Founding Director

About Jerry Varsava

Jerry Varsava at KIAS launch eventDr. Jerry Varsava holds a BA and MA in Comparative Literature and Aesthetics from the University of Helsinki, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Vanderbilt University. He spent the first part of his career in the Department of English at Memorial University, moving through the ranks to the level of Full Professor in 1998. He joined the University of Alberta in 1999 as a department Chair. After an extended period of administrative service in a variety of roles at the departmental, Faculty, and university levels, he is now back to full-time teaching. He is jointly appointed to the Department of English and Film Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, and teach courses in both departments. He takes an interest in pretty much anything related to matters international--travel, current events, cultural developments, cuisine, etc.
During the early part of of his career, his research focused on American and continental postmodern fiction, e.g., Robert Coover, John Edgar Wideman, Thomas Pynchon, Peter Handke, Italo Calvino, among others. In recent years, he has turned his attention to a constellation of less experimental, but equally important writers. In line with this, He has published on such novelists as Don DeLillo, Michel Houellebecq, Jiang Rong, and Ha Jin. He reviews academic monographs on a regular basis. His current major research project examines the depiction of economic life in global fiction of the early twenty-first century, focusing on novels by, among other, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Auster, and Chan Koonchung.

Message from Jerry Varsava

KIAS celebrated its second year of operation in 2011-2012, and the first year in which all of its research programs were fully in place. While KIAS’s 2011-2012 Annual Report lays out in detail KIAS’s manifold activities over the course of the year, I would like to highlight here some noteworthy achievements. Consistent with its mandate to advance interdisciplinary research excellence in the humanities, social, sciences, and fine arts across the entire University of Alberta, KIAS’s grants supported research in fully ten Faculties: ALES, Arts, Augustana, Business, Campus Saint-Jean, Education, Graduate Studies and Research, Law, Native Studies, and Physical Education and Recreation. 

Through its cluster grant program, KIAS effectively facilitated the formation of interdisciplinary research initiatives that spanned Departments and Faculties, and in the process has positioned its researchers well for future success in applying for extramural grants. KIAS also continued its leadership in the advancement of undergraduate research through the launching of its Masterclass Series. Further, KIAS’s international profile was extended through liaison and the development of strategic partnerships between KIAS and KIAS-supported researchers, and distinguished counterparts in China, South Asia, Australia, and Germany.

As my two-year term as KIAS’s Founding Director now draws to a close, I wish to express my profound gratitude to all members of KIAS’s three governing bodies for their support of KIAS and of me personally. I am particularly grateful to the Chair of the KIAS Administrative Board, Carl Amrhein, and the Chair of the KIAS Advisory Council, Ernie Ingles, for their stewardship of these important groups. Additionally, I thank Lesley Cormack, Dean of Arts, for her support of KIAS’s research mission. Further, I am grateful to KIAS Executive Manager Gillian Edwards and the members of the KIAS Research Committee for their invaluable advice to me, and for their unalloyed commitment to KIAS’s growing family of researchers. 

Finally, I wish to register my abiding and profound respect and affection for Drs. Peter and Doris Kule whose deep humanitarian values undergird their visionary philanthropy in the endowing of KIAS. I am pleased to inform KIAS’s many communities that the state of Institute is strong, and that it is well-placed to continue to meet its strategic mandate in the years to come: Advancing Humanity, Lifting the Human Spirit. 

Jerry Varsava 

Founding Director, KIAS