2022 Faculty

janis-bergman-cartonDr. Janis Bergman-Carton (Art History): I’m a retired art historian,  a studio artist, and a memory keeper. I taught art history at SMU for twenty-five years, specializing in modern European Art and media culture. In both my teaching and art-making, I gravitate to work about the cultural life of public memory sites and the impact of new technologies on Art. When I’m not teaching or in the studio, I love to hike, take pictures, read novels, watch birds, practice yoga, and hang out with family and friends. This is my sixth year teaching for Free Minds and I am thrilled to be back.


Dr. Karma Chávez (American History): I teach, write, and currently serve as chair in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. I am the author or editor of seven books and most of these are related to social movements, racial justice, LGBTQ issues, feminism, and/or rhetoric. My favorite of those books is called Palestine on the Air, which is a collection of interviews I originally conducted on live radio for WORT-FM in Madison, Wisconsin related to the struggle for Palestinian liberation. I come from a working class Mexican American (my dad) and white (my mom) family in rural Nebraska. I left home in 2000 for graduate school, and I’ve arrived in Texas by way of Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. This is my first semester teaching in Free Minds, and I’m really excited to be a part of this community.


Matthew Daude LaurentsDr. Matthew Daude Laurents (Philosophy): I live and breathe philosophy, as everyone who knows me will testify. I’ve loved philosophy since I learned what philosophy is. I asked far too many questions as a child, which I’m sure is why I spent so much of my school years in the hall or the principal’s office. In college, I tried for a while to escape philosophy by getting degrees in music theory and European history, but philosophy was never far away, calling to me. After college, I tried again to escape from philosophy by getting a master’s degree in comparative religion, but even there, I was mainly interested in philosophical problems. My last attempt to escape the clutches of philosophy came in the form of training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and a clinical practice. Through the “psychoanalytic years,” as I fondly call them, it seemed to me that many (maybe most) of the problems people were dealing with turned out to be philosophical problems—problems like whether existence has any meaning, and “Why doesn’t everyone see things the way I do?” and “What should I be when I grow up?” So, in the end, I gave in and became a philosopher, full-time. I’ve taught philosophy over 30 years, served as Chair of the Philosophy Department at ACC for 25 years, and I am currently dean of Liberal Arts: Humanities and Communications. 


Pat GarciaDr. Patricia García (Literature): I am an associate professor of instruction in the University of Texas’ Department of English and an affiliate of the Center for Mexican American Studies. My research and teaching is varied, including work on English Renaissance writers such as Shakespeare, best practices for teaching English at the secondary and college levels, the work of Latinx writers in the US, and world literature. How did I come to study these many different areas? My first literary love was Shakespeare, and I had wonderful professors in this area in college. As a Mexican American, I came to my study of Latinx writers on my own, but I’ve been lucky enough to develop these interests in the academic culture of UT. Finally, I come from a family of teachers, and I taught high school while in graduate school. I work with teacher education programs at UT, and I’ve been honored with numerous teaching awards by the university. I’m especially proud of the ones that were chosen by students. When I’m not teaching, I’m busy with my family including an amazing husband who is an enthusiastic supporter (and former teacher) of Free Minds, our fourteen-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son, and our Chiweenie dog appropriately named Chorizo.


vive at graduationVivé Griffith (Creative Writing): I am a poet, essayist, and teacher and a longtime member of the Free Minds community. I served as academic director from 2007 to 2016, and I am delighted to continue on as creative writing instructor. You might say writing brought me to Austin. I moved here in 1999, when I was awarded a three-year poetry fellowship at UT’s Michener Center for Writers. I’ve since taught writing at ACC and back at the Michener Center, as well as in the community to everyone from kindergarteners to retirees. I believe that writing can be a powerful force for personal expression and social change, and my best evenings are the ones I spend writing and sharing in our classroom. I now serve as Director of Outreach and Engagement for the Clemente Course in the Humanities, the national coalition of adult humanities programs of which Free Minds is an affiliate. My own writing has appeared in The Sun, Oxford American, Edible Austin, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. When I’m not working, I love long walks and cooking, and I’m on a lifelong quest to become fluent in Spanish. Each week I pop a poem in my curbside poetry box for my neighbors to read as they pass by.


A.R. Rogers (Writing):  I am a first-generation and non-traditional student, as well as a former ACC student. I’ve taught freshman composition at Texas State University, where I also worked as a Writing Center tutor for several years. In addition to teaching academic writing, I’ve taught creative writing with Logos Poetry Collective, Badgerdog Creative Writing Camps, and Upward Bound. I enjoy teaching expository and analytical writing because it provides students (and the instructor!) with an opportunity to practice clarity of thought. Parsing out and editing our own ideas into something cohesive and orderly is difficult work, but academic writing allows the writer to become a more effective communicator both on and off the page. In addition to teaching with Free Minds, I’m an advisor at ACC. I spend my free time going to the gym and hanging out with my partner and pets in our RV home.

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