Karen has worked in the not-for-profit sector for 28 years. She started as a volunteer for a homeless charity in Bury St Edmunds, before securing her first job with Stonham in 1989 working with homeless young people. She worked with a wide range of service users before becoming a senior manager in 1999.
In 2007 she took up the role of Chief Executive of Phoenix Futures, a charity that supports people recovering from drug and alcohol problems. Phoenix supports over 20,000 service users each year, employs 650 staff and over 100 volunteers. Over the last four decades Phoenix has grown from a single, pioneering residential service to a national organisation with services across community, prison and residential settings.
Karen is also a Board Member of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities, and Chair of ‘Collective Voice’ a new representative body for the drug and alcohol treatment sector.
I am sure most people look back on their university career and see it as instrumental in informing the rest of their life and that is certainly the case for me.
When I arrived at Stirling I didn’t actually know what to expect. I had done better than expected in my A Levels and at the last minute decided to try for a university a bit further away from my home in the West Midlands, England.
I had never even been to Scotland before and loved everything about Stirling – the Loch, the huge sky, Maize’s pizzas, the sense of community on campus, the hot chocolate in the Barnton Bistro.
I still have a passion for history but the real influence on my life and subsequent career choice was as a result of my involvement in the Student Union. I was welfare officer in my final year and one of my roles was to help people with their housing situation.
After university I volunteered within the homelessness sector and then spent the next 16 years working in housing.
I now run a charity that supports people with drug and alcohol issues and we are also a Housing Association. Although I live in London my organization has services all over England and in Scotland, so I still get a chance to spend time above the border.
I later went on to do a Masters in Housing at LSE which I enjoyed immensely, but nothing compares to your undergraduate experience. I don’t have the nose ring I had then and haven’t been on a demonstration for decades but I hope I haven’t lost the independence of mind and sense of social justice that Stirling nurtured.
BA (Hons) History, 1990