A new experience in Hawai‘i for this educator

A new experience in Hawai‘i for this educator

Howard J. Karger, Ph.D., joined Hawai‘i Pacific University as Professor and Director, School of Social Work, in January.

Karger started his social work education career in 1979 at the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota. He has held faculty and administrative posts at the University of Missouri, Louisiana State University, the University of Houston, and the University of Queensland in Australia.

Last spring, Karger came to HPU for an interview, visiting Hawai‘i for the first time. He shared his first impressions of Hawai‘i, one of only two U.S. states — the other state is Alaska — he had not been to before. 

“(Hawai‘i) is really nice. Particularly coming from Southern Ohio, and it was bitterly cold the winter before last,” he said. Additionally, “having lived in the Pacific for eight years in Australia, (serving as head of school at the University of Queensland), “I really liked the Pacific region.”

Now settling into his first few weeks of life in Hawai‘i, Karger is enjoying fusion — between East and West — cooking, and the ethnic mom and pop restaurants. He also appreciates the outdoors, hiking and simply walking to places.

“I think life is probably more balanced in Hawai‘i,” he said. “I think people here take their leisure very seriously.”

As for being a part of the HPU community, Karger finds it a friendly, student-centered place. This semester, he is teaching social work policy in the Master of Social Work program. Karger said he likes the opportunity to interact with students and acknowledged their commitment to pursue higher education.

“Most of (my students) are working all day. Then they come (to class) from work,” he said. 

When asked about other distinguishing characteristics of the School of Social Work, Karger points out “the strong ties to the military through HPU,” and the smaller class sizes for students to get more attention.

Another aspect of Karger’s work is his research — spanning the last 10 years — on what he refers to as the “fringe economy,” or the economy of the poor. His book, “Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy,” was the winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the category of Finance/ Investments/Economics.

Karger describes the “fringe economy” research as the study of “the predatory businesses that feed off poverty and make huge amounts of money doing it.” He plans to continue this research in Hawai‘i.

In Karger’s role as the Director of the School of Social Work, one of the first items on his agenda was a School retreat held in February.

“We talked about the direction of the School and our vision for where we want the School to go and our programs to go,” he said. “And we think we’re in an exciting place.”

The School of Social Work is looking at dual majors in the bachelor’s program and the development of specializations in the master’s program. Additionally, starting in the fall of 2016, the Sociology program, currently housed in the College of Liberal Arts, will move to the School.    
“We want to become a school of destination. Where people come here because of what we have to offer,” Karger said.