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Carlson, Susan Lynn

Published onJul 30, 2021
Carlson, Susan Lynn

(November 21, 1952 - )

Quick Facts

Carlson served as Professor of English (1980-2010) and Associate Provost (2001-2010) at Iowa State University.


Susan Lynn Carlson, a professor at Iowa State from 1980-2010, was born November 21st, 1952 in Des Moines, Iowa. She graduated Valedictorian of her class from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines in 1971. After high school, Carlson attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City where she majored in English. Carlson then moved to London, England in 1974 to participate in a study-abroad opportunity in theatre at the University of London. In 1975, Carlson returned to the University of Iowa and graduated with a BA in English, for which she was awarded Highest Honors. She then moved to Eugene, Oregon where she would earn her MA and PhD in English from the University of Oregon.

Upon graduation from the University of Oregon, she accepted a job from Iowa State University as an Assistant Professor in the English department. In 1985, Carlson was then promoted to Associate Professor and then to full Professor in 1990. Carlson was promoted to the department’s Assistant Chair for Faculty Development in 1997. While at Iowa State, Carlson taught many courses, including Shakespeare and Critical Theory, Women Playwrights, Contemporary British Literature, and Literary Criticism and Theory. Much of her academic work focused on comedy, British theater, women playwrights, and Shakespeare. In 1985, she held a summer research grant and took a faculty improvement leave to research current work by women playwrights in London.

Carlson, while performing the duties of a full time Professor, continued to expand on her research and published two books on comedy and dozens of journal articles. In 1985, Carlson published her first book Women of Grace: James’s Plays and the Comedy of Manners. She published her second book, entitled Women in Comedy: Rewriting the British Theatrical Tradition, in 1991. Throughout the 1990s, Carlson published journal articles in New Theatre Quarterly, Theatre Journal, Contemporary Theatre Review, and the European Studies Journal.

Carlson was immensely dedicated to improving Iowa State during her time there. During the late 1980s and 1990s, she participated in many committees, including the Women Studies Program Committee, Theater Department Promotion and Tenure Committee, the University Honors Committee, the Provost Task Force on Teacher Education, and chaired the LAS Promotion and Tenure Committee, the Library Committee, and dozens more. From 1997-2001, she participated heavily in the English Department. She was the chair of the Research Release Committee, the Publicity and Communications Committee, the Faculty Department Committee, and the Assistant Chair for Faculty Development.

In 2001, Carlson was promoted to Associate Provost. She switched much of her focus during this year to improving women’s involvement and representation on Iowa State’s campus. One of Carlson’s most proud achievements at Iowa State was the formation of the group ISU ADVANCE. When implemented, this was a 5-year NSF-funded initiative to improve recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty and women faculty of color in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The ISU branch of ADVANCE was just one of many branches across the United States dedicated to improving the work environment for all faculty members. The program identified cultures, practices, and structures that enhanced or hindered the careers of ISU faculty, with a specific focus on female faculty members. Carlson was the Principal Investigator for this program. Her job as Associate Provost for Faculty gave her the opportunity to implement ISU ADVANCE initiatives and monitor their effect on faculty.

The second project Carlson worked tirelessly to implement during her time at Iowa State was called the Arrival of Children policy, or the Family and Parental Leave Policy. This policy was meant to authorize six weeks of paid leave for eligible faculty and staff with newborn or adopted children. This policy was meant to “establish a climate and culture at Iowa State that promotes gender equity for faculty and staff as well as improve diversity and retention rates of exceptional faculty members”.

As well as her outstanding work and dedication to Iowa State, Carlson was also an active community member. She was a Board Member of the Ames Community Arts Council from 1992-94, and on the Ames Community Schools Textbook Committee. Carlson was also the PTA President and a member of the Special Budget Committee of Roosevelt School for an undisclosed number of years. Carlson was a member of Phi Beta Kappa scholastic honorary, the Modern Language Association, the American Theater Association, and the Henry James Society.

In 2010, Carlson accepted a job at the University of California, where she still works. Though she has moved on, her impact on Iowa State and on the community of Ames will endure for many years to come.

Selected Sources

Susan Carlson Papers, RS 03/01/51, University Archives, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa.

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