After high school, Carissa graduated from Concordia College--Moorhead, a Lutheran liberal arts college. She pursued her passion for service after college by joining the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Americorps in Washington, DC. There, she worked for the year as a volunteer with inner-city teenagers. She had been in the city for three weeks when September 11, 2001, happened. She went to work that day via the underground train system, not knowing that two hijacked planes were heading to the city above her. Her future husband Adam, a farm kid from North Dakota, was serving as a teacher in a rural village in Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer at the time. Carissa’s experiences in DC and on 9/11 affirmed her commitment to serving others.
In 2007, Carissa took a position at the University of Northern Iowa, becoming the fourth generation of her family to teach. Her husband Adam is a family doctor. They have three children, whom they are raising to value the small town and rural community, education, and opportunities they had growing up.