Women in Leadership Profile: Tanya Knight

By Deb Moller

Most people, counting down the five or ten years until retirement age, would never consider tackling a doctoral program.

Tanya Knight isn’t like most people.

As Tanya says, “As long as I’m healthy, why not keep going? After all, I might live forty more years!” She doesn’t expect her learning, her growth, or her contributions to be limited just because her driver’s license shows a certain age.

Tanya joked that she’s never paid much attention to her age. A story her family still laughs at happened decades ago, when one of her five children asked her how old she was. Tanya wasn’t quite sure. Her children were astonished. But not paying close attention to her age may be one reason Tanya has succeeded in forging a career that many would have declared unlikely.

Building a family of five children was Tanya’s first career. It was the one she expected to follow forever, the one she’d been raised to embrace. She homeschooled the children and loved her role. But she wanted more.

When Tanya’s youngest child was getting closer to the teenage years, she decided to earn a two-year degree in Information Technology at Peninsula College. It occurred to other people that she might be too old to branch out from her first career. It didn’t occur to Tanya.

It wasn’t easy juggling the demands of her coursework and the needs of her family. Tanya noted that taking the long-term view and jumping on opportunities as they came helped her get through. During her long career in education, Tanya has advised many students. She reminds them that even if they can’t be employed in their field immediately because of family or other responsibilities, it is important to get ready for the time when life changes and new possibilities arise.

After Tanya earned her AA degree, Peninsula College launched a new bachelor’s program in Applied Management, with classes held at night. The schedule was key to launching Tanya toward her next degree. To complete her studies, she needed a 500-hour internship. Through her church, Tanya had a background in putting on emergency preparedness fairs. A local Emergency Manager selected her for an internship that included work on multiple tabletop exercises. Tanya notes that she has done such a variety of vivid tabletops that she feels she has lived through many disasters, even though her actual disaster experience is limited.

Tanya was first in her class as she finished her bachelor’s degree. She was chosen to be a commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t the youngest in her class; it did matter that she hadn’t let the inevitable bad days and doubts stop her progress.

With her experience as a tenured professor in Information Technology, several national certifications in the IT field, three cutting-edge certifications earned from IBM in 2020, a Ph. D in Educational Leadership and Administration granted in 2021. After many years working in various roles related to Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Tanya is undoubtedly ready for the next opportunity that comes along. Don’t be surprised when you see her children and grandchildren cheering her on in whatever is next, still laughing at the family story of the woman who can’t quite remember how old she is.

Deb Moller

Deb Moller is the former public-private partnerships manager at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. She is a senior fellow at the Center of Excellence, Homeland Security -Emergency Management. As principal of Moller Consulting, Deb has over ten years of experience assisting local, state, federal and tribal governments, as well as private profit and not-for-profit organizations, achieve performance goals. Deb’s experience includes twenty years designing and managing adult education and job training programs for marginalized populations. She holds an M.A. in applied behavioral science from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Cascadia Calling, a community based earthquake preparedness organization.

Information on this profile is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not engaged in rendering professional advice or services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with an professional adviser. Opinions expressed here represent the viewpoints of individuals authoring the profile and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Center of Excellence.

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