Cris Karmas, PhD

Professor of English

  • 641-784-5158

Because, as an undergraduate, I wanted to learn as much as possible, I found it almost impossible to decide on a major. Over the years, I studied music, foreign languages (French, German, Greek, Italian, and Russian), philosophy, and world literature — accumulating awards for distinguished scholarship that intensified an interest in interdisciplinarity and diversity.

As a graduate student — and NDEA IV Fellowship recipient — I continued an exploration of diverse interests, submitting a thesis (on Greek Political Humor) and earning two MA degrees (in Philosophy and English) before completing PhD exams in four areas (Critical Theory, Folklore, The Novel, and The Literature of the Eighteenth Century) and a dissertation (on Life-Story-Telling). Following my graduate studies, I worked as an editor/translator (in Greece), a college teacher (in Spain and Connecticut), a technical/business writer, and a learning center director (in Washington, DC).

Working at Graceland since 1999, I have had the chance to teach in many of the Division of Humanities programs. In support of my varied instructional responsibilities, I have pursued a research interest in teaching and learning by publishing on the use of active learning in the humanities, communications, composition, business writing, and foreign language classrooms. I was honored, in 2012, to receive the Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award. And, for many years, I have been privileged to represent Graceland as an active participant at inspiring international conferences (in Austria, England, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland) designed to explore perspectives on the globalization of education. A lifelong learner, I have worked hard to transform inspiration into instruction—preparing my 21st century students for success in the knowledge society by helping them learn to learn.

Since moving to Iowa — and with the help of students, colleagues, and neighbors — I have learned new ways of thinking, doing, and seeing. From my student-athletes, for example, who rise at dawn to lift weights or swim laps, I have learned to think positively about exercising — about the discipline and dedication required just to stay fit. Similarly, from my sage colleagues — skilled at teaching in ways they were not taught — I have learned to revitalize the lecture, reconfigure the furniture, and exit the stage so that my humanities scholars might enter the conversation. And from my neighbors — who listen patiently to my tall tales of net-fishing, windsurfing, ice skating, and snow skiing — I have learned to view the Iowa plains as perfect for long walks with two-footed and four-footed friends.

If the day were longer — or the to-do list shorter — I would write music and study languages, beloved pursuits of years past. Born in Argentina and raised in California, the elder daughter of multilingual Russian and German artists, I grew up amid the diverse sounds and colors of pianists, painters, and pets. Nowadays, when I am not busy grading or writing papers, I enjoy spending time with my four roommates: Noelle (a Shih Tzu whose hobbies include watching TV) and The Three Stooges (Raus, Scat, and Quatsch — a cat trio that likes teasing Telly Nelly).

Office Location

Briggs Hall