Profiles in intrapreneurship: Alumna finds herself in education

By

Meghan Krein

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Alumna Nicolle Karantinos (EdD ’09) took that advice — and found that it worked. Karantinos’s first career was as a financial planner, but she wasn’t happy. She craved the passion and commitment her husband and sister, both educators, had for their careers. Wanting a taste of what they had, Karantinos began volunteering at a local junior high school. “That was the moment I knew I wanted to go into education,” she says.

Nicolle Karantinos

In 1992, Karantinos received her teaching certificate. “I’ve been thankful for that decision every day since.” Thankful, but not content. She went on to receive her master’s degree and held several education positions in Chandler, including dean of students, adjunct professor and assistant principal. But still, Karantinos was hungry for more. In 2009, she earned her doctorate of education from ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and is now the chief academic officer of all six ASU Preparatory Academies. 

As chief academic officer, Karantinos oversees academics and innovative projects at all campuses. “ASU Prep students are encouraged to explore college majors and career disciplines through apprenticeships with ASU faculty and community organizations,” Karantinos says, adding, “We have a 100 percent four-year high school graduation rate and a 100 percent post-secondary acceptance rate.”

Raising the bar

Karantinos says innovation is key to success in her career, “Last year, at our Phoenix campus, we identified a need to increase student interest and exposure to STEM-related fields, beginning in middle school.” Her team worked with students, teachers and the community and forged a partnership with the Arizona Science Center. Thanks to this partnership, Karantinos’s students invent, design and fabricate materials for use in the community. “Innovation is a collaborative process and the reason ASU Prep has been able to move so quickly,” she says.

“I have high expectations for myself, and hold others to a high standard as well,” Karantinos says, when asked about her leadership style. That said, she’s quick to give credit where credit is due, “I am fortunate to have had great mentors throughout my career and have surrounded myself with talented people. I identify and build on the strengths of others.”

Along with her mentors, Karantinos credits Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, “MLFTC surrounded me with world-class professors, immersed me in best-practice research, expanded my knowledge of educational models, and challenged me to take action to improve education to prepare me for my role in education.” One of the best parts of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, she says, is the community — even after graduation. “I still keep in contact with a number of my professors and classmates, and we will continue to work together to positively impact our community.”

Partnering for success

She’s not just saying that, either. Karantinos offers a prime example, regarding the challenge of combining student experiences and the teacher shortage. “We are partnering with Molina Waters from MLFTC to place her science methods students at our Poly STEM K–8 site where they’re able to begin observations and work with teachers and students at an earlier stage.” The goal is to immerse prospective teachers in a “real” setting with the support of their professor, help solidify their career choice and provide unique opportunities for volunteering and paid internships. “The partnership,” says Karantinos, “benefits prospective teachers, our students and teachers, and the community.”

You might say STEM holds a special place in Karantinos’s heart. “I am committed to utilizing science and technology to help drive positive change in our community.” Karantinos was part of the team that created teacher trainings for ASU Prep’s elementary and middle school teachers to prepare them to develop STEM interest and skills. “We utilize Cambridge International Examinations to leverage state law and create flexible high school pathways for students to participate in competitive internships.”

She stresses that there is a need to think differently about delivering personalized education to all students. “We are beyond comparing students to the ‘average’ that has never existed,” she says. “We have an obligation to meet the individual learner and tailor the education based on skills and interests. We need to be student-centered.”

With a demanding career, a husband and two teenage sons, there leaves little time for much else. But, when something is important to you, you make time. And that’s what Karantinos did with Women in Philanthropy. “A friend encouraged me to join, and I am so happy to be surrounded by such accomplished and generous women committed to the vision of ASU.” The foundation of the group is to inspire and empower women to become visionary investors through a collective force to support ASU’s charter. “I have served on the education committee and currently am a member of the investment committee. Other than making great friends, I enjoy being a part of the process to listen and review different projects for funding.”