Karen Proctor Profile
Karen Proctor is Vice President of Community Affairs and Government Relations at Scholastic Inc. In her role, she directs Scholastic's Corporate Citizenship initiatives. Since her arrival at Scholastic in 1999, Ms. Proctor launched one of the nation's largest in-kind giving initiatives, Scholastic Book Grants, which has donated more than 16 million children's books to non-profit organizations that find creative and effective ways to address the reading and literacy issues facing the communities they serve. She also has developed programs that help empower families, educators and other child caregivers to improve children's literacy in their communities. Most recently, she launched Lee y serás® (Read and you will be), an initiative to support the reading and literacy development of Latino children. Ms. Proctor also joined forces with the National Urban League to launch Read and Rise®, a program that provides African American parents and families with the necessary tools to help their children gain early literacy skills and begin to bridge the achievement gap. In addition, she partnered with Volunteers of America to create Words Travel™, a national literacy and family-strengthening program for incarcerated parents and their children.
Prior to joining Scholastic, Ms. Proctor was the Director of Community Relations at the National Basketball Association. Previously, she held public affairs and production positions at C-SPAN, the cable television network, and KSFO/KYA Radio in San Francisco. Ms. Proctor currently sits on a White House advisory committee working on recovery efforts in the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast states. She also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of New York City's Literacy Assistance Center, sits on the board of PENCIL and is President of the M.R. Robinson Fund. She is a former member of The Center for Corporate Citizenship's International Advisory Board. Ms. Proctor is a recipient of the 2004 PR News "Community Relations Executive of the Year."
Ms. Proctor founded the Scholastic CDF Fellows Program in the summer of 2002 and has been the Director of the program since its launch. On July 12th, 2007, she sat down with her intern for a brief Q&A.
Q: Could you please tell us more about what inspired you to create and found the Scholastic CDF Fellows Program and how the program came about?
A: In October 2000, I attended a Children's Book Roundtable hosted by the Children's Defense Fund at the Haley Farm in Tennessee. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together authors, illustrators, scholars, librarians, publishers, booksellers, and reviewers to address ways to develop and nurture high quality African American children's literature. During the gathering, roundtable participants raised a number of issues, from the need to generate greater awareness of the literature available to the need to advocate for more diversity within the publishing industry. The latter issue was thoroughly discussed as it was acknowledged that there was a serious dearth of diversity among executives in editorial and marketing positions. Roundtable participants felt that this lack of diversity was a major obstacle in the cultivation and promotion of multicultural literature for children. At the conclusion of the meeting, Scholastic agreed to work with the Children's Defense Fund on the issue of diversity in publishing. The work resulted in the Scholastic Children's Defense Fund Fellows program. The program, which we launched in summer 2002, is an initiative designed to address this issue and reach out to a diverse college population to increase interest in children's publishing. This 10-week program is now an integral part of Scholastic's ongoing commitment to promote diversity in the publishing industry.
Q: Prior to coming to Scholastic, did you know in what direction you wanted to take its Community Affairs Department?
A: Although Scholastic already had a tradition, with its Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and in its credo, both of which show a deep social commitment to using its assets to benefit kids and communities, it did not have a bon-a-fide Public Affairs program in practice that would allow it to fully realize its social mission and leverage its social investments. Our initial work revolved around defining our social mission and then experimenting with different types of outreach programs and strategies. First we created the Book Grants program to address the issues that many children from disadvantaged communities do not have access to quality children's books. Then, we worked to develop our other signature initiatives.
Q: How do you think your department's work compares to that of other divisions of Scholastic?
A: Similar to Corporate Communications, we work to manage corporate reputation and positioning among various publics, management, stakeholder engagement—in some direct ways supporting the bottom line. We have a strong commitment from the President and CEO Richard Robinson, and the Company's senior management team, which allows us to do our work, unencumbered by some of the issues our peers in other companies have to deal with. Our core roles are to fulfill the Company's social mission and to ensure via our government relations work that we protect the Company's business investments in the public policy arena.
Our core strategy is what we call "publishing to address an issue." Whether it is Read and Rise or Lee y serás®, we are going to create quality outreach materials that address the particular issue. Then we build solid collaborative relationships with agencies and organizations that commit to integrating our materials in comprehensive outreach programs. The strategy is working very well.
Q: What do you think has been your greatest personal achievement?
A: I get the biggest charge out of developing initiatives that have a significant impact on people we aim to serve. So for us to know people who have participated in the Read and Rise or Lee y serás® program are actually adapting behaviors that are going to improve their children's early literacy skills—that's huge! That is what matters.
Q: What is the most exciting thing you've done lately?
A: My trip to South Africa! I took seven teenagers on a life changing adventure to that country. We had opportunities to tour various regions of the country and meet interesting people.
Q: After participating in the Scholastic Children's Defense Fund Fellows program, it is clear that you have a distinct leadership style that encompasses truly trying to mentor those under you. Did you have a mentor in your career who most shaped who you are today?
A: David McGahey was my first boss and was a mentor early in my career. As a manager, he had a coaching style that inspired me to challenge myself with any task given. I've adopted that style which comes naturally because I love sports!