Karen founded the Karen Dunning Fund for Women’s Studies in 1995. It was the first endowment for Women’s Studies at the University of Nebraska. Christine Scudder at the University of Nebraska Foundation assisted her in setting up the fund and suggested it go to Women’s Studies. Barbara DiBernard was the Director of Women’s Studies at UNL at the time, and it was her idea to base the award on scholarly papers.
After a successful career at IBM (see her article for PROBE, the magazine for the College of Business), Karen owned, operated, and/or founded several businesses in Lincoln and Kansas City. She was named Entrepreneur of the Year for Nebraska in 1996, served on Governor Nelson’s CEO roundtable in 1995, and attended Governor Nelson’s International Trade Mission to China, Japan, and Hong Kong in 1998. Karen also served on the Board of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Women’s Commission and Planned Parenthood. She sued IBM in 1984 for sexual discrimination.
In 1998 she sold her midwest business interests, moved to the west coast to pursue singing, acting, and standup comedy. Karen is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and sings, performs and writes songs, and plays piano and guitar. She is part owner of an entrepreneurial training company in Santa Barbara, CA, and sponsored her first “Peace Song Contest” in 2012.