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World Languages and Cultures

World Languages and Cultures Head Ruth Gross Retires

A student walks by Withers Hall.

After 20 years at NC State as head of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, Ruth Gross is retiring, effective July 1, 2023.

Gross joined NC State in 2003 as department head and German professor. As department head, she has advanced and augmented the department’s mission to help students become proficient in another language, think critically about the world, immerse themselves in a new culture and prepare for the 21st century’s increasingly global environment. This year, she also successfully led the department’s name change to World Languages and Cultures, reflecting her long-standing commitment to inclusivity and innovation.

“For 20 years, Ruth has been a significant asset to our college as an esteemed educator and leader,” says Deanna Dannels, dean of the college. “As department head, Ruth developed a clear vision for her department and a pathway to reach its goals. She also has been a fierce advocate for her colleagues and their work. I am grateful for her unwavering dedication and service to her department and the university.”

Ruth Gross

Before coming to NC State, Gross chaired the Humanities Department at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, after which she chaired the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she became dean of the College of Liberal Arts. 

As a faculty member at NC State and internationally known Kafka scholar, Gross has taught numerous courses at various levels over the years. Among them are Kafka and the 20th Century, Kafka and World Literature, European Modernism, Survey of German Literature, German Lyric Poetry and graduate seminars on Kafka and Thomas Mann. Her research includes Kafka studies, German and Austrian literature, and German drama from Schiller to the moderns.

During her tenure, Gross also served as administrator of two different grants funded by the US Department of Defense; NC State’s Project Global Officer from 2009-2015 and 2018-2023, designed to provide ROTC cadets the opportunity to learn critical languages, and the university’s Language Training Center at Fort Bragg from 2015-2019, designed to help special forces soldiers learn a critical language. For her work on the latter project, Gross received the Commander’s Award for Public Service from the Department of the Army in 2016.

Her books include PLAN and The Austrian Rebirth: Portrait of a Journal and Critical Essays on Franz Kafka. She is also co-author of The Franz Kafka Encyclopedia and co-editor of Traveling between Worlds: German-American Encounters and Kafka for the Twenty-First Century. 

Her articles, in addition to many on Kafka, deal with the works of Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, and the Austrian novelist Albert Drach.

Additionally, Gross has been involved with numerous professional organizations during her career. She initiated, organized, and for eleven years chaired the University of North Carolina system’s Language Assembly and Language Exchange from 2011-2022, providing any student in the UNC System a means of studying the language of their choice at any of the 16 UNC institutions. She also served on the editorial board of The German Quarterly from 2006-2010 and on the executive board of the Kafka Society of America from 1991 to the present.

Gross earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, where she double majored in German and comparative literature. She received master of philosophy and doctoral degrees in Germanic literature from Yale University.

NC State Hispanic linguistics professor Jim Michnowicz takes over as head of the Department of World Languages and Cultures this summer.