Image of Doctor Karen Head
Karen Head


Center of Arts and Innovation

Dr. Head is Missouri S&T's Director of Arts & Innovation, Professor of English and Technical Communication, Editor of the Atlanta Review, Poet Laureate of Fulton County, Georgia, and Visiting Scholar and Artist at Technische-Universität-Dortmund. She has an A.A. from DeKalb College, a B.A. from Oglethorpe University, an M.A. from the University of Tennessee, and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska.

Overview and Research Interests

Head’s background in and advocation of the liberal arts and humanities is the foundation for her work, something she has balanced successfully with being part of institutions most known for their STEM profiles. Her scholarly output spans several disciplinary lines, often as interdisciplinary work, to include work in the fine arts, education, social science, and broad-based humanities. She joined S&T in 2021 after seventeen years on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Her work connects three main areas of scholarship, all within the general areas of creativity, writing, and rhetoric. She was part of a team awarded a Gates Foundation grant to develop a MOOC on college writing, and has presented and published widely about the experience. Her scholarship about higher education rhetoric, especially in the area of technology-based pedagogical practices, has been internationally recognized, and she has been invited to speak at a variety of national and international events.

Head is also a writing/communication center scholar, and has been an active member in the International Writing Center Association and the Southeastern Writing Center Association. As the founding director of the Naugle Communication Center at the Georgia Tech, a state-of-the-art research and student support center, she has been frequently consulted about writing/communication center design, redesign, theory, and practice, again focusing on the area of technology-based pedagogy. From 2015-2018, Head was the editor of Southern Discourse in the Center: A Journal of Multiliteracy and Innovation.

As a creative writer and editor, Head's primary focus is poetry, but her work extends beyond traditional boundaries to include digital poetry projects that explore the intersections of traditional text-based poetry and digitally-enhanced poetry, with attention to questions about how to introduce a broad audience to a rich, new field of hybrid art that is textual, visual, oral, and digital (and in some cases, even kinesthetic). She also publishes creative non-fiction. Like her work in higher education rhetoric, her creative work has had a global impact—through the content and through its reception. Her most recent collection, Lost on Purpose, has been translated into Mandarin and was published in 2021 by Showwe Books in Taiwan. This translation collaboration is an extension of her selection to participate as a featured poet at the 2019 Formosa Poetry Festival. Lost on Purpose was a finalist for the 2020 Georgia Author of the Year Award, and one of the poems in the collection, “Proximity,” was chosen by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, for inclusion in his American Life in Poetry column, which has a readership of 4.6 million. In 2020, she co-edited an anthology of work about the Virgin Mary in popular culture, Mother Mary Comes to Me. All the proceeds from this collection will be donated to the fund to restore Black churches in the American South destroyed by arson. Forthcoming in 2022 is Perspective: New and Selected Poems, which will be a trilingual edition (German, French, and English). 

Since 2016, she has served at the Editor of the award-winning, international poetry journal, Atlanta Review.

Overall, Head’s work integrates writing, communication, and rhetoric with a commitment to interdisciplinarity, diversity, and a global focus—the results of which have had international impact through my publications, presentations, teaching, and service.

Head is extremely active in community service—serving as the Chair of the Oglethorpe University Museum Board, as a member of the Georgia State University Perimeter College Advisory Board, and as the Secretary of the Poetry Atlanta Board. She also serves as the Waffle House Poet Laureate, a title that reflects her outreach program to use the arts to encourage students in rural high schools to consider paths toward college, a distinction that has received extensive media coverage, including in The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Poetry Foundation. In 2019, she was honored with the Georgia Tech Outstanding Service Award, the highest award in service granted by the institute. In 2020, she was named the inaugural Fulton County (Georgia) Poet Laureate, representing the 1.1 million residents of the county and the City of Atlanta. 

Media about Dr. Head’s Work

Select Publications

  • Disrupt This!: MOOCs and the Promises of Technology. UP of New England, 2017.
  • Perspective: New and Selected Poems, in English, German, and French (forthcoming in 2022)
  • Lost on Purpose. Iris Press, 2019.
  • Lost on Purpose (translation into Mandarin by Lee Kuei-shien). Showwe Books, 2021.
  • Mother Mary Comes to Me: A Pop Culture Poetry Anthology. Eds. Karen Head and Collin Kelley. Madville Press, 2020.
  • Teaching as a Human Experience: An Anthology of Poetry. Eds. Karen Head and Patrick Blessinger. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015.
  • On Occasion: Four Poets, One Year, with Blake Leland, JC Reilly, and Robert E. Wood. Poetry Atlanta Press, 2014.
  • Sassing. WordTech Editions, 2009.
  • My Paris Year. Winner of the 2008 Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Poetry. All Nations Press, 2009.
  • Shadow Boxes: Poems and Prose Poems. All Nations Press, 2003.