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Fellows 2022-2024


Catherine Denial

Mary Elizabeth Hand Bright and Edwin Winslow Bright Distinguished Professor of American History

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



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Bright Institute Participants

The Bright Institute Fellows, 2022-2024. L-R: Amy Kohout, Jessica Parr, Cate Denial, Nora Slonimsky, Sarah Purcell, Lindsey Passenger Wieck, Jen Andrella, Dan Livesay, 2023 faculty leader David Chang, Christian Pienne, Eleanor McConnell, Kristin Olbertson, Carrie Glenn, Jordan Smith, Mary Draper.

Mary Draper

Mary is an Assistant Professor of History at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, where she teaches courses on early American, Caribbean, and Atlantic history as well as the history of disasters. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript that reconstructs the environmental and maritime knowledge that buttressed colonization in the early modern British Caribbean. To assert control over vulnerable shorelines, contested sea lanes, and valuable resources, British colonists amassed and deployed environmental knowledge. This project considers how—and from whom—British colonists learned this knowledge and charts how that knowledge became crucial to the imperial project. Her work has been published in Early American Studies and Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History. She earned her B.A. from Rice University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

Carrie Glenn

Carrie is an Assistant Professor of History at Niagara University where she teaches courses on early American history, the Atlantic World, and the histories of slavery and capitalism. She earned her M.A. in History from Cal State LA and her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. She is working on a book project that explores the short- and long-term, local and far-reaching reverberations of the Haitian Revolution from the perspective of Marie Rose Poumaroux (a marchande de couleur) and Elizabeth Beauveau (a white itinerant American). Her research uncovers the ways that entrepreneurial women like Marie and Elizabeth traded goods and forged lasting, international commercial and kinship networks in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. 

Her research has received support from the Program in Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the John Carter Brown Library, Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Delaware.

Amy Kohout

Amy is an Assistant Professor of History at Colorado College. She works on U.S. cultural and environmental history, and her research and teaching interests include the U.S. West, American empire, museum studies, the history of natural history, and world’s fairs. She earned her B.A. in history from Yale University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Cornell University. Amy’s first book, Taking the Field: Soldiers, Nature, and Empire on American Frontiers is forthcoming in Fall 2022 with the University of Nebraska Press, as part of their new Many Wests series. In 2020-21, she held the David J. Weber Fellowship for the Study of Southwestern America at the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. Her work has been published in Museum History, Rethinking History, The Appendix, and A Companion to the History of American Science. Amy has worked on public-facing, collaborative projects centering historical research and writing; she was a co-founder of Backlist, a digital site where historians recommend books they love, and before that she served as an editor at The Appendix, a journal of narrative and experimental history.

Dan Livesay

Daniel is Associate Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College. His research and teaching focus on issues of race and slavery in the Atlantic World. His first book Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 was published by UNC Press in 2018. It chronicles the migration from Jamaica to Britain of several hundred biracial children of white planters and free and enslaved women of color in order to assess how family and race intersected in the long eighteenth century. His current book project, Endless Bondage: Old Age in New World Slavery examines the importance of elderly individuals on plantations in Virginia and Jamaica, as well as in their critical influence in cultural conceptions of slavery in the Americas. He teaches courses in colonial American, Native American, and slavery history. He is also active in social justice education, and regularly teaches Inside-Out courses at the CRC prison in Norco, CA.

Eleanor McConnell

Eleanor is an Associate Professor of History at Frostburg State University in western Maryland, where she teaches Early American history, the history of women in the US, legal history, and public history.  Her research focuses on economy, opportunity, and citizenship in the Revolutionary and early National period. More broadly, she is interested in the lived economic experience of early Americans, emphasizing marginalized populations. Eleanor has published the chapter "Blasting, Scraping, and Scavenging: Iron and Salt Production in Revolutionary New Jersey," in The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Homefront Meets the Battlefront (Rutgers University Press, 2015). Her pedagogical interests include using and developing historical role-immersion games (Reacting to the Past) and other student-centered, non-hierarchical methods for teaching early American history.  She hopes to develop a new game about Popham (Sagadahoc), a failed 1608 colonial settlement in what is now Maine. Eleanor earned her PhD from the University of Iowa, MA from the University of Alabama, and AB from Smith College.

Kristin Olbertson

Kristin A. Olbertson is currently Associate Professor of History at Alma College, where she teaches courses in early American history, women’s history, Michigan history, and legal and Constitutional history. In her classes, she strives to create a just and supportive environment that is inclusive and accessible, and which challenges all learners to reach their full potential. As Coordinator of Alma’s Pre-Law Program, Kristin helps prepare students for law school and advises them on legal careers. On campus and off, she is an advocate for reducing stigma around mental illness and improving access to mental health care services, especially for children and adolescents.

She is the author of The Dreadful Word: Speech Crime and Polite Gentlemen in Massachusetts, 1690-1776 (Cambridge University Press, 2022), which analyzes how criminalizing speech offenses helped establish an authoritative social regime of masculinized politeness. Kristin has also published on women and the law in early America, studying women’s testimony in paternity suits and nineteenth-century reformers’ legal strategies. Her current research focuses on how women established credibility in legal settings in eighteenth-century New England. Kristin earned her B.A. at Carleton College, and her J.D. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.

Jessica Parr

Jessica is a member of the teaching faculty at Simmons University in Boston, MA, with affiliate appointments with the Africana Studies and the Critical Race and Gender Studies programs. She holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire at Durham (Ph.D. and M.A., History, 2012), and Simmons College, Boston (M.A. History, M.S. Archives Management, 2005; B.A. History, with Departmental Honors, 2000). A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Jessica has held fellowships and grants from the Boston Athenaeum, the American Studies Association, the John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University, Gilder Lehrman Institute, Mystic Seaport, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Methodist Archives, the Caroliniana Society, and Congregational Library. She is also a regular contributor to Black Perspectives, and formerly a regular contributor to The Junto: a Group Blog in Early American History, a co-List Editor for the H-Atlantic network, and a contributing historian to the More than a Map(p) project. Jessica is the Global Team Lead of The Programming Historian. Her research and teaching interests include the Black Atlantic, civil rights, memory studies, digital humanities, and public history. 

Jessica’s first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2015.

Christian Pinnen

Christian is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Mississippi College. His research focuses on the American borderlands and the legal landscapes that gave rise to definitions of blackness and whiteness in the face of maturing slave societies. He specifically investigates the colonial Natchez District in an attempt to resurrect the stories of the enslaved and the role Atlantic Africans played in shaping the region. He has published two books: Complexion of Empire in Natchez and Colonial Mississippi.  While Colonial Mississippi provides an exhaustive overview of Mississippi’s colonial past, Complexions of Empire in Natchez specifically investigates how the various definitions of race in Europe and the Americas influenced the way that slavery and the law developed in Natchez and, by extension, the colonial southern borderlands. Christian was selected as the Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year in 2019 and Complexion of Empire in Natchez won the 2021 Book of the Year Award from the Mississippi Historical Society.

Sarah Purcell

Sarah is the L. F. Parker Professor of History at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where she teaches classes on eighteenth and nineteenth century U.S. History, transnational revolutions, public memory, popular culture, and digital history. She is the author of Spectacle of Grief: Public Funerals and Memory in Civil War America (UNC Press, 2022), Sealed with Blood: War Sacrifice and Memory in Revolutionary America (U. Penn Press, 2002) and The Early American Republic: An Eyewitness History (Facts on File, 2004). She has co-authored several other books, including American Horizons: U.S. History in a Global Perspective, 3rd ed. (Oxford, 2020), the first textbook that places U.S. history in a global context, and she writes articles and book reviews for both scholarly and media outlets. Sarah is dedicated to fostering student research in History, Digital Humanities, and American Studies, and she was the recipient of the 2019 award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research in the Social Sciences from the Council for Undergraduate Research. Sarah also has an interest in K-12 history education and frequently contributes to teacher development programs run by the George Washington Teachers Institute, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, Humanities Texas, and other institutions.

Nora Slonimsky

Nora is the Gardiner Assistant Professor of History at Iona College, where she serves as Director of the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies (ITPS). At Iona, Nora teaches courses on subjects ranging from the Age of Revolution to histories of intellectual property while her work at the ITPS is focused largely on public and digital history. Nora’s in-progress book, The Engine of Free Expression: Copyrighting the State in Early America is forthcoming with the University of Pennsylvania Press and won the Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) prize for best manuscript. This project, along with other research in the digital humanities, is supported by the Huntington Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the New-York Historical Society, and the America Antiquarian Society, among others. She is also co-editing an open-access volume with Cornell University Press, “American Revolutions in the Digital Age.” Nora serves as the Social Media Editor for the Journal of the Early Republic and the reviews editor for SHARP News. You can follow her on twitter @NoraSlonimsky or check out her website,

Jordan Smith

Jordan is an assistant professor of history at Widener University. He received his PhD in Atlantic history from Georgetown University in 2018. He is completing a book investigating the emergence of rum as the first modern commodity in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Provisionally titled “The Invention of Rum,” the manuscript is under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press. Jordan is also engaged in several community-based history projects in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Jeff Washburn

Jeff is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas Permian Basin where he teaches courses on early America, the Revolutionary era, the early American Republic, and Native American history as well as surveys of American history. He is the author of “Directing Their Own Change: Chickasaw Economic Transformation and the Civilization Plan, 1750s-1830s,” in Native South, 13 (January 2021). His book manuscript in progress, Transforming the Interior South: Chickasaw Geopolitics, Pragmatism, and Economic Change in the Era of the Early Republic, examines how Indigenous Southerners interpreted and transformed federal policy to fit their needs in a changing American South in the decades prior to forced removal. Due to their geopolitical location and diplomatic policies, the Chickasaws directed their own economic change and asserted their cultural persistence to actively resist American attempts to dispossess them of their land and sovereignty. He earned his PhD in History at the University of Mississippi in 2020

Lindsey Passenger Wieck

Lindsey joined St. Mary’s University in 2017 as the director of the Master of Arts in Public History program. She received her Ph.D. in American History from the University of Notre Dame in May 2016. While doing her research, Wieck grew excited by the possibilities to integrate GIS, text analysis, and data visualizations into her work on Latino community formation and gentrification in the Mission District of San Francisco. She also specializes in the history of the American West, race and ethnicity, and American cities. She enjoys incorporating digital technologies in her teaching and also emphasizes digital writing and communication in her courses.

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Printed on Sunday, July 14, 2024