Maria Carlson

Professor Emerita (ret. 2014)
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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.”

In Memoriam

Reed Rankin ✝ 12/29/2019

The faculty and students in the Department Slavic Languages and Literatures are deeply saddened that one our undergraduate majors, Reed Rankin, passed away last week (12/29) in Fredonia, Kansas. Reed was a beloved student in the department and is fondly remembered by his peers and professors. He began studying Russian as a Freshman and stayed with a challenging but rewarding language for three and a half years, tackling introductory, intermediate, advanced levels, and even continuing his studies into his senior year with Russian for the Professions. We know that he was planning further study in Moscow in the next academic year, prior to matriculation at KU School of Law.

A thoughtful student, Reed often contributed insight and posed challenging questions in class. ​​ Reed’s dedication to the study of Russian language, culture, and history was tremendous and fueled by infectious curiosity. He showed great acumen in translating from Russian into English, always finding English-language equivalents for Russian cultural concepts through skillful use of one-liners from American films. We also treasured his ability to speak in fluid Russian about rural, farm life in Kansas, and the effects that natural phenomena, like floods, on a farming community. He was a pleasure to know and teach, and will be remembered for his kind and polite demeanor. Our thoughts are with Reed’s family at this time


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KU’s Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies program is one of only 12 federally-funded national resource centers in the US
Only doctoral program in Slavic Languages and Literatures between the Mississippi and the West Coast
100% of graduate students in the Slavic program had funding in academic year 2012-13
KU's Libraries house over 500,000 volumes of Slavic books and electronic editions
Two of the department’s last four doctoral candidates have won a Fulbright grants to conduct dissertation research abroad