Avila University
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AU Spotlight
Submitted November 13, 2009
Rich in Religion


Carol Coburn, Ph.D.,
Professor of Religious Studies
Member of Avila since 1989

Carol Coburn, Ph.D. and professor of religious studies at Avila University, served as an historian and archivist on the advisory board for Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America, a national project sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Women & Spirit features “the untold stories of the innovative, action-oriented women who played a significant role in shaping the nation’s social and cultural landscape.” This exhibit (to be housed at the Smithsonian Institute – Washington, DC) currently is touring across the U.S. See Dr. Coburn showcased at www.womenandspirit.org.

Dr. Coburn received her Ph.D. in 1988 from the University of Kansas where she worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant in the history department and as teaching faculty in the women’s studies department. Since 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.

Fascinated by the historical interface between American culture and religion, 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). Spirited Lives won the Distinguished Book Award from the Conference on the History of Women Religious in 2001. She has made numerous scholarly presentations at national and international conferences in history and religious studies and has published articles in a variety of scholarly journals and periodicals. Most recently, she published an essay, “Finding Spirituality in the Wild,” in America Magazine www.americamagazine.org, reflecting on her experiences backpacking in the Rockies.

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. She was noted for her work on Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change, a 2007 PBS film highlighting the civil rights activism of Catholic sisters who marched in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. Dr. Coburn currently is working as an editor for the award-winning online journal/website/database, Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600 to 2000 http://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/. Continuing her work with the Selma material, Dr. Coburn, in conjunction with the film’s director Jayasri Hart, is working on creating an educational DVD as a companion to the PBS film and also is developing an online document to archive on Catholic Sisters and Civil Rights, 1946-2000 for the Women and Social Movement website. AU