Karen A. Foss

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Karen A. Foss, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, Regents Professor, Presidential Teaching Fellow, and former chair of the Department of Communication & Journalism at the University of New Mexico. Karen’s research centers on the ways gender and feminist perspectives are constructed and enacted in everyday life. Her latest textbook, Gender Stories: Negotiating Identity in a Binary World (with Sonja K. Foss and Mary E. Domenico) examines the ways gender is constructed in scientific research and popular culture and the ways its construction can enable the crafting of an individual gender performance. Karen has also studied the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo; Harvey Milk’s political campaigns; Garrison Keillor’s construction of a female spectatorship in A Prairie Home Companion; surrogacy, fertility travel, and the rhetorics of motherhood; and the ways feminist rhetorical scholars construct notions of feminism and strategies for enacting feminist change. Recent projects include women bullying women, graffiti about women in Cairo during Arab spring, and a comparison of traditional and social construction paradigms of change.

Karen is the coauthor of Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric, Inviting Transformation: Presentational Speaking for a Changing World, Feminist Rhetorical Theories, Theories of Human Communication (all available from Waveland Press), and the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, available from Sage Publications.

Karen also is involved in a project, with Ann Skinner-Jones, called Color Up, in which the metaphor of the color wheel is used as a vehicle for moving beyond binary thinking and constructing more and different options for making life decisions. Based on a model of colorful abundance, five interactive techniques are offered for working with life dilemmas differently. These techniques are captured in the acronym of COLOR:  Connect, to make new space for change; Optimize, to identify new options; Lighten up , to focus on appreciation and the more playful side of life; Oops, to allow for a U-turn when you realize you want a different choice; and Radiate, to stay  centered and aware of your Color-Full possibilities.

Karen was awarded the Paul Boase prize for scholarship from Ohio University in 2015, The Robert J. Kibler Service Award from the National Communication Association in 2010, the Gender Scholar of the Year from the Southern States Communication Association in 2005, and the Francine Merritt Award in 2002 for contributions to the lives of women in communication.

Karen Foss and her twin sister, Sonja K. Foss, who is also a rhetorical scholar and educator in communication, were born in Portland, Oregon, on January 26, 1950, and grew up in Eugene, Oregon. 

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Karen A. Foss
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Kristina Igliukaite