Kauffman was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She has taught in the English Department at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti, Michigan since 1988. She received her PhD from University of Chicago in 1972.
Kauffman was instrumental in establishing EMU's Creative Writing Master's degree program, which has received national attention through its unconventional approach to writing. In her classes, Ms. Kauffman challenges her students to re-think the definition of "book" and ways in which to use text to communicate ideas. Her unusual approach to Imaginative Writing includes creating deformed books, using found objects married to original or "borrowed" text, creative alphabets, and engineered books.
Kauffman has been the recipient of numerous awards, including:
Michigan Arts Award, 1997
Creative Artist Grants
Michigan Council for the Arts 1984 and 1987
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1985
Rosenthal Award, American Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters, 1983
Her passions include fighting the pollution of commercial agriculture, which has been the focus of much of her recent work such as The Violence of Plowshares. This 2006 exhibit draws items from her childhood growing up on a tobacco farm together with other found objects to make a strong statement. As Kauffman exhorts in her exhibit notes:
The vision of farming as a peaceful way of life, surrounded by idyllic and pastoral landscapes, is a deeply-rooted dream in American life. That dream has turned nightmare where I live, and in many areas of the country.