The early rays of the sun hit her keyboard, and she is already in her office hammering away at her plan to improve Anglo-American University’s (AAU) humanities program.
It is the start of another day for the new dean of the School of Humanities Dr. Grunow-Hårsta, who has been selected out of 39 candidates for this position.
“When I left home at 16, I thought I had left high school too, but the irony is I have never left school,” laughs Grunow-Hårsta. She joined AAU’s School of Humanities in 2014 and teaches Intercultural Communications, Composition, and Thesis courses. Grunow-Hårsta has also taught at Uppsala University, Sweden, Brock University, Canada, Middlesex and Wollongong University, Dubai, and the Polytechnic University and Chinese University, both in Hong Kong.
“Some people who get a Ph.D. just do not know when the party is over,” jokes Grunow-Hårsta. She got her Bachelors in Literature and Art History at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and got her Master’s Degree in Art History from the University of Toronto. She completed her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee while raising two preteens and lecturing full-time.
“I have always had a passion for art and language. The grammar and structure of language utterly fascinates me,” says Grunow-Hårsta. Her career in education began as a lecturer in Art History at Uppsala University in Sweden, where she moved to after marrying Johan, a Swedish engineer whom she had met in Toronto.
“In Sweden, I taught Art History, and at the university, as a foreign lecturer, they asked me to teach English, and then I began to have to understand the grammar of my language more explicitly,” says Grunow-Hårsta.
“I lived in Sweden for six years; my two children, Nickolas and Hanna, were born in there. We had a great time in Sweden, but the winters were so long and dark there, and when we had an opportunity to move to Italy, I said, ‘Oh yes!’” Since her master’s thesis was about Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in Florence, she was already very familiar with the country and the culture. After living in Italy for two and a half years, she and her family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having developed a great interest in linguistics as a language professor at Uppsala University, Dr. Grunow-Hårsta enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to get a Ph.D. in linguistics.
“I packed my stuff and went to live in foothills of the Himalayas for 6 months,” says Grunow-Hårsta. While studying in Milwaukee, she won the National Science Foundation grant and moved to Nepal.
“That was the beginning of one of my largest projects: to research the grammar of an endangered Himalayan language called Magar.”
After Milwaukee, Grunow-Hårsta and her family moved to Canada, where she had lived and worked for ten years before moving to Kolkata, India for two years. In Kolkata, Grunow-Hårsta did charity work, charity teaching, and helped orphanages; she also had her second post-doctoral fellowship that moved her to Hong Kong for three months, where she taught at the Polytechnic University.
India and Nepal helped Grunow-Hårsta understand that material values are overrated. “Spending time with the people in Nepal, having them open their homes and lives to me, teaching me their language gave me a new appreciation for different values,” she says.
After India, she and her husband moved to Dubai where they had stayed for two years. There, she taught composition, linguistics, and intercultural communications in two different universities: Wollongong and Middlesex Universities.
In 2013, Dr. Grunow-Harsta and her husband moved to Prague, Czech Republic, where she began teaching at AAU and became popular among its students.
“It is great that she became the new dean of humanities,” says Dariia Sydygaliyeva, a second-year journalism student who has taken Intercultural Communications with Grunow-Hårsta.
“She is nice, but at the same time demanding in a good way,” adds another student, Veronika Vedernikova, who took Composition II with Grunow-Hårsta.
Grunow-Hårsta talked about some of her goals as the new Dean of Humanities. “I have to say that my plans are at the beginning stages; I want to create a solid core of liberal arts with a stronger, more balanced program within the School of Humanities. Courses were a little more driven by lecturers’ personalities than it was a creation of a balanced core set of courses, and I would like to redress that balance.”
One of her other main goals is to maintain a good relationship with the faculty, “I want to listen to my faculty and to understand what their strengths and ambitions are.”
When asked about the hardest job, she responded with,
“The hardest job I have ever had is being a mother. You never believe you are doing enough, and it is the job that never ends and means the most.”
Grunow-Hårsta likes to spend her free time reading; one of her favorite authors is Steven Pinker, a Canadian psychology and science writer. She also likes Romantic and Victorian poetry and audits online Yale courses on ancient Greek history.
Grunow-Hårsta says that her motto in life is Capre Diem, a line from the Latin poet Cattulus which means seize the day. “Capre Diem means do something every day; do not let the day go to waste,” she explains.
Besides learning, teaching and traveling, Grunow-Hårsta’s passion is gardening because it lets her mind wander. She owns a lake house in Canada, which is where she gardens for hours on end and experiences her Zen moments. “It is my artistic outlet,” she says.
“One of my dreams is to be a good dean,” says Grunow-Hårsta.