Faculty and Staff

Department Contacts:

Director: Serena Zabin, (507) 222-7160

Administrative Assistant: Lisa Falconer, (507) 222-5248

2018-2019 Student Departmental Advisors:  Kessa Andrews and Dex Schneider

General contact


Serena Zabin
Serena Zabin Profile
Director of American Studies
Professor of History

Current director for American Studies, 2017-2020

Associate director for American Studies, 2013-2016

B.A. in Classics, Bowdoin College; M.A. in Latin, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Ph.D. in Early American History, Rutgers University

Interests include Colonial America, Early Modern Atlantic World, Age of Revolutions, the Early Republic, women, race & gender in American history.

Rich Keiser
Richard Keiser Profile
Professor of Political Science and American Studies

B.A. and M.A., University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Director of American Studies from 2004-2007

Professor Keiser received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989. His research focuses on progressive politics in America's big cities. In 1997 he published Subordination or Empowerment? which analyzed the formation and disintegration of coalitions that advance African-American political empowerment. He coedited Minority Politics at the Millennium, which was published in 2000. His current research examines the relationship between cities and suburbs in the current era. Prof. Keiser teaches the introductory course on liberty and equality in America, as well as courses on urban and suburban political economy, poverty and public policy, and the Presidency.

Elizabeth McKinsey
Elizabeth McKinsey Profile
Maxine H. and Winston R. Wallin Professor of American Studies and English
Off Campus: Winter 2019

A.B. in American History and Literature, Radcliffe College; Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization, Harvard University

With a joint appointment in English and American Studies, Beth’s teaching interests include American literature, art history, and cultural history, with particular focus on landscape, place, and ideas of regional or national identity.  Courses she teaches include “Placing American Identities,” “The Midwest in the American Imagination,” “Writing about America and Globalization,” “Literature of the American South,” and “The American Sublime.”  Her research has been primarily on 19th century America; she is the author of Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime and articles and reviews on Transcendentalism, Southern literature, American landscape painting, and tourism.  She came to Carleton in 1989 as Dean of the College, after holding faculty and administrative positions at Harvard University and Bryn Mawr College; she’s been a fulltime faculty member here since 2003.

Adriana Estill
Adriana Estill Profile
Professor of English and American Studies
B.A. in Humanities and Comparative Literature, Stanford; M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Cornell

Adriana arrived at Carleton after teaching at the University of New Mexico and the University of Arizona. Her teaching and research interests include U.S. Latino literature (especially poetry), Latino Studies, the intersections of race, gender, and ethnicity in various genres of cultural expressions. She's hard at work on the topic of Latina feminine beauty in literature and the mass media.

Sharon Akimoto
Sharon Akimoto Profile
Professor of Psychology

Emeriti Faculty

Prof. Robert Bonner
Robert Bonner Profile
Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Prof of History & the Lib Arts, Emeritus

B.A., University of Wyoming; M.A., University of Oregon; Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Director of American Studies, 1997-2001. Emeritus

Interests include British History, American West, Environmental History, and American Indian History. Bibliography.

CVEC  2013   Plains Indians in the 19th Century

Former director of American Studies
Robert Tisdale Profile
Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of English and the Liberal Arts, Emeritus

A.B., Princeton University; M.A.T., Wesleyan University; Ph.D., Yale University

Director of American Studies, 1993-1997. Emeritus

Professor Tisdale has taught modern and contemporary British and American literature, specializing in poetry, memoir, and fiction.  Among his interests are immigration, and the topics of race and ethnicity, including African American and Native American history and literature.


Lisa Falconer
Lisa Falconer
Administrative Assistant in American Studies
Administrative Assistant in Environmental Studies
Administrative Assistant in Linguistics

Other Faculty Involved in American Studies

Deborah Appleman
Deborah Appleman Profile
Hollis L. Caswell Professor of Educational Studies

Director for American Studies, 2013-2016

Associate director for American Studies, 2012-2013

Deborah Appleman received her doctorate in English Education at the University of Minnesota in 1986. At Carleton she is the Hollis L. Caswell professor of educational studies and director of Carleton's Summer Writing Program, a three-week program for high school juniors and seniors). She also teaches the English section of Carleton's summer workshop for teachers, the Summer Teaching Institute. During 2003-2004 she served her second year as mentor for Carleton's second group of Posse students from the Chicago area. Professor Appleman's primary research interests include multicultural literature, adolescent response to literature, teaching literary theory to secondary students, and adolescent response to poetry. She was a high school teacher for nine years. She has written numerous book chapters and articles on adolescent response to literature and she co-edited Braided Lives,a multicultural literature anthology published by the Minnesota Humanities Commission. Her book, Reading for Themselves: How to Transform Adolescents into Lifelong Readers Through Out-of-Class Book Clubs was published by Heinemann. She is also the coauthor of Teaching Literature to Adolescents with Richard Beach, Susan Hynds, and Jeffrey Wilhelm. Her book, Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents, now in its second edition, was published jointly by Teachers College Press and the National Council of Teachers of English and is widely used in methods classes across the country. She recently edited an anthology of her students' work titled From the Inside Out: Letters to Young Men and Other Writings Poetry and Prose from Prison and authored Adolescent Literacy and the Teaching of English published by the National Council of Teachers of English.

To sign up for Professor Appleman's Spring 2016-17 office hours, click here.

Visit Deborah Appleman's Website.

Michael Kowalewski Profile
Lloyd McBride Professor of English and Environmental Studies
P.E.A.R. Announcer for Football

B.A., Amherst College; M.A. and Ph.D., Rutgers University

Director of American Studies from 2001-2004

Michael Kowalewski joined the Carleton faculty in 1991 after teaching for several years at Princeton University. He has a special interest in regionalism and "place" in American art and culture. He was the creator and director of the only American Studies off-campus program to date: "Visions of California" (offered in 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004).

Prof. Peter Balaam
Peter Balaam Profile
Associate Professor of English
Off Campus: Winter 2019
Assistant Director of American Studies and English Professor
Nancy Cho Profile
Chair of English
Professor of English

B.A. in English, Yale College; M.A. and Ph.D. in English, University of Michigan

Director of American Studies from 2007-2010

Nancy Cho teaches courses in American literature and drama, American Studies, and Asian American literature.  Her primary area of research is American drama and performance, particularly the work of playwrights of color during and after the Civil Rights Movement.  She has published articles on the theater of Chay Yew, Anna Deavere Smith, and Lorraine Hansberry, and is currently researching the staging of cultural memory in the plays of Alice Childress.  For the American Studies Program, Professor Cho teaches courses on immigration and Asian American Studies. 

Clifford Clark
Clifford Clark Profile
Professor of History and M.A. and A.D. Hulings Professor of American Studies, Emeritus

B.A., Yale University; M.A. and Ph.D., Harvard University

Director of American Studies from 1972-1992

Interests include American social, cultural, material, architectural, and intellectual history. Clark teaches courses on immigration and ethnicity, the Gilded Age, reform movements, intellectual history, and material culture.  In addition to his American History textbook, The Enduring Vision, written with Paul Boyer and others, he has written Henry Ward Beecher: Spokesman for a Middle-Class America, The American Family Home, 1800 - 1960, and has edited, Minnesota in a Century of Change.

Andy Flory
Andy Flory Profile
Associate Professor of Music
Off Campus: Winter 2019

(American Music, Music History) received the B.A. from the City College of New York and the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andrew teaches courses in American music, focusing on rock, rhythm and blues, and jazz. Andrew was a member of the Royster Society and was awarded the John Motley Morehead Fellowship to complete his dissertation, which was awarded the Glen Haydon Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Musicology from the UNC Music Department. Andrew has read papers at the national meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Music Theory, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Society for American Music. He has also been invited to speak nationally and internationally at institutions such as the University of Surrey, Princeton University, and the University of Michigan. Andrew has written articles, encyclopedia entries, and reviews on the music of Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, African-American pop singers and balladeers, and Bang On a Can. He has written extensively about American rhythm and blues, and is an expert on the music of Motown. His book, I Hear a Symphony: Listening to the Music of Motown, is forthcoming from The University of Michigan Press. Working directly with Universal Records, Andrew has served as consultant for several recent Motown reissues. He is also co-author of the history of rock textbook What’s that Sound (W.W. Norton).

Ahmed Ibrahim
Ahmed Ibrahim Profile
Robert A. Oden, Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow for Innovation in the Liberal Arts and Refugee and Migration Studies

Ahmed Ibrahim (B.A., University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Ph.D., City University of New York [CUNY], Graduate Center) teaches courses at the intersection of refugee and migration studies and the anthropology of religion.

His current research project is an ethnography of Somali communities in Minnesota. The research aims to challenge the assumed congruence between nation and political space by examining how social and political movements in Somalia both influence Somali political organizing in the US and effect how Somali communities are administered under the US security state. The project examines sites as diverse as US government supported programs to “counter violent extremism,” local Somali civic activism in the US, and political campaigns that span from Minneapolis to Mogadishu.

His dissertation, “The Shari῾a Courts of Mogadishu: Beyond ‘African Islam’ and ‘Islamic Law’,” explored the ethics and politics of Shari῾a in Mogadishu, Somalia, through a historical ethnography of a movement whose response to the demands of the present were informed by practices, discourses, and norms rooted in a centuries-old Islamic tradition. The first article to emerge from the dissertation is entitled “Changing of the Guards: Politico-Religious Authority and Islamic Education in Mogadishu,” and will appear in the journal Islamic Africa.

Michael McNally
Michael McNally ’85 Profile
John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies

B.A., Carleton; M.A., M.Div., and Ph.D., Harvard University

Michael McNally teaches courses in American religion and culture and Native American religious traditions. His special interests include the tradition and history of Minnesota's Anishinaabe Ojibwe community, Native American Christianity, and lived religion in America. He is author of Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief, and a Native Culture in Motion (2000), editor of Art of Tradition: Sacred Story, Song, and Dance among Michigan's Anishinaabe (2006), and a number of book chapters and journal articles. His current research projects explore, on the one hand, aging, eldership, and religion in the Ojibwe tradition, and on the other explore the intersection between law, "religion," and Native American traditions.

Prof. Liz Raleigh
Liz Raleigh Profile
Associate Professor of Sociology
Chair of Sociology and Anthropology
Melinda Russell Profile
Professor of Music and M.A. and A.D. Hulings Professor of American Studies

Director of American Studies from 2010-2013.

Melinda Russell received the B.A. from Simon's Rock Early College, the M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Minnesota, and the Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.  Dr. Russell has a diverse background in ethnomusicology, focusing on a variety of musical traditions in North America, Africa, and the Caribbean. She has published articles on reggae and musical taste, on the Macarena craze of the 1990s, on choral music in an Illinois city, on the folksong repertoire of Americans, on the Star-Spangled Banner in contemporary America, and on including applied  music components in lecture courses.  She coedited the books Community of Music and In the Course of Performance: Studies in the World of Musical Improvisation.  Her current research concerns the folk music revival in Minneapolis during the late 1950s/early 1960s.  Dr. Russell was formerly the Book Review Editor for the journal Ethnomusicology, and served as President of the Midwest Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Prof. George Vrtis
George Vrtis Profile
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and History
Director of Environmental Studies
Harry Williams
Harry Williams Profile
Laird Bell Professor of History

B.A., Lincoln University; M.A., University of Missouri; Ph.D., Brown University

Professor Williams' teaches African American history, and his primary teaching interests include 19th c. slavery studies, social and intellectual history, black conservatism, and cultural studies. Secondary teaching interests include the Black Atlantic with emphasis on Ghana (Gold Coast) and the United States, and the Concord intellectuals. Research interest George S. Schuyler (1895-1977).