New Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academics Embraces an Interdisciplinary Approach

Richard Carp, Vice Provost for Undergraduate AcademicsRichard Carp, the new vice provost for undergraduate academics, is a man of many interests. His scholarly writings span the fields of material culture, art, philosophy, film and world religions. Not surprisingly, his field of expertise is interdisciplinary studies.

Carp, who took office in July, says he was drawn to the College because of its liberal arts and religious traditions. "Saint Mary's has a long and distinguished history in the Lasallian tradition, integrating religion, action for social justice in solidarity with the poor, and liberal arts as the arts of freedom," he says.

He has also been involved in the world of theatre much of his life and has played a number of roles, including Oedipus and Hamlet. He came to San Francisco in 1967, lived in the Haight-Ashbury district and was part of an experimental theatre group that at one time included 63 people spread across seven houses. It existed under many names, including the Bay Theatre Collective, New Stage and simply Alotavus.

When he and his wife, Jan, had children, who are now in their early 20s, he shifted his energies to scholarly pursuits but never lost his interest in the arts. Carp received his B.A. in political science from Stanford University, an M.A. in religion and art from the Pacific School of Religion, and a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

He came to Saint Mary's from Appalachian State University, where he chaired the departments of Art, Foreign Languages and Interdisciplinary Studies. He has also held leadership positions at the School of Visual Art at Northern Illinois University, the Kansas City Art Institute and the Art Institute of Southern California.

Carp says he plans to bring an interdisciplinary and multicultural perspective to Saint Mary's, encouraging collaborations across the schools.

"The College is like a weaving," he says. "The schools are the warp. The things we do – Jan Term, Seminar, international programs – are the weft that binds the weaving together and creates the pattern."

He will also establish a vice provost's student advisory committee and will work closely with the Core Curriculum Committee on the rollout of the revised core curriculum by fall 2012.

Carp says he appreciates the "open conversation about spirituality" at the College. He has been interested in both spirituality and theatre since his days as an acolyte in an Episcopal church in San Antonio. "There's an element of theatre in the service," he noted.

Carp's interest in spirituality intensified when he had a severe allergic reaction to a wasp bite at age 6 and had a near-death experience. The memory of it colors his view of the world even now.

For one thing, he says, he realized that the rest of his life was a bonus. "I live most of the time with a pretty deep sense of gratitude," he says, quoting Meister Eckhart, the 13th century German theologian and mystic: "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."

Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications