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Joanna was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and spent her childhood in Guyana, Hong Kong, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon as the daughter of a U.S. diplomat. She earned a B.A. Cum Laude in Medieval-Renaissance Studies from Wellesley College, an M.A. in Liberal Studies from
St. John’s College, and a Ph.D. in Political Theory from Georgetown University. Her dissertation was on the conception of democracy articulated in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was entitled Poetic Democrat: Ralph Waldo Emerson on Democracy, Self-Reliance, and the Imagination. At present she is completing a manuscript entitled This Too is America: The Emersonian Idealism. Other areas
of interest include writing on the connections between Emerson’s essays and Plato’s dialogues and, more generally, politics and American Literature. She was a member of the faculty of St. John’s College in Annapolis from 2002-2006 where she taught throughout the Great Books curriculum in small, discussion-based classes in subjects ranging from Ancient Greek to Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Astronomy. She is now an independent scholar and leadership training consultant.
Joanna has been a moderator for The Aspen Institute since 2006. The seminars she has moderated include the Aspen Seminar, the Wye Faculty Seminar, the Wye Deans Seminar, a four-part series on Creativity, and seminars on Leadership and Global Values at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Joanna worked as an actress and also as a development officer for several arts organizations. She also worked on the first Clinton inauguration, and later
at the Vice President’s residence for Tipper Gore.
Joanna lives in Annapolis, Maryland where she lives with her husband Steven and daughter Diana. In November of 2020 she was elected to the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Board of Education representing the Annapolis area.