Professor Tracy is Chair of the Department of Communication. She is a discourse analyst who studies problems in justice-, education-, and governance-linked institutions. Through close study of a communication practice, in combination with interviews of participants, and analysis of documents (e.g., minutes, web pages, legal opinions), she seeks to build a picture of participants' problems and dilemmas, the conversational strategies they use, and their ideals of good conduct. Her past research has focused on academic colloquia, school board meetings, and exchanges between citizens and police/911 call-takers. Her most recent book is Challenges of Ordinary Democracy: A Case Study in Deliberation and Dissent (Penn State University Press).
Professor Tracy has received two lifetime achievement awards: She has been elected a Distinguished Scholar in the National Communication Association and was elected a Fellow of the International Communication Association. She is currently at work on a book,Disputing Who Can Marry: Discourses of Law, Identity, and Social Change.
Karen teaches classes examining links between everyday talk and identities, the practice and problems of meetings, and communication in the justice system. She also teaches a variety of methods courses including discourse analysis and qualitative and quantitative methods. In the graduate program she is part of the Discourse & Society emphasis. Her favorite part of teaching is the individual mentoring she gets to do with students.