American Studies


Kristen Egan

Kristen Egan

Kristen Egan, assistant professor of English, teaches courses in American Literature, African-American Literature, Literature and the Environment, and writing.  She previously taught at Le Moyne College and Loyola University Chicago.  She has an interdisciplinary background, earning her doctorate in English from Loyola University Chicago, her M.A. in English from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland, and a B.S. in Biology from Le Moyne College.  She specializes in nineteenth century American literature, focusing on nature, race, and identity.  Her dissertation, Infectious Agents: Race and Environment in Nineteenth-Century America, examines the mutual constructions of space and race in America across the long nineteenth century. She has an article forthcoming in Women’s Studies Quarterly entitled “Conservation and Cleanliness: Racial and Environmental Purity in Ellen Richards and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.”

Cartherine O’Connell

Catharine O’Connell holds three degrees in American Studies, her BA from Amherst College and her MA and PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. At Mary Baldwin College she serves as Professor of English, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dean of the College. Her area of academic specialization is nineteenth- century American literature, with a focus on women’s fiction and the literature of American slavery. She has published on Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain, among others. She has also written on the pedagogy of civic engagement and community-based learning. She teaches the Introduction to American Studies course.

Brenci Patiño
Personal website

Brenci Patino

Brenci Patiño is assistant professor of Spanish and U.S. Latina/o Studies. She completed her BA at the University of Texas at Brownsville, and her MA and PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include cultural and literary representations of working-class women, U.S. Latina/o literature and cultural production, and contemporary Mexican narrative fiction. Her work is, more specifically, concerned with looking at ways in which working-class women and their upper-class counterparts negotiate power.

Dr. Patiño has taught Spanish language courses and Latin American literature and culture at the University of Illinois, Texas Lutheran University, San Antonio College, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. At Mary Baldwin College, she teaches intermediate- and advanced-level Spanish, U.S. Latina/o literature and culture, 20th century Latin American literature, and Latin American and Spanish culture. Additionally, she has an active role in the Latino Culture Gateway.
A native of Brownsville, Texas, Professor Patiño grew up in the bicultural environment of the Mexico-U.S. border. She loves both norteño and Tejano music, traditional Latin American music, son jarocho, Spanish hip-hop, nueva trova, and Latin pop. She enjoys traveling, and spending time with her nieces and nephews in South Texas and northern Mexico.

Rick Potter

  • BA College of William and Mary (history and fine arts)
  • MA University of Virginia (architectural history, preservation)
  • PhD Auburn University (history)

Edmund (Rick) Potter is an assistant professor of history for Mary Baldwin College. He teaches both for the Residential College and the Adult Degree Program. Dr. Potter’s areas of scholarly interest include the history of technology, architectural history, modern Europe, and America post 1865. His dissertation examined the role of World War I in shaping the social use of architecture in inter-war Birmingham, England. He is a member of the American Historical Association, the Society of the History of Technology, the Society of Architectural Historians, and Phi Alpha Theta. Dr. Potter began his career in preservation in 1983 with the restoration of the Lobby of the Joseph Nichols Tavern, built in 1815. Since then, he has worked for the Lynchburg Museum System, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, the National Park Service, and served for seven years as the Curator of Collections at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. He has organized and participated in numerous restoration projects and co-written two National Register nominations.

Amy Tillerson-Brown

Amy Tilllerson

  • BA Virginia Tech (English)
  • MA Virginia Tech (student personnel services/counseling)
  • PhD Morgan State University (history)

Amy Tillerson-Brown is a native of Prince Edward County. For her dissertation, Tillerson-Brown researched the activism of Black women in Prince Edward County, Virginia between 1930 and 1965. Prince Edward County is most well known for the school crisis that closed public schools for five years. Before accepting her position at Mary Baldwin College, she was director of African American Heritage Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at UVA. She has taught in the history departments at University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Morgan State, and Piedmont Virginia Community College. She has also been a public school teacher and counselor in Roanoke City Public Schools and Baltimore City Public Schools. She is the advisor to Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society.

Laura van Assendelft

Laura van Assdendelft

Professor of political science Laura van Assendelft has been teaching at Mary Baldwin College since 1994. Currently serving as chair of the political science department, van Assendelft teaches American Government, State and Local Politics, U.S. Congress, U.S. Presidency, Women and Politics, Political Parties and Interest Groups, Political Behavior, and Senior Seminar in American Politics. Her research interests include state and local politics and women and politics. She has published numerous journal articles and several books, including Governors, Agenda Setting, and Divided Government, The Encyclopedia of Women in American Politics (co-edited with Jeffrey Shultz), and two editions of Women, Politics, and American Society (co-authored with Nancy McGlen, Karen O’Connor, and Wendy Gunther-Canada). She received her BA in political science (cum laude with honors in political science) from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee (1989) and her PhD in political science from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia (1994). She was recognized by Who’s Who Among American Teachers in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Outside of teaching and research, her interests include spending time with family, running, hiking, horseback riding, reading, and photography.

Abigail Wightman

A visiting assistant professor of anthropology, Wightman received a BA in history and anthropology from Miami University of Ohio, an MA in anthropology from University of Oklahoma, and a PhD in anthropology from University of Oklahoma. After completing her doctorate in May 2009, Wightman joined the faculty at Mary Baldwin College for fall semester. Her dissertation, “Honoring Kin: Gender, Kinship, and the Economy of Plains Apache Identity,” addresses the complicated articulations and lived experiences of contemporary Native-American identities. Wightman’s research interests also include the culture and history of Oklahoma, regional American identities, the relationship between gender ideologies and cultural/national identities, the history of anthropology, and the lived experiences of marginalization in native communities and beyond.