2015: Karen Schriver

Citation for Karen Schriver

Elevated to ATTW Fellow 2015

We are here today to elevate to Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing a true pioneer and innovator in our field and a long-term inspiration to all of us: Karen Schriver.

Karen is one of most admired and influential leaders of our field. She is, of course, author of one of the most important and frequently cited books in the field of technical communication, Dynamics in Document Design, which, over the past 18 years, has been the standard comprehensive text on its subject and a guidepost for many practitioner document designers and many of us who teach document or information design. A world-recognized expert, she is already a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication and was the first recipient of STC’s Ken Rainey Award for Excellence in Research. Karen has also been a key contributor to the Center for Plain Language and the Communications Research Institute.  In addition, she has served the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication (CPTSC), both as officer of the organization and as a member of its Program Review and Assessment Committee.

As President of KSA Communication Design & Research, Karen has consulted in industry for a long list of impressive clients (including Apple, Microsoft, and IBM) while also maintaining an active role in the academic community. Karen is perhaps the most powerful boundary-spanner we have known in our field: in her many conference presentations and workshops over the past three decades, she has crossed academic and industry boundaries by showing scholars in our field the value of applying theory to practice, but also the importance of challenging and revising theory through research. Karen has also encouraged academics to cross new boundaries. She has encouraged us to begin publishing in non-academic publications and to scholars in other disciplines. She was one of the first in our field to research and champion applications of plain English to documentation directed to the general public; she has been encouraging us for decades to start sharing our research in ways that might assist consumers at all levels of literacy and engagement. And, of course, Karen has been one of our finest international ambassadors: she has crossed international borders (from America to Europe to Africa to Australia) with equal insouciance, navigating and integrating the knowledge and skills of multiple disciplines and cultures. 

Karen’s work sets a high standard for useful, well-designed, quality research. She has reminded us consistently—at every opportunity—that research matters and that we ought to base our decisions about text design on what research tells us. She has worked tirelessly to help the field consolidate what it knows in the interest of making good decisions about communication design. She has put genuine vigor and meaning into the term “design” as the best identifier for what we do and what we teach students to do.

She is also unfailingly thoughtful and kind and generous in all of her professional activities and her relationships with students and colleagues. She takes time to encourage and inspire the newer members of ATTW through frequent supportive messages on the ATTW listserv and consistent and lively participation at ATTW conferences. She is a splendid exemplar for all of us of a dedicated and versatile professor and public intellectual, engaged in industry, government, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions to improve the clarity and ethics of their communication practices and their research methods.

Karen has put together a remarkable career with a truly outsize and lasting impact on this field and this association.  It is therefore a tremendous honor to celebrate Karen’s legacy today by elevating her to Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing.