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Karen Dunning Biography  

Karen Dunning is an enthusiastic entrepreneur, philanthropist, musician, and international traveler.


Karen has extensive experience with private enterprise, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Her business skills were formed at IBM, where she specialized in selling technology products to companies in the finance industry.  This experience provided the foundation for her to successfully start, operate, and grow her own multi-million-dollar businesses (Data Source Media, Computer Products, and Business Media, Inc.). On four separate occasions, her companies were named to Inc. Magazine’s "500 Fastest Growing Privately Owned Businesses." She had one of the first commercial websites and sold a line of computer projection/presentation equipment internationally. 

Named Nebraska Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996, Karen was invited to attend a meeting at the President Clinton White House with other business owners.  That same year, she was the only Nebraska business owner invited to attend a White House Summit, held in Chicago, Illinois.  She served as a member of Nebraska Governor Ben Nelson’s CEO Roundtable, and participated in trade missions to Japan, Hong Kong, and China.  She was invited to join the Nebraska Diplomats and Rotary Club. 

Upon selling her business interests in the Midwest and moving to California in 1997, Karen formed the Dunning Group, Inc./MENTORmania.  Dunning Group specializes in helping individuals and companies realize their potential, and to expand their view. The company has three divisions: Entrepreneurship, Mentoring Programs/Products, and Presentation Equipment.

She has personally worked with hundreds of companies, government agencies, and schools, including Microsoft, H&R Block, Hallmark Cards, Mutual of Omaha, Sprint, 3Com, and AMC Theaters. In addition to her work with international corporations, Karen has helped many nonprofit organizations, in many cases, serving as a member of the Board of Directors, including the Nebraska Arts Council, Lincoln Lancaster Women’s Commission, Planned Parenthood, and RSAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Center) now called Voices of Hope, in addition to investing in and raising funds for entrepreneurial training workshops for young girls.


Karen was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska and earned a Bachelor of Science of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL).  She minored in Spanish and spent her junior year studying abroad at the University of Seville, Spain. She continues to be an active alumnus, supporting the success of students. She mentors and serves as a Judge at Entrepreneurial Conferences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she founded the Karen Dunning Fund Endowment to provide scholarships to students. More recently, she served as a Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship at American University in Yola, Nigeria.

While in California, Karen pursued her love of music by earning an Associates of Arts Degree in Music at the College of Marin.  She is a singer, songwriter, and composer and plays piano and guitar, performing a variety of American standards, folk songs, show tunes, and classical music. Since 1998, she has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), along with ASCAP, NSAI, and West Coast Songwriters.  She has acted and sang in many movies, TV shows, and live stage productions, most notably, playing a doctor for one season of the TV show, "Chicago Hope."  She has also performed stand up comedy.  In addition, Karen founded and sponsored an International Peace Song contest in 2012.

In addition to her philanthropic work, Karen has been politically active for many years, advocating for causes that are important to her and singing for charity and political events.

Summary of  Accomplishments:

  • Founder, Karen Dunning Fund for Women’s Studies Endowment, University of Nebraska, Lincoln -1996 to present

  • Speaker/Judge, University of Nebraska Entrepreneurial Conferences

  • Mission to China, Japan and Hong Kong, with Governor Nelson - 1998

  • Nebraska Entrepreneur of the Year - 1996

  • Participant, White House Summit (to develop US business strategy for the White House) - 1996

  • Speaker, Governor Nelson’s "CEO Roundtable" - 1995

  • "YWCA Tribute to Women" Award Winner and speaker - 1994

  • Charter Member & Officer, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)

  • Trainer and investor An Income of Her Own (IMI) Entrepreneurial Programs for Youth

  • Chair, Stephanie Johann’s County Commissioner Campaign 

  • Rotary Member, Nebraska Diplomat, Chamber of Commerce-Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines and Lincoln, Lincoln Independent Business Association

  • Member, Chancellor's Club, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (Established an Endowment to the University)

  • Alumni Advisory Board, University of Nebraska, College of Business Administration

  • Lifetime Alumnus, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

  • Board Member, Nebraska Arts Council 

  • Vice President and Board Member, Lincoln Lancaster County Commission on the Status of Women

  • Member, Nova Business and Professional Women

  • Former President, Data Processing Managers Association 

  • Treasurer & Board Member, Planned Parenthood

  • Steering Committee for Capital Campaign Fundraising, Planned Parenthood

  • Co-Chair, "YWCA Tribute to Women":

  • Leadership Lincoln I Graduate, Leadership Lincoln Alum Club

  • Pi Beta Phi Alum Club, Junior League of Lincoln

  • United Way Volunteer, Junior Achievement Volunteer

  • Neighborhood Association Treasurer for Capitol Beach in Lincoln, NE and Sleepy Hollow in Marin County, CA.


Awards & Recognition

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