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). 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

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.

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.

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.

Louise Freeman, Mary Baldwin University

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:

Kathryn McDaniel, Marietta College

The Minister of Magical Education is especially happy to announce the return to our festival of Dr. Kathryn (Katy) N. McDaniel, host of a leading MuggleNet podcast and co-editor of Harry Potter for Nerds II. Dr. McDaniel is Andrew U. Thomas Professor of History and department chair at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. On festival day, Dr. McDaniel will talk about “Resisting Totalitarianism in the Wizarding World.”

A British historian specializing in the intersections of popular culture and history, she has published and presented on travel literature, historical themes in fantasy fiction, and pedagogy, and teaches a course called “Harry Potter and the Liberal Arts” at Marietta College. In her published work on Harry Potter, Dr. McDaniel has explored the ways the series presents feminism, education, maps and journeys, totalitarianism, and history. She currently hosts (with John Granger) the podcast “Reading, Writing, Rowling: Imagination and Fiction in the Age of Harry Potter” on, where they discuss all things related to J. K. Rowling and the Potterverse.

Chris McGee, Longwood University

Dr. Chris McGee of Longwood University will talk about detective story conventions in the Harry Potter series. Dr. McGee teaches Children's Literature, Young Adult Literature, and Film courses and has taught several Harry Potter-intensive courses. His areas of research include popular children's culture, adolescent film, and detective fiction. His forthcoming book, "Full of Secrets: Detective Fiction for Young Readers," discusses mystery conventions in Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and a range of other literature for children.

Emily Strand, Mount Carmel College of Nursing

If you were fortunate enough to catch Professor Emily Strand's talk about the symbolism of Quidditch in the Harry Potter series at our 2017 festival, you'll be delighted to hear that she will return to the Star City on October 6. This time around, her talk with be "Dobby the Robot: How a Classic Science Fiction Trope Manifests in Harry Potter."

Emily Strand is author of the book "Mass 101: Liturgy and Life" (Liguori, 2013), serves as Master Catechist for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, and teaches Comparative Religions at Mount Carmel College of Nursing. Her interest in Harry Potter stems from her more fundamental interest in the Christian mystery, its celebration in worship and its implications for Christian living. Emily is a Master’s student at the Mythgard Institute, where she was fortunate to take courses from Dr. Amy H. Sturgis on both Harry Potter and Science Fiction.