Black Immigrant Women Pursuing their Passions

Dr. Foster’s guests on this episode of Fostering Solutions are Karen Wharton and Dr. Saran Nurse. 

Karen is a political organizer based in Brooklyn. She’s currently the Democracy Coalition Coordinator for Citizen Action of New York & Public Policy and Education Fund, supporting the implementation of public campaign finance in the state of New York and the development of a BIPOC-centered democracy. The goal is to make democracy more inclusive and representative. Previously, she was the Brooklyn Education Organizer for Rank the Vote NYC (2021), the Field Director on Sandy Nurse for NYC Council (2020),  the Assistant Field Director on Jason Salmon for NYS Senate (2020);  and the Volunteer Coordinator on Art Chang for NYC Mary (2021).   In addition, Karen was a member of the campaign team that successfully advocated for the passage of ranked choice voting in the November 2019 municipal election. Karen comes to political organizing after working for many years as a Systems Engineer. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in Telecommunications.  An immigrant from Guyana. Karen’s activism in her community is varied and vibrant. Karen is a member of the Canarsie Lions Club. She served on the 2016 Symposium Sub-Committee of the organizers of Guyana’s 50th Independence Anniversary Celebrations that organized The National Symposium Series held during Guyana’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in Georgetown and New York. She is a Founding Member of the Queen’s-based Guyana-Jamaica Friendship Association. As President of The Queen’s College of Guyana Alumni Association (NY), Inc. (2016-2018), Karen was instrumental in the growth and development of the organization’s student-facing programs, such as the annual summer math institute and the annual student conferences that brought alumni and students together for learning. She also instituted a cultural component to the organization’s outreach through programs that celebrated and promoted Guyanese heritage artists, authors, and filmmakers. And Karen championed diversity, equity, and inclusion schoolwide as a Packer Collegiate Institute’s Parent Association Board Member (2011-2016). In her spare time, Karen leads a Brooklyn book club that focuses on female authors and writings that center women.

Close to twenty years ago, Dr. Saran Nurse became an entrepreneur. Propelled by a lifetime passion – and much to the consternation of her family – she relinquished a corporate career, cashed out her 401K, and sold her apartment to open her first pet care services store. Despite challenges, she grew Kiki’s Pet Spa & Boutique into a successful business with multiple locations. In the process, she became convinced of a calling to combine her experience in entrepreneurship, and interest in public service, with my academic ambitions – to share her expertise through research and published work, and to explore and develop new policies and theories. To this end, Saran entered the Public and Urban Policy doctoral program at The Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School. Within four years, she defended – with distinction – her dissertation Still Standing: An Analytic Autoethnographic Case Study Examining Resilience, Business Survival And Other Entrepreneurial Outcomes of Black Small Business Owners Under Conditions Of Gentrification. She is now now an Equity in Action Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Kean University. She has taught a variety of business courses including Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, Business Ethics, Managing in Times of Crisis, Marketing Management, and Gender and Sexuality in Marketing. Saran earned her Bachelor’s degree (Cum Laude) in Marketing and International Business from Florida International University, and Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. She enjoys working out, cooking, travelling, and writing.

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