Faculty You Should Know: Karen Mitchell

Karen Mitchell has had an outstanding career in performance. She has been a communication studies professor in Performance Studies at UNI for more than 22 years and was recently awarded the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Distinguished Performance by the National Communication Association (NCA).

Karen Mitchell
Mitchell was recently awarded the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Distinguished Performance by the NCA.

Mitchell's love for performance began at a young age when she was active in high school musicals and plays, but it wasn't until her senior year when two drama and speech coaches sparked her interest in majoring in speech and theatre education.

She has brought her expertise and passion for theatre to UNI's Interpreter's Theatre that serves as a sort of laboratory space for students and faculty to devise new performance works for classes and productions.

Her other directing work, which spans almost 40 years, includes stage adaptations of novels, hybrid works such as an ethno drama of romance readers, such as "The Rainbow Season: Romancing the Romance," and investigations of popular culture icons such as "Barbie Undone." Most recently she collaborated with UNI Professor Jennifer Cooley on "Carne Viva: Stories of Monarchs and Madres in Postville,"a play based on the largest United States immigration raid which took place in Postville, Iowa in 2008.

She has been a long-time champion for gender violence prevention programs and founded the Students Against a Violence Environment (SAVE) Forum Actors, a peer theatre troupe dedicated to preventing gender violence on campus.

"I've been blessed with outstanding students regardless of where I have taught.," says Mitchell. "What made me stay at UNI were the opportunities presented to me. UNI has been a place that allows me to be creative and challenge myself academically."

So what does one do after receiving one of the most prestigious awards from NCA? Mitchell says, "I'm in the final decade of my career, so in some ways this is a 'lifetime achievement' honor for me, which doesn't mean I'm finished doing creative work; I'm not. If anything, this honor rejuvenates me and reminds me of all that I still want to accomplish."