Biographical Sketch

Sonja K. Foss

  • I was born on January 26, 1950, in Portland, Oregon, to Hazel Mortenson Foss and Lyle Foss. My twin, Karen, and I were born two months early, and I weighed just over and Karen weighed just under two pounds. We were in incubators for a long time.
  • I grew up in Eugene, Oregon (we moved from Portland to Eugene when Karen and I were two years old when our father, a sales representative for Procter and Gamble, was transferred there).
  • Growing up, I read all the time, was lousy in P.E., and became increasingly shy and self-conscious. I couldn’t speak in class or give a speech without turning bright red and having my knees and hands shake. It wasn’t much of a start for a communication scholar (and one who was to write a book on presentational speaking.)
  • I was an unpopular intellectual in high school. I found high school to be dreadful. I couldn’t understand why the system was set up to humiliate so many people so much of the time.
  • My father died in an automobile accident when my sister and I were 17.
  • During the summers of 1969 and 1970, I was a camp counselor at a Camp Fire camp in Veneta, Oregon, called Camp Wilani, an experience that literally changed my life. It transformed me from a painfully shy person into someone with confidence and self-assurance and courage. I think what did it was the women’s culture of the camp, which was supportive, affirming, and truly valued each individual for what she offered. I later figured out I was experiencing feminism in action.
  • I went off to the University of Oregon for college and had a wonderful time re-inventing myself. I majored in Romance Languages (French and Spanish) and earned my B.A. in 1972. So did my sister and my mother, who had gone back to college after her husband died.
  • My sister and I planned to be French and Spanish high school teachers. When the time came for us to do our student teaching in French and Spanish, Karen and I decided we didn’t want to spend our lives looking at confused faces (which is largely the experience of teaching languages), so we thumbed through the university catalog and happened upon the “Speech Department.” We walked over to the Department and asked if we could get a master’s degree there. We completed our degrees in 1973.
  • I met my husband, Anthony Radich, while we were undergraduates working in the newspaper room of the University of Oregon library. We got married in 1972.
  • I then went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, for my Ph.D. We lived in Hammond, Indiana, while I was going to Northwestern because my husband was the director of an art center there (he’s in arts administration). I rode two trains back and forth to school (1 1/2 hours each way) and still managed to complete my Ph.D. in two years, finishing in 1976. My advisor was Leland Griffin, known for his work on social movements, and my dissertation was a fantasy-theme analysis of the debate on the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
  • We then moved to Reno, Nevada, when my husband got a job as director of an art center there. I had my first and only job in the corporate world, serving as a customer service representative for Banta West, a book manufacturing company. When the company was closed down by its parent company, I went back to teaching.
  • My first regular teaching job was at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. That was followed by positions at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia; the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado; the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia (as a visiting professor for a quarter); the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon; St. Louis University in St. Louis (as a visiting professor for a year); Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; and now the University of Colorado Denver. All this moving about has been due to an interest in increasingly better positions and juggling career moves with my husband.
  • I am a feminist, and, for me, feminism is the effort to disrupt the ideology of domination that pervades Western culture and the effort to transform it into a culture and relationships characterized by mutuality, respect, self-determination, and equality. Feminism is the effort to disrupt oppression wherever it occurs, whether of women, people of color, old people, gays and lesbians, friends, or family.
  • Other interests: Sewing (I sew most of my clothes); gardening (I have a cutting garden and grow sunflowers, dahlias, zinnias, and cosmos as well as vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, kohlrabi, and beets); contemporary art; weird independent films (like Run Lola Run, one of my favorites); China; and Greece (my husband and I have a house on the island of Crete).