Archive of Featured Alumni

Archive of Featured Alumni

Archive of Featured Alumni

This archive contains past postings on Medieval Institute alumni in alphabetical order.

A | B | CD | E | FG | HIJK | L | MNO | PQ | R | STUVWXYZ

Benjamin R. Andresen, M.A., 2003

Portrait of Ben Andresen's son WittI currently work for Whole Foods Market as the Information Technology Coordinator for Store and Technology Support. As such, I use my education in indirect ways. The skills I learned researching, writing, teaching, and verbally presenting a complex idea or framework have been instrumental in my success.

While at WMU I enjoyed every class I took on Irish archaeology with Dr. Amos, or "Doc" as we called him. Two other classes I enjoyed were "The Psalms and Their Illustration" taught by Dr. Teviotdale and a class on Forensic Osteology that I was able to take out of the Criminology department.

After graduation, I married Meg Bowman, another Institute graduate, relocated to Chicago, and had my son, Witt. (posted 2010)


Jack R. Baker, M.A., 2006

Portrait of Jack Baker with his familyOne of the things I miss the most about the Medieval Institute is the profound sense of community I experienced there between faculty, staff, and students. I entered the program with little experience in medieval studies—yet, I was welcomed in to the program as a colleague and shepherded along the way. What is more, the opportunity to teach Medieval 1450 for two years prepared me for further graduate teaching at Purdue University where I earned my PhD in Old and Middle English Language and Literature in May, 2010. In fact, Professor Szarmach served as my outside reader some four years after I had finished under his tutelage.

When Kelly and I left the Medieval Institute, our son Owen Raymond (5 yrs.) was only a few weeks old. Since then, we’ve welcomed two beautiful children into the world: Silvia Kay (3 yrs.), and Griffin Samuel (7 mos.). We have moved seven times in nine years of marriage, we have completed four academic degrees between the two of us, penned one dissertation, and have met many wonderful friends along the way. In the fall of 2010, I began a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of English at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI where my specialty is history of the English Language and Early English Literature. This year I have had the opportunity to integrate the training I received at the Medieval Institute into an upper-level course titled “Middle English and Manuscript Studies”—a course in which my students are currently crafting their own manuscript (ink, parchment, illustrations, etc.) out of locally found materials. I could not imagine having accomplished any of this without the education, support, and friendships that were fostered at the Medieval Institute. (posted 2011)


Christopher J. Beiting, M.A., 1990

Portrait of Christopher BeitingI received my M.A. in Medieval Studies from the Institute in 1990. After graduating, I continued to work for Waldo Library full-time for a year while gathering funds for graduate school. I was fortunate enough to receive an Overseas Research Scholarship from the British Academy, as well as a Weaver Fellowship from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, so in October of 1991, my wife and I packed up our two small children and moved to England, where I commenced work in the doctoral program in history at Oxford. Six years and two more children later, I defended my dissertation, The Development of the Idea of Limbo in the Middle Ages and returned to America with my D.Phil. in 1997.

Since then, I've worked in a number of capacities. I was one of the founding faculty members of Ave Maria College in Michigan, and was later the founder and head of its history department, as well as the Dean of Students. I later spent a year as a visiting professor of history at Western Kentucky University. Currently, I am employed by Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana. I was initially hired to serve as the Dean of Students and director of the Liberal Studies Program, but have since moved on to serve as the chairman of the college’s history department, which I was tasked with developing and redesigning. By an odd coincidence, here at Holy Cross I also get to work alongside Mary Ellen Hegedus, with whom I worked back in my Waldo Library days. They say that history doesn't repeat itself, but I'm beginning to wonder about that these days.

The chief joy in my career has been teaching, and I am pleased to have been able to devote so much time and effort to it. I have also published quite a bit, and my work has appeared in journals such as The Thomist, Augustiniana, New Blackfriars Review, Franciscan Studies, Logos, The Catholic Social Science Review, Modern Age, St. Austin Review, and New Oxford Review. I have also made contributions to projects such as The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, The Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy.  I have been an adjunct professor for Northwood University and St. Mary's College, a content consultant for several textbook projects, and, on several occasions, as a grant reviewer the United States Department of Education.

For a look at my efforts in the field of history, see this review from the National Association of Scholars.


George Walton Benson, M.A., 2003

Portrait of Walt Benson with his familyI thoroughly enjoyed earning my M.A. in Medieval Studies. While at WMU, I taught MDVL 145: Heroes & Villains of the Middle Ages and was the webmaster for the MIP online bookstore. After graduating in 2003, my wife and I returned to New Mexico where I began working in the financial services industry. Since then, I have worked for banks and credit unions in several capacities; I am currently the Sr. Financial Analyst for U.S. New Mexico Federal Credit Union. I have also since earned my MBA from the University of New Mexico, currently own three businesses that provide medical services to individuals and hospitals, and enjoy living in the Southwest with my wife and three beautiful children. Though no longer in academia, I enjoy attending UNM’s annual Spring Lecture Series, hosted by the Institute for Medieval Studies under the direction of former WMU professor Dr. Timothy C. Graham. (posted 2010)


Sarah Kelley Brish, M.A., 2009

Image of the Brish familyI began my studies at the Medieval Institute with no particular focus in mind. While taking courses on a variety of topics, I discovered a passion for languages and translation. My favorite courses were those on Old Norse and Old English, particularly Jana Schulman's seminar on monstrosity in the Beowulf manuscript. When not immersed in coursework, I engaged with the department first as a Graduate Assistant—in the Cube, as assistant to the Congress Coordinator—and then as co-instructor for MDVL 1450. I spent three wonderful and rewarding years at the Medieval Institute, forging great friendships and fond memories.

Since graduating in 2009, I have taken a break from full-time academia. I have made good friends with my spinning wheel and knitting needles, and stockpiled several pounds of fabulous fibers and yarns. In 2010 my husband and I moved to Ann Arbor, where he works in the software industry. There, during the Christmas season of 2010, I began working for Zingerman's Mail Order.

In the spring of 2011 I dove back into the academic world. In March I presented a paper on language and gender in the Beowulf Manuscript at the Michigan Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters conference in Saginaw. The beginning of May found my husband and me traveling to Norway, where I presented a paper on Norse Mythology in video games at the Across Media conference in Trondheim. We spent a further week touring Norway and seeking out places with medieval ties – Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Haakon’s Hall in Bergen, and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, to name a few.

I continued to work at Zingerman's throughout 2011. My son, Evan Alexander, made his arrival several weeks early, taking Jeremy and me by surprise during our Christmas vacation. Since Evan’s birth, I have left my job and am now enjoying the journey of motherhood. Between naps and feedings (both Evan’s and his parents’), I am attempting to become reacquainted with my spinning wheel and an Old Norse translation project, while chronicling the adventures of my little Viking along the way. (posted 2012)


Samantha Cairo-Toby, M.A., 1999

Portrait of Samantha Cairo-Toby with her daughterWhile pursuing my M.A. at the Medieval Institute I took a student position at the University Libraries working in the Special Collections department. Through this job and my classes on "Medieval Book Illumination" and the "History of the Book" offered through the Medieval Institute, I learned that I not only loved taking care of rare books, but that I wanted to preserve them for future generations through book conservation. After graduating in 1999 I immediately took a job teaching World Mythology at Lansing Community College until the job Special Collections Coordinator was finalized at the WMU Libraries (I managed to hold down both jobs for two years until the winter driving got the best of me and I quit the job in Lansing). Being the Special Collections Coordinator put me in charge of the department's conservation program. I augmented my conservation skills that I learned in my initial job training with classes taught at the Newberry Library in Chicago and various other workshops throughout the country. It was during this time period I also learned I had a knack for creating handmade artists' books and began to enter them in regional shows.

In 2003 I decided to get my Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) at Wayne State University in Detroit, while continuing to work for WMU. In 2005 I graduated from the Library program with an emphasis in Special Collections and Book Conservation, got married to my husband Jim and moved to San Francisco, California. In 2006 I began working as a research librarian/archivist at the Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco, using my conservation skills to advise both the Museum and Library staff on how to protect the more precious items in their vast collection. While working for the Museum I also assisted several authors and movie researchers search our archived images of the performing arts in San Francisco. The most notable of which was helping the Pixar storyboard artists find images of magicians for their movie short Presto that was released with the feature film Wall E in 2008. I quit my job at the Museum in the spring of 2009 to raise my daughter, Madeleine, now almost a year old. I am currently still producing artists' books and volunteering my conservation skills to the Patrick J. Dowling Library at the United Irish Cultural Centre in San Francisco, the oldest all Irish Library in the United States. (posted 2010)


Elisabeth (Lisa) Carnell, M.A., 2002

Photo of Elisabeth Carnell with her daughter, Emma My path to the Medieval Institute was circuitous: I began my undergraduate degree as a sculptor, but after taking a Latin class filled with medievalists I piled on history and English majors, thus changing my course. I continued at Western Michigan University in the interdisciplinary graduate program of the Medieval Institute at the same time I worked as part-time staff in an unrelated department and, eventually, also taught our undergraduate course, Heroes and Villains of the Middle Ages. My professional intention had been to continue on the academic track and earn a PhD after defending my thesis (on interpersonal magic in the Picatrix—Arabic title Ġāyat al-Hakīm—a grimoire synthesizing earlier works on astrology and magic). But life got in the way, as it so often does, and the realities of raising a special-needs child resulted in my making the decision to decline an admissions offer and discontinue the PhD application process altogether.

Image of "Lightning and Shadow," one of Lisa Carnell's original vesselsI now straddle both worlds of my academic past, as both Coordinator for the International Congress on Medieval Studies and regionally-shown potter. Although I had continued to give academic papers related to my thesis topic the years following my M.A., over the last several years I've shifted gears to focus on medieval-informed literature of this century and enjoy presenting content- and context-driven readings of the Harry Potter series at non-academic conferences (allowing me to use my interdisciplinary academic training for The Forces of Good). (posted 2011)


Steven Cartwright, M.A., 1992

Portrait of Steven CartwrightI began studies at the Medieval Institute in 1990 with an interest in the study of the Bible in the Middle Ages. I learned paleography here, and began editing the Latin texts of Atto of Vercelli's commentaries on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans for my Master's Thesis. I continued on at WMU, getting a PhD in medieval history in 2001, comparing the Romans commentaries of William of Saint-Thierry and Peter Abelard. I will soon be publishing the first complete English translation of Abelard's commentary with Catholic University of America Press, and am also editing a volume on St. Paul in the Middle Ages for Brill. While a doctoral student, I also edited and translated a little-known tenth-century commentary on Second Thessalonians by Thietland, second abbot of Einsiedeln. I published this translation with Medieval Institute Publications.

I currently work full time for WMU Libraries in the Acquisitions department and teach part time for the History Department. I am also active in the Professional Instructors Organization, which represents part-time instructors at WMU. I am married to Barb and have a twelve-year-old daughter, Katie. I love teaching the Middle Ages to my history students, and look forward every year to Medieval Congress—one of the highlights of my year! (posted 2010)


Melodie Harris Eichbauer, M.A., 2000

Portrait of Melodie Harris EichbauerI earned my M.A. in Medieval Studies and continued my doctoral studies in history at The Catholic University of America.  I defended my dissertation entitled "From Gratian's Concordia discordantium canonum to Gratian's Decretum: The Evolution from Teaching Text to Comprehensive Code of Canon Law" in 2009.  My deepest gratitude goes to Ken Pennington, who directed my research, and to my husband Paul, who has supported me through both degrees and did not mind when I defended on our anniversary.

I am currently part-time faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University where I teach a survey course in medieval history and seminar courses in medieval religious culture.  I hope to continue my research in legal and ecclesiastical history as an assistant professor.  I look forward to returning each year to the Congress for the scholarly environment and to catch up with old friends and reminisce about our time at the Institute. (posted 2009)


Juleen Audrey Eichinger, M.A., 1992

Portrait of Juleen EichingerI earned my M.A. in Medieval Studies while working full time as Production Editor at Medieval Institute Publications. It was a particularly intense period: mediaevalia day, night, and weekends. But it was also an intellectually exhilarating period . . . so much so that I went on to earn a PhD in History in 1999! I could never have done it without lots of support and patience from colleagues, administrators, professors, and family. But the research, critical thinking, and discipline skills acquired as a student inform virtually all aspects of my intellectual life and communications, making the "investment" invaluable.

My subsequent career path has been rather non-traditional but equally satisfying: a period as Director of Communications for WMU's Research and Graduate Studies, then a move to Tucson, Arizona, where my editorial business, Eichinger Communications, LLC, provides editorial services to scholars and publishers in Medieval Studies, History, and Literature. What career could be better than reading interesting articles and books, working with long-time colleagues as well as with an expanding group of talented professionals from around the world? (posted 2009)


Tai French, M.A., 2005

Photo portrait of Tai French and her familyMy two favorite features of the Medieval Institute were the variety of disciplines and the teaching experience. Since the Institute is interdisciplinary, it was very broadening to have such a variety of courses to take and professors to learn from. Although my focus was on medieval literature, courses in research methodology, Carolingian history, history of religion, and others helped me to gain a well-rounded view of the Middle Ages.  Being able to co-teach Medieval 1450 gave me solid experience in creating curriculums, lecturing, setting assignments and working with students. It is amazing how much you can learn when you need to narrow down 1000 years of history, literature, religion and culture into one semester! One of my fondest memories is of the students’ submissions for their final creative projects; we received many trebuchets and castles made of questionable materials (popsicle sticks and sugar cubes), but we also received a life-size replica of a Viking shield and two batches of (not bad) mead!

Since graduation, my teaching experience has been invaluable in assisting me to get a TA position with Ashford University Online. The skills I learned at the Institute, specifically encouraging students and giving them constructive feedback in the writing and research process, have helped me to work with diverse groups of students as they pursue their studies. The online format is perfect for me since it allows me to do what I love best: spending time with my husband and our two little girls! When I'm not grading, I enjoy embroidering gifts for family and friends, baking snickerdoodles for my husband, reading about dragons to my three year old, and teaching my eighteen-month old to make animal noises! (posted 2011)


Scott Havens, M.A., 2001

Portrait of Scott HavensI knew I wanted to be a medievalist when I was about 8 or 9. I wasn't sure what it was called then, I just knew that I would be spending my adult life dealing with knights and wizards and stories and language. My fascination with myth, story, and how they conflate with language and culture never ebbed throughout high school and played a significant role in determining which college I chose to attend. I picked up a Medieval Studies minor (it was all they offered) at SUNY Geneseo during my time there as an undergraduate and was instantly fascinated all over again. I especially loved the confluence of philosophy and religion during the early medieval period, taking several more electives than the minor required.

After leaving New York, I found myself at Western Michigan University as a graduate student at the Medieval Institute. I worked part time at the Institute of Cistercian Studies as an office assistant and made dear friends there. I also taught the Medieval Institute's undergraduate course, Heroes and Villains of the Middle Ages, both with several co-teachers and independently. I had committed myself to the translation and analysis of Alfred the Great's own translation of St. Augustine's Soliloquies. With the manuscript's provenance largely missing, I was forced to draw my research to a close much sooner than I would've liked and graduated shortly thereafter.

After garnering my Masters in Medieval Studies, I was suddenly in a bit of a bind. My partner, Andy, moved here from New York to be with me during my first year at Western and quickly got a great job in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, and the tech bubble burst right around the time of my graduation. Neither of us wanted to take a chance on an uncertain economy, and so I suddenly discovered I needed to get a job locally. I taught introductory English and writing classes at Kellogg Community College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College for a few years, but ultimately there just wasn't a lot of call for ninth-century Anglo-Saxon philosophy specialists in the Kalamazoo area, so I pimped out some of my other skills. I went back to my roots and went to work at Barnes and Noble, and slowly began rising through the ranks towards management.

I also got involved with Laughing Pan Productions (a start-up game company) in 2003, and ended up running their demo program for two years while also contributing content to their various products and online presence. I traveled around the country and interacted with our fans online promoting our products for two glorious years. During that time I also was one of the co-writers of Goblin Markets: The Glitter Trade, a book designed for our core role-playing product that has yet to be released. After Laughing Pan closed its doors, I rediscovered my love of comics and began exploring that genre full tilt.

Currently, I'm a manager at the local Barnes and Noble when I'm not physically attached to my computer working on various items for my new writing project. I've taken up glassblowing, and love everything about the process and the result. Goblin Markets, as it turns out, will be released by the end of year, or so I'm told. I still live with Andy, my partner of now over fourteen years, and our two cats that rather enjoy being able to pounce on me at will while I write. (posted 2011)


Kimberly (Campbell) Laing, M.A., 2004

Photo portrait of Kim Laing with her husband and their dogsAfter my graduation in 2004, I married fellow Institute graduate Gregory Laing and we bought a house in Kalamazoo while he pursues his PhD in English at Western. No kids yet, but we have two rescued greyhounds that fill out our family. I work for the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency as a Project Manager. I run various state and federal grant programs as well as providing professional development for K-12 teachers. In order to support my continued interest in medieval studies, I developed an online section of MDVL 1450: Heroes and Villains of the Middle Ages, and I have taught it for the last three years. (posted 2009)





Elisabeth A. McCaffery, M.A., 2005

Portrait of Elise McCafferyI earned my M.A. in Medieval Studies in 2005. I loved the interdisciplinary aspect of the Medieval Institute. I took courses ranging from the history of early Christianity to research methodology to the Viking Sagas. My favorites were Dr. Eve Salisbury's seminar on medieval love and marriage at the Newberry Library and a course on the twelfth-century Renaissance with Dr. E. Rozanne Elder.

As part of my Graduate Assistantship, I worked with Candy Porath at Medieval Institute Publications and later I was the library aide for the Richard Rawlinson Center. I appreciated working with Candy because under her guidance I learned about a career in publishing, and assisting Candy in the exhibits hall during the International Medieval Congress was fun and exciting. My assistantship was an especially valuable learning experience because I would leave WMU directly after graduation to work for the publishing house ABC-CLIO.

From 2005 until 2009 I was a writer/editor for ABC-CLIO's World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras online reference database. In 2009 my daughter was born and I took a break from my job. I am now back at ABC-CLIO part-time as a writer/editor for the newly-launched World Religions online reference database. I am thrilled that I am able to use my educational background for my job, which also inspires me to continue to learn about new eras and areas of history. Attending WMU was a great experience—I had wonderful classes, talented teachers, and made some dear friends for life. (posted 2012)


Dorothy C. Porter, M.A., 2001

Portrait of Dot PorterMy name is Dot Porter, and I work in digital humanities. My current position is Metadata Manager at the Digital Humanities Observatory, run out of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. "Digital Humanities" is a fairly broad term that refers to the application of technologies to humanities research and teaching. I focus mainly on the research aspect of the field, and it's fair to say that I never would have entered the field were it not for my graduate work in Medieval Studies. While a student at WMU I was intrigued by the various electronic projects that were just becoming popular, which focused on bringing usually hard-to-view manuscript materials to a broader audience, particularly The Canterbury Tales project, Piers Plowman, and the Electronic Beowulf. After completing the M.A. I took an MS in Library Science at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and from January 2003 I was the Program Coordinator at the Collaboratory for Research in Computing for Humanities. I first worked with Kevin Kiernan on the Electronic Boethius project and later worked with Ross Scaife on a number of different projects in the digital Classics. In October 2008 I took up my current position in Ireland. Although my current project list is quite broad, I still enjoy working with medieval materials when I can, and my own research interest focuses on the expression of the physical materiality of text-bearing objects within digital environments - including, of course, medieval manuscripts. (posted 2009)


Pamela S. Rups, M.A., 1997

Portrait of Pamela S. RupsThe Medieval Institute encouraged me to pursue my interest in how medieval manuscripts were made, and for my thesis, I made a medieval manuscript modeled after English bestiaries of the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries.

After I received my degree, I went to England and Scotland to do more research on the manuscripts I had seen mostly only in black and white on microfiche. I even had the great privilege of seeing a manuscript in the Bodleian Library that no one had been allowed to see for more than seven years. I also occasionally lecture across the country about making medieval manuscripts, accompanied by a display showing all the materials and processes.

I worked on my master's degree while an employee of Western Michigan University, and today I manage the Faculty Technology Center. I also do some graphic design work for the department and University as well as technology training.

So by day I am somewhat of a techie, and by night I work with my hands. I love gardening, native plant landscaping, creating artist’s books, Chinese calligraphy, playing fiddle, calling dances, bicycling, and meditation. My other joy in life comes from volunteering for hospice and Habitat for Humanity. (posted 2010)


Katie (Brambrink) Sewell, M.A., 2008

Photo of Katie Sewell in her office in BloomingtonI bounced around between majors as an undergraduate, but after studying medieval history in England for four months, I finally decided to follow my true interests, get a degree in history, and go to WMU for a masters in Medieval Studies. The time I spent at the Medieval Institute was extremely exciting, informative, and challenging! I was able to take a plethora of courses in history and religion as well as learn multiple dead languages, all while teaching two sections of MDVL 1450 each semester. While at WMU, I also worked part-time in Special Collections, which gave me the opportunity to travel twice with library staff to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky to work on the new manuscript catalog.

The teaching experience combined with my advanced liberal arts degree landed me a job at Indiana University-Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs as a Career Advisor. I currently teach for the school, advise students about career options, and also critique and edit career documents such as resumes and cover letters.

I live with my husband, Peter, a WMU history department graduate, and our two cats, Maxwell and Sadie. During my free time, I enjoy going for long walks around Bloomington, gardening, knitting, and reading (of course!). (posted 2010)


  • Benjamin Andresen's (M.A., 2003) and Megan Bowman's (M.A., 2004) son, Witt
  • Jack R. Baker (M.A., 2006) with his wife Kelly and their children Silvia, Owen, and Griffin (photo: Lindsay Rae Photography)
  • Christopher J. Beiting (M.A., 1990)
  • George Walton Benson (M.A., 2003) and his family
  • Sarah Kelley Brish (M.A., 2009) and her family
  • Samantha Cairo-Toby (M.A., 1999) with her daughter, Madeleine
  • Elisabeth (Lisa) Carnell (M.A., 2002) with her daughter, Emma
  • "Lightning and Shadow" by Elisabeth Carnell (horsehair raku, white stoneware)
  • Steven Cartwright (M.A., 1992)
  • Melodie Eichbauer (M.A., 2000)
  • Juleen Eichinger (M.A., 1992)
  • Tai French (M.A., 2005) with her husband Craig and their daughters, Mia and Addie
  • Scott Havens (M.A., 2001)
  • Kimberly Laing (M.A., 2004) and Gregory Laing (M.A., 2004) with their greyhounds
  • Elise McCaffery (M.A., 2005)
  • Dorothy C. Porter (M.A., 2001)
  • Pamela S. Rups (M.A., 1997)
  • Katie Sewell (M.A., 2008) in her office in Bloomington

The Medieval Institute
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