American Studies Appoints New Program Director and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Professor Mary Pat Brady
Professor Mary Pat Brady

In the summer of 2023, the American Studies Program welcomed Mary Pat Brady and Chloe Ahmann as the new Program Director and Director of Undergraduate Studies, respectively. The two new faculty members will continue their professorships in their appointed departments while assuming responsibilities in their new roles. 

Mary Pat Brady, Professor in the Department of Literature and English, first joined Cornell in 1999. This year, she’s taught ENGL 2400: Introduction to U.S. Latinx Literature and is currently teaching ENGL 1111: FWS: Writing Across Cultures. These classes, among the many classes she’s taught while at Cornell, focus on Latino literature and cultural production, children literature, and/or English literature. 

“When I teach Latino literature, I want my students to see the broad history of Latino literary production. Latinos in the United States have been writing — in both English and Spanish — poetry, fiction, and plays for more than a 150 years. I hope students get a sense of this long history that has gone understudied,” she says. 

“I also want students to see how literature emerges from really exciting cultural moments of cultural contestations and discovery and experimentation. I’d like students to understand the way in which literature engages with various historical events. How is it that we can understand history and cultural processes through literature and how does literature try to shape how we move in the world and how we understand each other.”

Her course objectives reflect what she hoped to or had learned during her undergraduate and graduate years of study. While earning her B.A. at Arizona State University, she noticed a lack of literature on her own cultural background as a Chicana. “Just as I was thinking about graduate school, I was reading Chicana literature and was moved by it and excited by it because I hadn’t read literature about my experiences before but, moreover, literature that was so interesting and experimental and complicated.” Brady then went on to earn her PhD in English at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Brady has published two monographs about Latina literature, both of which focus on the intersection of geography and literature, understanding how the production of various places affect how individuals understand themselves and each other. She’s also edited several major volumes of American literature such as the Heath Anthology of American Literature to include the contributions of Latina/o authors in the U.S. Her research within the field spans various other essays and volumes, however, her current research analyzes how Latino writers talk about gentrification in Los Angeles and New York City.   

She will continue to engage in her research and professorship responsibilities while serving as the American Studies Program Director for the next three years. Through this role, she will work closely with department and cross listed faculty, as well as students, to improve their research and educational opportunities. She also hopes to curate new courses within the department and develop more opportunities for student-faculty collaboration.  

Professor Chloe Ahmann
Professor Chloe Ahmann

Chloe Ahmann, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, first joined Cornell faculty in 2020. Her main area of focus has been environmental anthropology, although she has taught classes in various topics within the field. She currently teaches ANTHR 1400: Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology and has also taught ANTHR 4416: It’s the End of the World As We Know It, which focuses on the foundational role of apocalyptic thinking. 

“Thinking like an anthropologist makes people become better lawyers, who understand the social and political contexts in which laws emerge and change. It makes them become better doctors, who actually listen to their patients and are aware of the structural vulnerabilities that people are subjected to. It’s a way of thinking about and alongside people that students can take from the classroom into the world, no matter what path they choose to tread after college,” she says. 

This anthropological approach became an integral part of her post-secondary education and early career. After earning a B.A. in Anthropology from University of Chicago, she went on to earn her M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University, as well as her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from George Washington University. Between her own years of schooling she also worked as a public school teacher in South Baltimore City, where she drew on her anthropological training to help young children better understand their own community—including through an oral history unit where they learned to interview their parents, grandparents, and neighbors. This experience sparked a longstanding interest in South Baltimore’s environmental history, which has been the subject of her research since.  

She continued her work in academia by joining Cornell faculty in 2020. Despite starting her job during the height of the pandemic, she hopes to continue the strong momentum built in the following years in both the Anthropology and American Studies programs. 

As the new Director of Undergraduate Studies, Ahmann works closely with students to guide them through department related concerns such as petitioning a class that isn’t cross listed with AMST, figuring out how to fit degree requirements while studying abroad, learning how to approach the process of writing an honors thesis, and much more. Ahmann also works to build more secondary programming for students such as through guest speaker events.  

Ahmann hopes to break out of the regional silo that American Studies has historically been portrayed and instead understand the United States in relation to the world, not just through the AMST curriculum but among the student body on campus. Last year, she organized a speaker series about American ecofascism through the American Studies program where Cornell faculty and students engaged in talks about far right environmentalism. This experience, she says, provided her with a better understanding of AMST programming and was invaluable during her transition to the DUS role. 

During her time as DUS, she plans on continuing her work in environmental anthropology by publishing her first book that centers around industrialism, toxified landscapes, white supremacy, and state sanctioned harm in Baltimore city, where she worked as an elementary school teacher. 

Although new to their roles, both professors are grateful and excited to become more involved with the American Studies Program. Mary Pat Brady can be reached at and Chloe Ahmann can be reached at


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