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Karen Tao

Series Host

Karen was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai’i. As the daughter of immigrants, Karen had many conversations with her parents about their early experiences on the “mainland” U.S. —  how they worked so hard to fit in and yet constantly stuck out.

Growing up, Karen was surrounded by friends who looked like her and families who shared a similar immigrant experience. It was not until she left Hilo for the mainland that she began to fully understand the complexities of feeling accepted in places where she was not of the predominant race or culture.

Before settling in Utah, Karen lived in California, England, New York, Wisconsin, and Washington. During each of these moves, the most rewarding moments had been those unlikely interactions with strangers (some who would later become her closest friends).

Karen has been lucky to meet people from all walks of life and backgrounds who have taught her that the most meaningful connections happen when people take the time to sit down and deeply listen to each other’s stories — to just talk.

Her research, teaching, and practice at the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Utah all center on a core modern human desire: To be fully known and loved wholly. Today Karen lives in Salt Lake City with her husband Zac and their children, Jiajia and Lulu.