Lana Whited, Minister of Magical Education, Ferrum College

Continuing in her role as Minister of Magical Education, Dr. Lana Whited of Ferrum College has a first-rate lineup of Harry Potter experts sprucing up their broomsticks to travel to the Star City in October!

Lectures, panels, and demonstrations will be offered for both apprentice and experienced wizards. Dr. Whited edited the first published collection of scholarly essays on the Harry Potter series, The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter (2002). She is also co-editor, with Dr. M. Katherine Grimes, of Critical Insights: The Harry Potter Series (2014) and editor of a Critical Insights volume on The Hunger Games trilogy. She is headmistress of Hogwarts Academy, a middle school class in Ferrum’s Summer Enrichment Program, and teaches a college course on the hero myth. She has served as keynote speaker for the Edinboro (Pa.) and Staunton festivals.

In addition to teaching English, Dr. Whited directs the Boone Honors Program at Ferrum. She took her O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s from Emory & Henry College, The College of William & Mary, Hollins University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

You can visit Dr. Whited’s professional site at

Events organized through the Ministry for Magical Education will take place at Greene Memorial United Methodist Church on festival day.

Amy Sturgis, keynote speaker, Lenoir-Rhyne University

Amy H. Sturgis, a widely known expert on fantasy and science fiction, is our 2018 keynote speaker.  On festival day, Dr. Sturgis will speak on the topic “Why We Need New Magic: Tolkien, Rowling, and Post-Potter Fantasy Literature.”  Dr. Sturgis earned her Ph.D. in Intellectual History from Vanderbilt University. She teaches at Lenoir-Rhyne University and specializes in fantasy/science fiction and Indigenous American Studies. She also contributes monthly articles to the Hugo Award-winning StarShipSofa podcast and serves as editor in chief of Hocus Pocus Comics. The author of four books and over sixty essays and the editor of eight books, Dr. Sturgis has won awards for her scholarship (from the Northeast Tolkien Society) and journalism (from the Los Angeles Press Club), and she has been interviewed as a guest expert in venues such as NPR's "Talk of the Nation,” The History Channel, The Huffington Post, MuggleNet Academia, and Reading, Writing, Rowling. Some of her works include the edited collections The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko, Past Watchful Dragons: Fantasy and Faith in the Worlds of C.S. Lewis, and the "A Celebration of Indigenous Fantasists" double-issue of Apex Magazine, as well as essays in Mythlore, Hog's Head Conversations, The Ravenclaw Reader, Harry Potter for Nerds, Vol. 2, and Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy. Her official website is

Events organized by the Ministry for Magical Education will take place at Greene Memorial United Methodist Church.


Official Website:

"A Celebration of Indigenous Fantasists" issue of Apex Magazine:

"Hogwarts in America" from Reason Magazine:…/…/11/18/hogwarts-in-america/print

"Harry Potter Is A Hobbit" from CSL:…/…/2012/10/harryisahobbitpdf.pdf

Danny Adams, SF/fantasy author

Classes with Danny Adams

Writing Fantasy Panel

Danny Adams is the co-author, with the late science-fiction master Philip Jose Farmer, of the novels The City Beyond Play and Dayworld: A Hole in Wednesday. His SF and fantasy short stories and poetry have appeared in magazines that include Asimov's Science Fiction, Ideomancer, Mythic Delirium (edited by Roanoke native Mike Allen), Not One of Us, Space & Time, Star*Line, and Strange Horizons. Danny is a librarian at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Va., and an SF/fantasy book reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

David Baggett, Liberty University

You may know Dr. David Baggett of Liberty University as editor of Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts. Dr. Baggett earned his doctorate in philosophy at Wayne State University and taught for four years at Kings College. He is now professor of philosophy in the Rawlings School of Divinity at Liberty University, where he’s taught for twelve years now.

Dr. Baggett's festival day talk is tentatively titled "Train Up Your Wizards in the Way They Should Go." He will present with his wife, Marybeth Davis Baggett. He is executive editor and founder of and author or editor of over a dozen books, including academic works published by Oxford University Press. He’s edited or co-edited several other books on philosophy and popular culture, including tennis, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sherlock Holmes. He and his wife, an LU English professor, have been married for six years and have one son.

Marybeth Davis Baggett, Liberty University

Dr. Marybeth Davis Baggett is professor of English at Liberty University; she serves as a faculty member for the Master of Arts in English program at LU and has directed and served on several thesis committees exploring Harry Potter and other works of fantasy literature. On festival day, Dr. Baggett will co-present with her colleague and husband Dr. David Baggett in two sessions: "Train Up Your Wizards in the Way They Should Go" and "Magic, Skepticism, and the Philosophical Imagination."

She earned her Ph.D. in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and her studies there emphasized primarily science fiction and dystopian literature, especially their contemporary manifestations. Only after she finished her doctoral work was she introduced to Rowling’s wonderful wizarding world, thanks to her son who was an avid fan. She currently serves as associate editor for and Christ and Pop Culture and recently released The Morals of the Story: Good News about a Good God (IVP Academic, 2018), coauthored with her husband, David Baggett.

Johnny Barnett,

Classes with Johnny Barnett

Harry Potter and the 7 Chakras at 10 and 12.

Johnny Barnett, a practicing astrologer for over 26 years, will present “Harry Potter and the 7 Chakras” on festival day. His talk is an entertaining and mind-opening look at the “magic” behind the Harry Potter series, exploring how the seven books thematically correspond to the seven Chakras, creating a masterpiece of literature and esoteric story-telling! Barnett will discuss how various characters illustrate portrayals of various astrological sign.

Barnett has a unique astrological perspective based upon the relationship between the seven planets of classical astrology and the seven Chakras–thus Chakraology – an embracing of the Hermetic wisdom “as without , so within.” He draws upon his complementary studies in symbolism, mythology, Jungian psychology, physics and the works of contemporary and recent thinkers such as Eckhart Tolle and Joseph Campbell, as well as his experiences as a father, husband, entrepreneur, community activist and musician to inform his work. Johnny currently travels the United States teaching Chakraology classes and doing private astrological readings. During the afternoon, he will be doing astrological readings in the vendor area of the festival.

Sarah Beach, Panelist, "Growing Up with Harry Potter"

See Sarah Beach at the Growing Up with Harry Potter Panel

Sarah Beach is a Franklin County native and an English 8 teacher at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. She graduated from University of Richmond. In the summer, Sarah is the director of Ferrum College Summer Enrichment Camp where young wizards and witches (ages 9-13) can attend a Hogwarts OWL or NEWT class. Identifying with Hermione since a young age, Sarah has found the Harry Potter series to be a grounding source of literature throughout her growing up and teaching career. 

Leslie Bickford, Winthrop University

Dr. Leslie Walker Bickford of Winthrop University will present a talk on festival day entitled, "'Well, it changes every day, you see': Harry Potter, Donald Trump, and the Press in Politics." At Winthrop, Dr. Bickford is an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. She regularly teaches a course entitled “The Literary Merits of Harry Potter,” which explores the series through the different lenses of gender, psychology, class, race, and reader response. Dr. Bickford is thrilled that her chair allowed her to design such a class and that her university pays her to teach it. She particularly enjoys her students' tradition of baking and sharing Potter-themed treats on House Presentation days in class. She has visited Universal Studios with her husband and two children and is currently seeking permission to take her class there on a field trip.

Matthew Burgess, Panelist, "Growing Up with Harry Potter"

See Matt Burgess at the Growing Up with Harry Potter Panel

Matt Burgess was born and raised in southern Virginia and is now living in Vinton with his wife and daughter. He is an Appomattox Regional Governor's School Dragon and double legacy Hokie with a degree in Communications. He has been a rabid fan of sci-fi and fantasy novels since elementary school and fully intends to finish writing that book one day.  

Kathleen Chamberlain, Emory & Henry College

Dr. Kathleen Chamberlain will give a talk on Harry Potter and the school story tradition on festival day. Dr. Chamberlain has taught English and Women's/Gender Studies at Emory & Henry College since 1989. At E&H, she offers a junior-level course called "Harry Potter in Context" that explores the series through historical, cultural, and theoretical lenses. The class includes an annual Halloween Feast for which students dress as their favorite characters and enjoy Potter-related videos. A long-time scholar of girls' series fiction (Nancy Drew, etc.) and school stories, Dr. Chamberlain has also presented academic papers on gender and queerness in Harry Potter.

Christen Church, attorney and partner, Gentry Locke Attorneys

Classes with Christen Church

Magical Copyright Enforcement Panel

Christen Church will be a member of the Magical Copyright Enforcement panel during GMF  2018.  Church is an attorney and a Partner at Gentry Locke, Attorneys. Her law practice includes a focus on corporate law, intellectual property, health care regulation and compliance, and data privacy and security. She regularly advises clients on all aspects of securing, enforcing and protecting their intellectual property rights.  She has consistently been recognized since 2014 as a Virginia Rising Star by Virginia Super Lawyers.

While Church is a longtime fan of the Harry Potter series, she has recently rediscovered Harry Potter through the eyes of her two children.  Together they enjoy listening to Harry Potter audiobooks on any family car trip and recently finished out the series during a long car ride to Florida, to visit The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM.

Danielle Currier, Randolph College

Danielle M. Currier is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Women & Gender studies at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va. She will give a talk entitled “Fantastical, Feisty, Fearless, Flying, and Feminist: the Girls and Women of Hogwarts” on festival day.

Although her day job requires that she teach, act as a pseudo-parent to her students, and conduct research, she still finds time to kayak, hike in the woods looking for fairies and unicorns, and listen to fanfiction read aloud by her goddaughter.

Dr. Currier earned degrees at Grinell College (B.A.); Virginia Commonwealth University (M.S.); and the University of Connecticut (Ph.D.) You can check out a podcast interview with Dr. Currier in Gender & Society, a peer-reviewed journal focusing on sociology and women's studies:


MaryBeth Fisher, Panelist, "Growing Up with Harry Potter"

See MaryBeth Fisher at the Growing Up with Harry Potter Panel

MaryBeth Fisher is the volunteer coordinator for the Generic Magic Festival. She volunteered for Roanoke Harry Potter Festival in 2017 from 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. Her dedication was recognized by the organizing committee, which inducted her into the leadership team!

She graduated from Millersville University (Pa.) in 2011 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and is a kindergarten teacher for Roanoke City Public Schools. In 2018, she was Teacher of the Year for her school.

MaryBeth remembers being 8 years old and helping her mom pick out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for her older brother’s birthday gift.  Various school projects, book releases, and movie premieres followed as fond memories.

Louise Freeman, Mary Baldwin University

Classes with Dr. Louise Freeman

PTSD in HP, THG & the Impossible Knife of Memory

Before Hogwarts: Fantasy Works Influential to Harry Potter

We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Louise M. Freeman, professor of psychology at Mary Baldwin University, will return for GMF '18! Dr. Freeman, who has taught at MBC for 18 years, will talk about PTSD in the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy, and Laurie Halse Anderson's novel "The Impossible Knife of Memory." She blogs regularly at and has been a frequent guest on the Mugglenet Academia and Reading, Writing, Rowling podcasts. Dr. Freeman also provides in-home behavior support services for special needs children. A behavioral neuroscientist by training, she has studied the role of hormones in sexual differentiation for most of her career. More recently, her research has expanded to include psychology and young adult literature. Dr. Freeman has given presentations on Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent and other young adult literature at JMU, Gonzaga University, Chestnut Hill College, Louisiana State University and UNLV.…/01/25/louise-m-freeman/

Katherine Grimes, Ferrum College

The Minister of Magical Education welcomes another faculty returnee, Dr. M. Katherine Grimes, professor of English at Ferrum College. On festival day, Dr. Grimes will talk about Harry Potter as a fairy tale prince, a topic she will relate to Bruno Bettelheim's theories about fairy tales. She will also moderate the panel "Teaching Harry Potter at the College/University Level."

Dr. Grimes is a contributor to The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter (Missouri, 2001), the first published collection of essays on J. K. Rowling's famous series. She also co-edited Critical Insights: Harry Potter (Grey House, 2015) with Dr. Lana Whited and recently edited Critical Insights: The Outsiders (Grey House, 2018).

A native Tar Heel, Dr. Grimes holds degrees from Catawba College and the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Greensboro. In addition to the Harry Potter series, Dr. Grimes is especially interested in literature of the American South, African American literature, and maturation literature. Her dissertation topic was absent mothers in Southern Literature. She also teaches mythology to middle schoolers in the Ferrum College Summer Enrichment Camp.

Learn more about Dr. Katherine Grimes here:

Seong-bok Hong, Panelist, "Growing Up with Harry Potter"

See Seong-bok Hong at the Growing Up with Harry Potter Panel

Seong-bok Hong is from South Korea, but is currently working in Wellington, New Zealand. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from Sejong University. Additionally, he studied abroad at Ferrum College for one semester, where he took Dr. Lana Whited's "Harry Potter and the Hero Myth" course.

 Since he encountered Harry Potter for the first time through the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, he grew up with Harry in his childhood. The effect of the series on him was obvious: he tapped random bricks with a rod or a stick hoping that he would find a secret entrance for the wizarding world as Harry and Hagrid did; he stared at snakes for a long time trying to communicate with them in Parseltongue, and he carried a slender branch which looked like a wand in the classroom.

From the first discovery of Harry Potter to the last volume of the series, he was spellbound. But not until he took Dr. Whited's class did he get to know why he had been attracted to the story of Harry's journey.

Taylor Holden, Panelist, "Growing Up with Harry Potter"

See Taylor Holden at the Growing Up with Harry Potter Panel

Taylor Holden grew up in Ferrum, Va., and studied Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Richmond. Upon graduation, he helped manage Spatial Analysis Lab at UR for three years while completing a Master’s in Nonprofit Studies. He is currently employed at HDR as a GIS Analyst.

In his spare time, Taylor is helping his boyfriend launch a vegan cheese company, Unmoo. Harry Potter was the inspiration for much of Taylor’s love of reading growing up.


Elizabeth Baird Hardy, Mayland Community College

Classes with Elizabeth Baird Hardy

Magical Creatures in Fiction of C.S. Lewis & J.K. Rowling


Elizabeth Baird Hardy, a Senior Instructor of English at Mayland Community College in North Carolina, will be offering Herbology and Magical Creatures classes at GMF ‘18.  Hardy has been on the faculty of the Hogwarts Professor blog for nearly ten years and looks forward to any opportunity to chat and podcast with her fellow Potter Pundits about the rich insights to be found in the Wizarding World and beyond.

At MCC, Hardy was awarded the 2006 Excellence in Teaching award. She is the author of Milton, Spenser, and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C.S. Lewis Novels (McFarland 2007), and has contributed to numerous publications and collections, including Critical Insights: The Hunger Games (Salem 2016), Star Trek and History (Wiley 2013), and Twilight and History (Wiley 2010).

Hardy has presented at several national conferences, including C.S. Lewis: the Man and his Work, the Women of Appalachia Conference, the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, the Witching Hour in Salem, MA, and LeakyCon and  Infinitus in Orlando, FL.

She also works closely with her husband, award-winning Civil War author and historian Michael C. Hardy. They and their children frequently serve as interpreters at historic sites, teaching about a variety of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century topics. She particularly loves teaching about medicinal plants that would make Professor Sprout proud.


Michael Jones, fantasy author

Michael M. Jones lives in Southwest Virginia with too many books, just enough cats, and a wife who supports all of his bad habits. He is an author, an editor, and a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly. His stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and he's responsible for collections such as Scheherazade's Facade and Schoolbooks & Sorcery. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Children's Literature at Hollins University. He can be found online at Oneminutemonkey on Twitter, or at