Dr. Maria Carlson, professor of Slavic languages & literatures, SLL director of graduate studies, and director emerita of the KU Center for Russian & East European Studies, retired from the University of Kansas in May 2014 . She first joined the KU faculty in 1987 and served as the director of the REES Center from January 1993 to August 2003, just as the USSR collapsed and the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc began to reinvent themselves. Prof. Carlson’s role was to bring the Center and Slavic studies at KU successfully through the “Time of Transition” in that world region, into the age of technology and reporting, around significant reorganization in the Department of Education, and past the national reallocation of federal and other funding as the Cold War wound down and other parts of the globe warmed up and set new priorities for our nation.
During her time as director of CREES, Prof. Carlson worked extensively on grant projects that support educational development, language proficiency testing, public administration training, student exchanges, small business development, resource center support, archival access, and educational outreach – bringing in more than $6 million in external funding into CREES. She increased the visibility and effectiveness of CREES within the University, in the state of Kansas, and nationally. She was active in Department of Education activities, presenting at meetings and conferences, and was the only national area center director invited to join the task force that developed the on-line reporting system currently used by all Title VI area centers. She also served as Vice President of the National Council of National Resource Center Directors.
After stepping down from the directorship, Prof. Carlson returned to her teaching and research in the fields of Russian literature, intellectual history, and folklore. She served as interim chair and associate chair of the Slavic Department and as the Department’s director of graduate studies. In addition to service work for the University, she has served on various advisory committees, including the AAASS Board (representing affiliates and sponsoring institutions) and the Board of Directors of NCEEER, serving as chair of the NCEEER Board for three years.
Prof. Carlson received research grants from Fulbright, IREX, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hall Humanities Center, and other agencies, several teaching awards, among them the AATSEEL National Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Post-Secondary Level, and awards for service, including the Distinguished Service Award for Academic Leadership from the International Relations Council in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2009 Prof. Carlson was inducted into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame for her many contributions to KU. In May 2014 she was awarded the Byron Alexander Graduate Mentor Award from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (a student-nominated award).
Professor Carlson’s research and publications address Russian cultural and intellectual history (18 - 21st centuries) and non-Marxist thought; Russian occult movements and speculative mysticism, current and retrospective; East Slavic folklore, Slavic mythology, Russian neo-paganism; the literature, thought, and culture of the Russian Silver Age (1885—1922), with comparative European dimension; and the work of Andrei Bely (1880—1934).
In retirement, Prof. Carlson hopes finally to meet her research quota. She is pursuing work on several projects: a general textbook on Slavic folklore and mythology, a study of the concept of corporeal revenants (unclean dead, aka “vampires”) in northern Europe (an effort of which her mentor, Dr. Felix Oinas, would have been proud), a translation of Aleksandr Blok’s “Scythians,” a companion piece to her translation of Blok’s “Twelve,” and several articles. After these projects, she plans to return to her unfinished work on Andrei Belyi’s unifinished trilogy. In Spring 2015, she deviated briefly from her research plan to realize a long-term teaching goal: she taught a class in Art History together with her colleague, Dr. Charles Eldredge, Distinguished Professor of American Art, called “Art on the Decadent Periphery: American and Russian Art and Culture, 1880-1914.”