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Carol K. Coburn
Professor in Religious Studies and Women's Studies
Director, CSJ Center for Heritage
B.S., M.A. Kansas State University
Ph. D. University of Kansas
Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Carol Coburn received her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1988 where she worked as a Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant in the History Department and as teaching faculty in the Women’s Studies Department. Coming to Avila University in 1989, she has taught courses in education, history, psychology, religious studies and women’s studies. Currently, she teaches American Religious History, Women, Religion and Community in the U.S., Peace Studies, and the 3Rs: Race, Religion and Reform in American Education. She also directs the Study Abroad Program for Avila.

Dr. Coburn has published two books, Life at Four Corners: Religion, Gender and Education in a German Lutheran Community, 1868-1945 and Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920 (co-authored with Martha Smith). She has made numerous scholarly presentations at national and international conferences in history and religious studies. Besides publishing numerous articles in professional journals, she has served as a consultant on a variety of book and film projects concerning Catholic sisters in the United States and Ireland.

Selected CV for Professor Coburn


Books/Book Chapters

Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life
, 1836-1920 (co-authored with Martha Smith) Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Made doubly marginal by their gender and by their religion, American nuns have rarely been granted serious scholarly attention. Instead, their lives and achievements have been obscured by myths or distorted by stereotypes. Placing nuns into the mainstream of American Religious and women's history for the first time, Spirited Lives reveals their critical impact on the development of Catholic culture and, ultimately, the building of American society.

A rich and multifaceted narrative, Spirited Lives illuminates the intersection of gender, religion, and power in the nineteenth-and-early-twentieth-century America.

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Life at Four Corners: Religion, Gender and Education in a German-Lutheran Community, 1868-1945. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1992.

In Life at Four Corners, Carol Coburn analyzes the powerful combination of those ethnic and religious institutions that effectively resisted assimilation for nearly 80 years only to succumb to the influences of the outside world during the 1930's and 1940's. Emphasizing the formal and informal education provided by the church, school, and family, she examines the total process of how values, identities, and all aspects of culture were transmitted from generation to generation.

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"American and Catholic: Historians, Catholic Studies and Public Life," American Catholic Studies Association (May, 2010).

"Spirituality in the Wild," America, (July 20-27, 2009): 26-27.

"Coming of Age in the 21st Century: Writing the History of Women Religious," American Catholic Studies Newsletter, Vol. 33:1 (Spring 2006): 1,7-10.

"Sister Annette Walters," in Notable American Women: Vol. V, edited by Susan Ware, (Harvard University Press, 2005), 661-62.

"City Sisters: The Sisters of St. Joseph in Missouri, 1836-1920" in Women in Missouri History: In Search of Power and Influence. Edited by LeeAnn Whites, Mary Neth and Gary Kremer (University of Missouri Press, 2004).

"Ethnicity, Religion and Gender: The Women of Block, Kansas, 1868-1940," in European Immigrants in the American West: Community Histories, ed. By Frederick C. Luebke. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), 129-46.

Additional Articles/Essays
in the Journal of Social History; Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies; U.S. Catholic Historian; Great Plains Quarterly, Kansas History, Feminist Teacher, the Historical Dictionary of Women’s Education and the Encyclopedia of the American West, The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, and America.

Book Reviews and/or Reviewed Manuscripts for
: Journal of American History, Journal of Women's History, Pacific Historical Review, American Studies, History of Education Quarterly, American Jewish History, Western Historical Quarterly, Annals of Iowa, America, American Catholic Studies, the University of North Carolina Press, the University of Tennessee Press, Indiana University Press, Cornell University Press and the University of Illinois Press.


Invited Participant: 2013 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama.
Invited Delegate: Christian Peacemaker Team working in Palestine, May/June 2012.
Summer Research Fellowship: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University-Chicago, 2010.
Distinguished Scholar Award:  Avila University, 2008.
Summer Research Stipend: The Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, Louisville, KY, 2004.
Research Grant: The Louisville Institute (a Lilly Endowment Program) for the Study of American Religion. Louisville, KY, 2001-02.
Distinguished Book Award: Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920 from the Fifth Triennial Conference on the History of Women Religious, 2001.
Coolidge Scholar: Research Colloquium: “American Religious and Intellectual Life” at Columbia University, Summer 2001.
NEH Seminar: National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar: “American Women’s History Through Social Movements,” State University of New York-Binghamton, 1996.


Berkshire Conference on the History of Women Commentator for Panel: "Women, Religion and Racial Encounters: Protestant, Catholic and Mormon Women in 19th and 20th Century America," University of Massachusetts - Amherst, June 9-12, 2011.
American Historical Society Conference
Chair for Panel: "Words and Deeds: New Perspectives on Catholic Laywomen in the 20th Century," Boston, Massachusetts, January 6-9, 2011.
National Women's Studies Conference
Paper presentation: "A Living Legacy: Catholic Nuns and Social Justice," Denver, Colorado, November 11-14, 2010.


Women, Religion & Community in the U.S.
History of Education and Culture in the U.S.
Images & Realities of Women: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
The 3R’s: Race, Religion & Reform in American Education
American Religious History
Peace Studies
American Women’s History
Women in the American West


(October 2013) Catholic Archives in the Digital Age: A Conference for Reporters, Archivists, and Scholars. Invited Presenter at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, Washington, D.C.

(June 2010) Creating a Document Archive for the Women and Social Movements Website: Catholic Sisters and Civil Rights Activism. Paper presentation at The Eighth Triennial Conference on the History of Women Religious University of Scranton.

(April 2009) "Toward More [Catholic] History:  Using Digitized Documents in the Classroom."  Paper presentation at American Catholic Historical Association, La Salle University, Philadelphia.

(September 2008) "Cultures of Peace in Cyberspace."  Workshop presentation for Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference, Portland University.

(June 2007)  "Archives and Women Religious."  Chair:  Conference on the History of Women Religions, University of Notre Dame.

(January 2005) 'I Speak American': Midwest Rural Communities and the Decline of German-American Identity. Paper presentation for the American Historical Association Conference, Seattle.

(January 2005) 'The Poor Shall Not Always be Forgotten': Contemporary Women Religious in the Rural South. Presentation for the Louisville Institute Seminar, Louisville, Kentucky.

Additional Presentations at the following Conferences: Berkshire Conference of Women Historians; American Historical Association; Organization of American Historians; Social Science History Association; Western Association of Women Historians; History of Education Society; Western Historical Association, Conference on the History of Women Religious; American Franciscan Institute, the German-American Studies Association, and the Peace and Justice Studies Association.


Consultant for Band of Sisters, A documentary film about the Social Justice Ministry of Catholic Sisters over the last 50 years by Mary Fishman, Chicago, 2006-present.

Program Committee for the Eighth Triennial Conference on the History of Women Religious, University of Scranton, June 2010.

Historian Consultant for Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America. A national traveling exhibit sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Academic Advisor for the PBS documentary film: “Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change" (2007) ” from Hart Productions, Los Angeles, 2002-07.

Historian Consultant for the Sisters of St. John of God (Ireland), 2004-06, Wexford, Ireland in March 2005

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Religious Studies & Philosophy
Ken Parsons, Ph.D., Chair, Religious Studies & Philosophy