, Change: The Magazine of Higher Ed, the New England Journal of Higher Ed, Forest of the Rain Productions, DiverseEducation, Evollution, University Business, Road2College, National Journal, Grade Point (Washington Post, Medium (Bright and Age of Awareness) and the former Huffington Post. She has a collected series of blogs written while at the Department of Education (reprinted as 365 Days in Washington, DC).

She had, according to a study conducted by Phair Communications on Presidential Op-Eds, been one of the most prolific college/university presidents in 2014, the first year such information was systematically gathered. She ranked 6th in the nation in terms of Op-Ed publications and first among women higher education leaders. For reference, see: http://www.phairadvantage.com/presidential-op-eds-project-2/whos-writing-those-op-eds/.

She has been named a LINKEDIN Top Voice in Education in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and she was named a “Society Guru” for BBN Times, an international online publication for which she also writes.  She has over 85,000 followers on LINKEDIN.

Her article on Education’s Many Stakeholders (with Pamela Godwin) has been among the top 25 articles in University Business.  For the launch of this publication’s website, Gross and her co-author revisited the topic of educational stakeholders, comparing those in existence in 2005 with those in existence almost 15 years later. More recently, her interview on how to improve education released in Authority Magazine has been included in an anthology edited by Penny Bauder titled How to Improve the United States Educational System.

Gross did more than 90 podcasts during the Pandemic on trauma and issues related to its impact on education.  Some of her articles have been reprinted in trauma-related publications. She has also created a YouTube in English and Spanish about social distancing, using her pet Wrinkles as the main character.  It has been used frequently and listed as a resource by the Today Show.

Board Service

Gross has been a member of the Board of numerous organizations at the local, regional and national levels, including the Board of the Sage Colleges and the Campus Compact National Board. At these organizations and through her connections, she has been invited to speak at numerous events. She has testified before Congress and has spoken to city and state legislatures. Gross is frequently asked to give keynote addresses at large gatherings and has appeared on radio and television over the course of her career. She has won numerous awards, including the NE Presidents Award from the National Organization of Student Affairs Professions. 

Personal Facts

Gross resides currently in Gloucester, MA (in an art colony on the water) and Washington DC.  When she is not teaching or writing or doing art (much of which is trauma inspired), she enjoys skiing, skating, kayaking, canoeing. playing pickleball, camping and of course, reading. Since apples don’t fall far from trees, her son is a professor at Yale where he specializes in healthcare delivery costs and improved health outcomes for underserved communities. She is a Phi Beta Kappa Cum Laude graduate of Smith College, having spent her junior year at Dartmouth College in its first year of co-education and where she was a Rufus Choate School. She graduated cum laude from Temple University School of Law, having spent her third year of law school at the University of Chicago. She is a certified psychological first aid provider and a California ACEs trained educator.

For additional information on Karen’s Lady Lucy’s Quest series, visit https://ladylucysquest.com/