In 1985, Karen convinced football head coach Rich Brooks and the University of Oregon to hire her as a sports psychologist to work with the players and create culture changing programs for the team.
A few years later, the Ducks clinched a spot in a bowl game for the first time in 26 years, which helped launch her career in the athletic department. She was then hired as the Director of Student Athlete Sports Psychology & Counseling for all the sports programs.
Her team helped built an NCAA Life Skills Program known as SOAR (Scholastic Excellence, Outstanding Character, Athletic Achievement and Responsibility) as well as Adopt a Duck.
Over the years she helped pave the way for several women in athletics, many who have gone on to do great things.
“Women loved what we were doing and five of them became my assistants over the years,” Nelson said. “Helping further their careers was an important part of what I was doing at the athletic department.”
Nelson helped over 1,000 student-athletes over the years and retired as an assistant athletic director for the Ducks.
When asked what she wants for women everywhere, Nelson replied, “The first steps you take towards your dream are the most difficult. They propel the ones which follow. Steps that would not have happened, had you not taken the first.”