Mary Carlson
Mary Carlson, Ph.D.Marquette University

Schroeder Complex, 113G

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-4548
Curriculum Vitae

Clinical Associate Professor

Educational Policy and Leadership

Dr. Mary Carlson is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership (EDPL). Dr. Carlson trained as an Exceptional Education teacher at the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee, was granted a life license, and remains a Special Education teacher at heart. She received her Master’s in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and her Ph.D. from Marquette University in Theology, Philosophy, and Special Education. Prior to joining the faculty in the College of Education in 2007, Dr. Carlson worked with children from grades K-12 in several roles and settings, including teaching in public and Catholic schools. Dr. Carlson is a member of St. Francis Of Assisi Parish in Milwaukee. 

Dr. Carlson and her husband, political cartoonist Stuart Carlson, are longtime residents of the city of Milwaukee and care deeply about Milwaukee’s struggles with poverty, racism, and educational equity. Dr. Carlson’s research in marginalized groups in school, church, and society has led her to ask tough questions of those bodies, and of herself.   She considers her recent collaborations as a member of MU’s interdisciplinary Autism initiative to be her most important work to date.

Degrees Held

  • Ph.D., Marquette University
  • M.S., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Educational Psychology
  • B.S., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Exceptional Education
  • Teaching License, WI DPI, Specific Learning Disabilities

Courses Taught

  • Teaching Exceptional, At-Risk, and Diverse Students,
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology in a Diverse World,
  • Autism for the Professions
  • The Psychology of Exceptional Children
  • Teaching in Middle School

Research Interests

  • Teaching Exceptional, At-Risk and Diverse Students
  • Teacher Formation and Mentoring/Supervising Veterans and Rookies
  • Special Education in Catholic Schools
  • Marginalized groups in schools, Church and society

Professional Affiliations

Marquette Autism Initiative

The Marquette Autism Initiative (AI) is an interdisciplinary group of researchers, clinicians, stakeholders, and students at Marquette University and in the community.  We aim to coordinate 1) research, 2) programming, 3) education, and 4) outreach efforts to improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum and their families, while providing high quality training and educational opportunities for the next generation of professionals serving this population. Our work is anchored in the knowledge that collaboration across disciplines is best practice in the world of autism care and research, which simultaneously provides inter-professional, team- sensitivity, and knowledge-building educational experiences for undergraduate and graduate students from a number of MU departments and colleges. We are funded via a 2018-19 Explorer Challenge award from Marquette University’s Office of Research and Innovation.

Theological Grounding for Our Work

Our work is grounded in Marquette’s mission as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.  In 2017, Fr. General of the Jesuits, Arturo Sosa, outlined the mission of universities as “work that finds meaning outside of itself; that feels the situation of the world, of so many diverse people;” and “that interacts with other disciplines, views and cultures.” In working for and with the autism community, with a special outreach to children of color and of poverty, we strive to follow the example of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci.  In the 1600’s, Ricci fostered a cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Europe and China. Ricci believed, as do we, that making friends with people who may think differently than one’s self was the first and most important step in understanding people of various cultures, gifts, and world views. He believed, as do we, that working together towards mutual love and understanding would make the world a better place and lead to people’s true happiness and full human flourishing.  Working together with autistic people, our interdisciplinary team believes that we can, as Fr. Sosa said, use our intellectual work here “towards the construction of a world closer to the characteristics of the Kingdom of God.


Consulting Interests

  • Teaching Exceptional, At-Risk and Diverse Students

  • Teacher Formation and Mentoring/Supervising Veterans and Rookies

  • Special Education in Catholic Schools

  • Marginalized groups in schools, Church and society