Success: Karen Dunlap

For Karen Dunlap '75, two key skills she learned at Mount Mercy University have driven her to leadership roles throughout her life, both professionally and within organizations that aligned with her family and faith.

The two key skills that Dunlap garnered and that propelled her toward leadership were diligence and perseverance.

“Mount Mercy set the bar high, and it never occurred to me to do anything but my best, even if it meant considerable research, hard work and learning to master a problem. Mount Mercy also imbued in me a spirit of service and compassion, foundational for both my business and personal life.”

Karen (DeMeulenaere) Dunlap ‘75
Dunlap International, Inc.
Central City, Iowa

The scholarships and grants are what initially drew Dunlap to Mount Mercy. Because of family circumstances at the time, Dunlap lived with her parents and worked throughout college.

“Mount Mercy offered a great financial package I just couldn’t refuse, allowing me to live at home and continue my part-time job at Mercy Hospital, while gaining a quality education.”

Dunlap’s life path was directly informed by her openness to the greater world, even while she was still in college.

“With my Spanish degree, I expected to become a Spanish teacher. With my history degree — especially after living my junior year of college studying in Valencia, Spain — I wanted to become a diplomat. Within a month after graduation, I responded to a want-ad written in Spanish in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Thanks to the grace of God and the Spanish skills I learned at Mount Mercy, I was hired that same week by Merchants National Bank (now US Bank, Cedar Rapids) as an international banker. Little did I know this was to lead to a lifelong career in international trade.

“Today, I teach many critical aspects of export operations and use history and current events to help our clients understand the need for diplomacy in global trade. I also still use my Spanish working on transactions in Latin America for our clients. You might say my career found me.”

Dunlap’s leadership and professional achievements have been prestigiously recognized and rewarded. She has won the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” (1991) and the “Entrepreneurial Excellence Award” (1998); KCRG’s “9 Who Care Award/Jefferson Award” (2004) in recognition of public service in the community; and the U.S. “President’s E Award for Excellence in Export Service” (2015) – the highest national recognition a U.S. entity can receive for making a contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.

Led by the spirit of service and compassion fostered at Mount Mercy, Dunlap has been youth leader for Boy Scouts, Camp Fire and 4-H and church groups over the years. This past year she was elected by her parish to the North Linn Faith Formation Committee and currently leads a cluster-wide bible study program. She also finds time to volunteer on the Business Improvement Committee of the Main Street program in Central City and is on her third term for the Iowa District Export Council—part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, where she teaches export operations skills to beginners.

Her Mount Mercy experience opened her to the greater world, but also framed how she would live and love within it.

“If I had attended college elsewhere, I wouldn’t have stayed, nor met Craig, my husband of 30 years until his death in 2012, nor raised my four children here. I would have missed the life opportunities that led to my amazing career in international trade here in Iowa. All of these circumstances have allowed the lives of my family and me to center on our family, church, community, business and friends.”

Dunlap’s advice to prospective and current Mount Mercy students is worldly indeed.

“Over the years Dunlap International has hosted a number of interns. Often they were language majors trying to figure out what to do with their degrees. I highly recommend that language students seek a balance between foreign language and another skill, such as business, to ensure employability in today’s world. For all students, I advise being aware of the world around us. Ninety-five percent of the world’s population lives outside of the USA. Iowa exports more machinery than corn. We experience other cultures right in our local grocery stores and malls. We live in a global economy. With our education we can be the leaders needed in our respective careers.”

Be a Mustang. Success Follows.