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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

Faculty and Staff

Karen Lear Edwards, J.D.

Title: Interim Associate Dean / Academic Programs, Interim Co-Director / BAIS and Online Programs
Senior Instructor / Faculty Mentor
Department: Department of Retailing
College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management
Phone: 803-777-5216
Fax: 803-777-5693
Office: Close-Hipp 719 and 819
Resources: Curriculum vitae
ORCID Connecting Research with Researchers 
Karen Lear Edwards, senior instructor, Retailing


J.D., University of South Carolina School of Law
B.A., Coker College
C.H.E., American Hotel and Lodging Association
QM® Reviewer, Quality Matters


Karen Edwards serves as interim associate dean of academic programs as well as interim co-director / BAIS and online programs and is a senior instructor in the Department of Retailing at the University of South Carolina. Recipient of the University’s 2019 Garnet Apple Award for Teaching Innovation, the 2017 Faculty Integrity Award, and the 2010-11 Harry E. Varney Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, Edwards teaches in the areas of digital commerce, asset protection and law-related issues affecting retailers. Edwards has developed numerous undergraduate and graduate-level courses, such as Law for Retailers, Fashion and the Law and Asset Protection for Retailers. She has also led numerous study abroad programs and co-developed the University’s first-ever virtual study abroad course. In 2016, Edwards received the Brian J. and Linda L. Mihalik Global Scholar Award. She is a frequent presenter and past associate director for distributed learning at the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), where she presently serves as a faculty mentor for individualized coaching. 

Edwards’ research focuses on legal issues affecting retailers/service providers and best practices in online learning. In 2019, she was named a Fulbright Specialist through the U.S. State Department. She was elected to the Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) board of directors in 2022. Edwards' research has been published in International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, Journal of Retail and Consumer Services, Tourism Management, Sport Marketing Quarterly, and other scholarly publications. Her work has been presented at various conferences, including the University of Queensland Digital Service Transformation Summit, Quality Matters annual conference,  the Association of Marketing Theory and Practice, and Online Learning Consortium Accelerate. She is a reviewer for Journal of Business Research, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Journal of Services Marketing, and Bloomsbury/Fairchild Publishing.

Prior to arriving at USC, Edwards practiced law with Duff, White and Turner, L.L.C., a firm serving public school districts and colleges across South Carolina. Her practice, which focused on employment law and education law, included significant amounts of workforce training on legal matters for her clients. Before attending law school, Edwards worked for a number of years in retail management, including roles as a merchandise coordinator, human resources manager and corporate trainer. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and her bachelor's degree from Coker University (formerly College) in Hartsville, S.C. Edwards is a past chair of Coker's Board of Trustees, and a member of the South Carolina Bar Association, South Carolina Women in Higher Education, American Collegiate Retailing Association and American MENSA.

In the Media


  • Online learning in higher education
  • Legal issues in retailing and service industries
  • Counterfeit fashion products

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