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2019 Seehra Lecture

Commuter Marriage: Women Negotiating Work and Family

Karla Bergen will discuss her research on the challenges of women who initiate commuter marriage, with spouses spending the workweek (and sometime weeks and months) apart. The rise of couples who choose the commuter marriage arrangement specifically for women’s career advancement, education and other reasons has led to unique relational and social challenges often based on conventional gender roles. In addition, she will speak to the communicative practices that help to successfully maintain spousal relationships in spite of physical distance. 

About the Speaker 

Karla Bergen
Karla Mason Bergen is an associate professor at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, where she has served as the program director for communication studies, director of general education and coordinator of women’s studies. She received the Inspiring Excellence Award for her commitment to the institutional mission of the all-women’s Mercy university. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006 with a PhD in interpersonal and family communication as well as a graduate specialization in women and gender studies. Her teaching interests center on interpersonal, gender and family communication. Her research focuses on issues related to women’s communicative construction of identity. Her research on communication in and about commuter marriage, work spouse relationships and lesbian families has been published in a number of edited volumes and journals including Journal of Applied Communication, Journal of Family Communication and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. She has presented her work internationally and has been frequently interviewed and cited by popular press sources in the U.S. and abroad for her expertise on work-life relationships, including commuter marriage and work spouses. 

She has been active with her local chapter of the American Association of University Women, where she served as vice president for program planning. She was named an American fellow by the national AAUW, receiving a research grant to study women in commuter marriages. In her personal life, she has been married to her husband, Terry, for 43 years, has two adult children, Ann and Michael, and takes great joy in her four grandchildren. She is also an avid amateur genealogist and collector of Early American Pattern Glass.

About the Seehra Lecture Series

The Mohindar Singh Seehra Endowment was created to benefit WVU's Center for Women’s and Gender Studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and provides funds to host a guest speaker to explore topics related to the challenges involved in combining and balancing a professional career with a family life for the modern woman in the workplace. The Seehra Lecture Series was established by Mohindar Seehra, the Eberly Distinguished Professor Emeritus, and supports the professional development of women. Seehra has guided the research and careers of 65 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, including more than two dozen women. He retired in August 2016 after 47 years of teaching and research at WVU. Learn more about the lecture series.