Faculty & Staff

Michael David Cohen serves as editor and project director of the Correspondence of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. A historian of nineteenth-century America, he holds appointments as a research professor in the Department of Government and as a faculty fellow in the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. In 2019, as the final editor of the James K. Polk Project at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he completed a decades-long endeavor to publish the eleventh president’s letters. Earlier he worked at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, on the Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. He earned a PhD in history at Harvard University.

In addition to three volumes of the Correspondence of James K. Polk—the last of which, volume 14, was released in March 2021—Dr. Cohen has published articles on the history of US politics, education, and society and on the editing of historical documents. These have appeared in journals including The New England Quarterly and The Good Society. His book Reconstructing the Campus: Higher Education and the American Civil War won the Critics’ Choice Book Award from the American Educational Studies Association and the Linda Eisenmann Prize from the History of Education Society. He has appeared in a radio documentary about Sarah Childress Polk, the president’s wife, on the Voice of America; discussed presidents and slavery on The Legal Edition; delivered the 2016 Annual Presidential Lecture at Northwestern Oklahoma State University; and organized the 2019 conference James K. Polk and His Time. From 2017 to 2020 he served as a councilor-at-large for the Association for Documentary Editing.

Dr. Cohen can be contacted at mdcohen@american.edu. His full cv can be found here.


Amy Larrabee Cotz serves as associate editor of the Correspondence of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore and as a fellow in the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. Before joining this project, she spent a decade as an editor of the Dolley Madison Digital Edition (DMDE). Completed in 2021, that thirteen-volume edition was the pioneer publication of Rotunda, the digital imprint of the University of Virginia Press. In 2020, the DMDE won the Association for Documentary Editing’s Lyman H. Butterfield Award. Prior to her work at the DMDE, Ms. Larrabee Cotz was a research associate at James Madison’s Montpelier, where her research focused on the enslaved men, women, and children the Madisons held in bondage.

Ms. Larrabee Cotz can be reached at alarrabeecotz@american.edu.


David C. Barker, executive director of the Correspondence of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, is a professor of government and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. He was previously director of the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at California State University, Sacramento (2012–2017), and associate/assistant professor of political science and religious studies at University of Pittsburgh (1999–2012). He studies political psychology, voting behavior, political communication, legislative behavior and social welfare policy. He has served as principal investigator on over 60 externally funded research projects (totaling more than $16 million). He has authored/coauthored over 80 publications, including three books (Rushed to Judgment [2002; Columbia University Press], Representing Red and Blue [2012; Oxford University Press] and One Nation, Two Realities [2019; Oxford University Press]), and dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles (in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, and many others). His current research program seeks to identify the sources of productive political negotiation and compromise. While directing the ISR, he founded CALSPEAKS Opinion Research, the first set of state/local survey panels online to use random probability sampling in California, and co-founded the Public Health Survey Research Program, which collects the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the state of California and the US Centers for Disease Control. He has served on 25 doctoral dissertation committees, chairing 10 of them, and has received multiple teaching awards. He has held visiting appointments at Science Po, Glasgow University, and University of Sydney.

Dr. Barker can be contacted at dbarker@american.edu. His full cv can be found here.


Cameron Coyle is a volunteer editorial assistant on the Taylor-Fillmore project. He just graduated from high school in New Jersey and entered Yale University in fall 2021. He directs the Zachary Taylor Project, which aims to create a historic and educational site preserving and retelling the life and legacy of Taylor, currently the only president without such a site. Cameron served as a high school campaign manager for a town council candidate and as vice president of his high school’s Civics Club. A lacrosse goalie, he was elected team captain as a sophomore and will be playing at Yale. He plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in either government or history.


Arpi Pap Studio Images

Mercedes Atwater is an editorial assistant on the Taylor-Fillmore project. She is studying public administration, with a concentration in social policy, at American University. Ms. Atwater is a native of the twin islands Trinidad and Tobago and holds a BSc in Criminal Justice and Law from John Jay College. During her time at American, she has worked closely with professors in the Government Department and has served as a teaching and research assistant in courses on past presidencies in the United States. She is excited by the project’s mission and looks forward to its successful completion.




Former Staff

Nicholas Breslin, editorial assistant, 2022

Ian Iverson, volunteer editorial assistant, 2022

Alaysia Bookal, editorial assistant, 2021

Brendan Lawlor, intern, 2021

Abigail Peterson, intern, 2021

Leila Rocha Fisher, intern, 2021

Annika Quinn, intern, 2021

Adele Raymer, intern, 2021

Grace Tamms, intern, 2021

Alexander Pando Kiprof, intern, 2020

Alyssa Moore, intern, 2020

Gabriella A. Siegfried, editorial assistant, 2020

Zoe Golden, intern, 2020

Gretchen Ohlmacher, intern, 2020