Lori M. Carris was born in Jackson, MI. She received a B.S. degree in horticulture from Michigan State University in 1979, an M.S. degree from Washington State University (WSU) in 1983, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1986. After working as a post-doctoral research associate at Rutgers University’s Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center, Carris joined the Department of Plant Pathology at WSU in 1989 as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor in 1995. Her research and teaching responsibilities are in systematic mycology.
Since 1989, Carris has taught mycology in the WSU Department of Plant Pathology. She has taught General Mycology (Pl P 521) since 1990, and taught advanced mycology courses in Lower Fungi and Basidiomycetes from 1989 to 2000. In 2004, Carris developed two new courses, Advanced Fungal Biology (Pl P 526) and Molds, Mildews, Mushrooms (Pl P 150). This latter course for nonscience majors has become one of the most popular courses in the college, and has introduced hundreds of students to plant pathology and mycology. In 2009, Carris was invited by the WSU Honors College to develop a three-credit course, Global Issues in the Sciences (UH 390), that uses case studies to explore how science addresses contemporary problems. She was involved in the WSU Critical Writing Project (2002, 2003), participating in a number of workshops as well as co-organizing a workshop on the Millennial Generation, “Are students changing? Should we?” In 2009, she attended the five-day University of Buffalo Case Studies in Science Teaching Summer Workshop, and recently had a case study published as part of the National Center for Case Study in Science Teaching Case Study Collection. Carris facilitated two workshops, “Using case studies for effective teaching” for WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) faculty in November 2009 and March 2010.
Carris is an extremely effective teacher who commits tremendous effort and time to the development and continuous improvement of her courses. She is always well prepared for lectures and passionate about what she teaches. Her introductory mycology course focuses on fungal taxonomy and biology. Although students find the subject matter daunting, Carris incorporates many interesting facts about fungi, and provides historical and biological information to make the course very interesting. She brings vast information to the course, which furthers students’ interest and excitement.
The introductory and upper-level mycology courses have laboratory components that beautifully complement the lectures. Carris has an infectious energy and is excited about each specimen observed and each “unknown” brought into the classroom. Her knowledge of fungi is extensive and invaluable in identifying fungi. She is extremely interactive in the classroom, ensuring that each student understands the material they examine. Carris challenges students, using questions to encourage them to think about mycological characteristics they observe and to find the answers for themselves. Carris created a website for each course she teaches for students to access additional web-based information on the subjects.
This excellence in teaching is evidenced by Carris’ high teaching scores. In 2010, Carris received the WSU CAHNRS R. M. Wade Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award.
Carris strives to incorporate the latest in teaching innovations and technology in her courses as seen from her participation in the WSU CAHNRS Experiential Learning Workshops, Strategies for Recruiting Graduate Students Seminar, the National Conference on Critical Thinking in Agriculture (Jackson, WY), and numerous WSU Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) workshops and symposia.
Carris is dedicated to graduate teaching and training. Carris has supervised to graduation four M.S. and four Ph.D. students. She served as chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee and graduate coordinator for the WSU Department of Plant Pathology for 10 years (2000–2010), both of which entail significant commitments of time and effort.
Carris’ passion for teaching goes beyond the classroom. She has served as a mentor to numerous students, post-doctoral researchers, and junior faculty. She was honored by WSU when selected as the 2007 Mentor of the Year. Much of her mentoring reflects her dedication to women’s issues and the WSU Association of Women Faculty (AFW). Carris has provided leadership to this organization, including as president, and served on the University Commission on the Status of Women. Since 2002, Carris has participated in the WSU Summer Doctoral Fellows Program, which recruits low-income, first-generation, and under-represented minority doctoral candidates from all over America, and is recognized nationally for providing future faculty training and mentoring benefits to WSU and to academia as a whole. She served on a planning committee to bring the national Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists (COACH) Workshop to the WSU campus to promote women’s leadership and professional development. Her achievements were recognized by the 2009 WSU Woman of Distinction Award and the 2010 WSU AFW Samuel H. Smith Leadership Award.
Carris’ leadership in teaching and learning is unparalleled. She strives to recruit and retain students from all walks of life. She expends considerable time and energy in teaching at WSU and in the broader community through workshops and courses in mushroom biology for people of all ages and backgrounds. This includes teaching one-day courses on spring and fall mushroom identification for the Moscow (Idaho) Parks and Recreation program. Carris is cofounder of the Palouse Mycological Association, and organizes forays and provides mushroom identification for the community, including poison cases for the local medical and veterinary hospital.