Karen Rowswell has been heavily involved in Edmonton’s social movements since the late 1960’s. During her time as a part-time student at the University of Alberta from 1971 to 1975, Karen was a member of various advocacy organizations including Students for a Democratic University (SDU), as well as groups that focused on the anti-Vietnam war and feminist movements. While attending university, Karen volunteered at the Women’s Program Centre from 1972 to 1975. The Women’s Program Centre was a student-operated organization based out of the Student’s Union Building. They provided birth control and abortion referral, correspondence with other women's groups in Edmonton and Western Canada, and a lending library of feminist writings. In addition to these services, the Women’s Program Centre organized an annual series of lectures on feminism which were well attended by students. After graduating the University of Alberta with a BA in Anthropology in 1975, Karen continued her involvement with feminist organizations while volunteering at Edmonton Women’s Place in 1975. Karen later returned to the University of Alberta in 1993 and obtained a Masters degree in Library and Information Studies.