Karen was born in San Antonio, Texas to two San Antonio natives, and went on to school in north Texas (Austin College in Sherman, TX). After receiving a BA in English in 1997, she completed a Master's in Literature with Honors from The Pennsylvania State University in 1999. While her interest in literature continues to this day, the roundabout goal was to work with students. From middle school onward, she had taken voluntary peer leadership roles, mostly through the Presbyterian Church, USA. This experience eventually merged with her graduate teaching experience to qualify her for a summer as a Crew Leader for the Student Conservation Association in 1998. SCA, Inc. brought her interest in nature and the environment together with youth development, and in late 1999 she joined SCA as full time staff. She was first a Program Coordinator and then Program Manager for their Diversity Internship Program, a group of about 100 college-level internships focused on introducing under-represented groups to careers in the natural sciences, environmental interpretation, and historic preservation with federal and state agencies. She moved to National 4-H Council in 2004 and was there for one year in a grants management role, in addition to maintaining many of the other program management skills she had previously developed (especially program budgets). In October 2005, she had her daughter and stayed home with her until November 2006, when she began work with the Communications Department of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. In late 2006, the family decided to relocate to Austin, TX. She left NHPCO and applied for jobs in Austin, finally landing at UT-Austin in August 2007. She worked first with the student-run Campus Environmental Center, at that time the primary mover and shaker for campus sustainability. She then moved to Facilities Services for a full time Project (Sustainability) Coordinator position in 2009, retaining the student organization advisor role and adding responsibilities in the recycling & solid waste division. In 2011, she joined the Office of Sustainability, where she brought together her program management and grants management experience, as well as youth development, into managing the Green Fee program for the campus. She also worked on staff engagement initiatives and sustainability reporting. As of July 2016, she has moved to the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER) to work on a 2030 District for Austin. Her daughter is in fifth grade, and she greatly enjoys live music, traveling, reading, handcrafts, gardening, and birding.