Dr. Coburn is a Professor Emerita in Religious Studies and the Director of the CSJ Heritage Center at Avila University. She also serves as a faculty consultant for the Buchanan Initiative on Peace and Nonviolence. Dr. Coburn has published two books on American religious history and women’s history, including Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920 (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Researching and publishing over three decades on the topics of Catholic sisters, religious history, and peace and justice, Professor Coburn has published numerous articles, essays, and book reviews, and presented over 40 papers at national and international venues.
Dr. Coburn also worked as a consultant for four documentary filmmakers on the topic of American sisters and social justice, and served as a historian consultant for the PBS film: Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change. Additionally, she consulted on the exhibit: Women of Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Her most recent research and writing, supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, is the result of a four-year grant project designing, consulting, and evaluating the work on Cultural Diversity and Conflict Management by Catholic sisters on five continents. Her most recent article “Crossing Boundaries and Cultural Barriers: Catholic Sisters, Social Justice and Transnationalism,” American Catholic Studies (Spring 2021), discusses the multiple narratives of Catholic sisters’ ministries and their transformational influence from institution building, to social justice, and their transnational impact in the 21st century.