Karen Barr, right, talks with two students in a Penn State Beaver classroom.

Karen Barr: Students are her business

Business instructor Karen Barr is a favorite among students because of the amount of attention and help she gives them.

Karen Barr, Penn State Beaver assistant teaching professor of business, didn’t always know what she wanted to do as a career.

She worked for a few years as a nurse before returning to school to receive her master’s degree in corporate finance.

While raising her two children, Barr took a part-time nursing job at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and began teaching business part time. A few years later she started teaching full time at Penn State Beaver.

“I love my job. You get to hang out with smart kids, students that are curious,” she said. “I love coming into work to see the kids, to teach.”

She describes herself as a real people person and truly feels comfortable when she stands in front of a group of students.

“My personality was made for being on the stage,” she said.

Her current course load includes Financial and Managerial Accounting for Decision Making; Basic Management Concepts; Corporation Finance; and Social, Legal, and Ethical Environment of Business. Barr also teaches one class per semester at World Campus.

Her favorite class is Corporation Finance because “it pulls together all the business disciplines and requires a student to develop a systems approach.”

Although challenging at times, Barr does her part to prepare her students for their next stage in life.

“It comes together in a complex group project and I know that I have done my part to adequately prepare them for strategic management, entrance to grad school and entrance into the job market,” she said.

Her student reviews are always filled with compliments about her teaching style. “According to the students, I rock, I’m awesome, I should run for president,” said Barr with a wide smile.

Barr’s students aren't the only ones who think so. In 2012 Barr won Penn State’s George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. She was one of only six faculty members across the university to win the award that year. She’s also won several campus awards for excellence in teaching and advising.

Her positive attitude extends to her opinions about the campus.

“Even if you don’t talk, professors here know you exist,” said Barr. “You really get to know your professors if you want to.

“We make sure our students have the skills businesses require today. I try to bring a lot of technology, but I also focus on personality skills.”


Master of Business Administration, Corporate Finance 
California State University, Long Beach 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing 
Ohio State University