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Making Study Abroad Possible

Alumna Creates Scholarship Through Her Will and Trust, Paving the Way for Transformative Experiences


When Karen Hunold was a high school senior in rural Mary­land, a brochure for Oklahoma City University showed up at the guidance counselor’s office. It checked several boxes: her own travel bug and her parents’ desire for her to have a safe college experience, since she’d be living in the all-girls’ Walker Hall with a curfew. 

She packed everything she could in a suitcase and took her first flight ever, to Oklahoma. 

“I lived in the dorms and made friends pretty quickly,” Hunold, BA ’79, remembered. One of her best friends brought her home for Thanksgiving. “It was a small community. I started making friends in the German department.” 

Longtime OCU Modern Languages Professor Christiane Faris had established an exchange program with a German university. Still, Hunold “did not have on my BINGO card ‘Go Overseas for Junior Year.’ It wasn’t even in my sights.” 

She became close friends with the German exchange stu­dents and learned about the exchange scholarship. “I wanted it so much,” she said. Faris had a conversation in German with Hunold to test her, as the field was competitive, and Hunold was chosen. “It was a dream come true.” 

Studying abroad shaped Hunold’s understanding of life itself, along with enhancing her understanding of history and international relationships. 

“It changed the trajectory of my life because I got all of these experiences that helped me understand that the way I had been raised was one of many ways of moving through life,” she said. “My ambitions and my experiences both were very beneficially impacted by having gone abroad that year.” 

Hunold went on to earn a doctorate in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley and then a law degree from Stanford University. She was immediately hired into the Attorney General’s Honors Program and then worked for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She later practiced law in Massachusetts and ran her own business as a trust and estate attorney. She and her husband, David Brahm, are both retired and splitting time between Virginia and Massachusetts, near their respective families. 

“We both found our education experiences to be quite valuable,” she said. This year, the couple set up their will and trust, putting in place charitable giving for five of their alma maters, to be fulfilled upon their deaths. At OCU, Hunold established the Karen Ann Hunold Endowed Scholar Award Fund. The award will benefit students with financial need who study abroad and learn a modern language while there. 

“If I can help other people have that type of transformative experience, I think that’s a wonderful thing to leave behind,” she said. 

Hunold appreciates OCU’s connection to the United Meth­odist Church — “I’ve always been very respectful and inclusive of all people” — and she considers OCU small but mighty. “It’s a small school, and it does so many things right.” 

During the latest Giving Day, OCU raised more than $10,000 for study abroad as the university develops new offerings. Study abroad is a priority of OCU President Ken Evans, and three current and former provosts and a former OCU first lady provided matching gifts for the fundraising effort. 

“We want our students to gain exposure outside the coun­try,” Assistant Provost Adam Ryburn said. 

Faculty regularly lead students on shorter trips abroad, and students can also intern abroad. Every time OCU sets up an informational table about study abroad outside the cafeteria, students express “so much enthusiasm and excitement,” he said. 

But, “for an experience so impactful, it’s expensive, so that’s where giving is so important,” Ryburn said. Students often get stuck in sticker shock. “The biggest hurdle to students realizing this is the expense.” 

Hunold remembers flying overseas and living in a dorm whose name she couldn’t pronounce. In the dorm, every stu­dent took shifts answering the phone. “I had to take my turn, just like everybody else. People would try to get me to understand who they wanted to talk to, and I would try to find them.” 

By the time she left Germany, her newly proficient lan­guage skills confused people—they didn’t expect to find an American fluent in their language, she said. She remembers Faris dropping by to visit her abroad. “She surreptitiously tested my German by asking where the lady’s room was, and when I answered promptly and correctly, her eyes glinted, ‘Oh yes, we chose well.’” 

Hunold’s love of languages has never ceased. In Berkeley, she met students delving into Native American languages, hieroglyphics and more. “I would talk to people for hours, and they would tell me about their field work.” 

Travel has continued to be a theme of her life with Brahm— they have visited all 50 states and many countries—and she watches TV shows in other languages—Italian, French and German, currently. 

“The differences can be quite profound, but people are human everywhere you go,” Hunold said. “You can really make some profound connections.”

Karen Hunold and David Brahm visit the Borgund Stave Church in Norway
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