M. Karen Walker, Ph.D., is a strategic communications specialist with 30 years of experience in writing and editing, advocacy and reputation management, change communications, and stakeholder and employee engagement. She began her career as a speechwriter and public affairs officer with the U.S. Information Agency in 1990, and then joined the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to support sustainability R&D and policy initiatives. She returned to Foggy Bottom in 1997 as a subject matter expert and foreign affairs officer. During her tenure, she supported global and regional environmental diplomacy programs and training, advocated for U.S. businesses investing in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, managed commercial diplomacy initiatives in developing countries, and co-led technical assistance and public diplomacy programs in the Middle East and North Africa. While conducting her dissertation research, she was appointed a Franklin Fellow from 2009-2011, serving as grants manager for democracy and governance programs in Iraq.
Karen joined Booz Allen Hamilton in 2011, managing communication programs and serving as a speechwriter for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Research Directorate and GEOINT Enterprise Directorate, and supporting the public affairs team at the National Counterterrorism Center. Karen’s experience in the counterterrorism field includes government service in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, where she managed public affairs for the Office of Research and Development, served in the secretariat of the National Science and Technology Council, and launched a nascent research program to understand and exploit terrorist motivation and intent. She also served as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Fund for Peace, to assist in the framing and launch of the organization’s threat convergence policy program. She has published on the topic of information warfare, authored book reviews for Terrorism and Political Violence, and taught rhetorical criticism applied to the terrorism studies domain.
Leveraging her experience as a foreign affairs officer, Karen earned her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland College Park in May 2014, dissertating on the rhetorical dimension of soft power diplomacy. She has authored essays published in the Hague Journal of Diplomacy and Poroi and continues to conduct research relevant to diplomatic tradecraft.
She lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, and is currently employed as a communications manager in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, supporting the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Karen is an adjunct faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Advanced Academic Programs, where she teaches/has taught speechwriting, corporate social responsibility communication campaigns, and international PR and public diplomacy. She is a member of the Public Diplomacy Council of America, the National Communication Association and Southern States Communication Association, and the Kenneth Burke Society.