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 Cohen has published articles on the history of US politics, education, and society and on the editing of historical documents.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.


Alaysia Bookal is a graduate assistant at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and an editorial assistant on the Taylor-Fillmore project. She studies political communication in the School of Public Affairs (SPA) and education policy in the School of Education (SOE) at American University. During the 2020–21 school year she served as the Academic and Professional Development Committee chairperson for the SPA Graduate Student Council. In 2021–22 she serves as the SOE Graduate Student Council president. Alaysia is a proud elementary educator and equity fellow in the Baltimore City Public Schools district. After completing her master’s degree, she plans to continue her education in law school to defend the educational system, children and families, and our United States Constitution.


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.


Abigail Peterson is a sophomore at St. Olaf College, in Minnesota, pursuing an undergraduate degree in history, and an intern on the Taylor-Fillmore project. In 2019 she won first place in her category at the national level of the National History Day competition for her historical research project on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. In 2020 she worked with the Minnesota Historical Society as an intern to create online resources for future students participating in National History Day. She currently works at the Hong-Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf, where she is a student librarian and editorial intern. In 2021 she will be able to work with a Minnesota Historical Society conservator to restore valuable books in the library’s Rare Book Collection.


Brendan Lawlor is a junior at American University, where he majors in political science with a concentration in comparative politics, and an intern on the Correspondence of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. At American he is also pursuing a combined master’s of public policy. After graduation he hopes to use his degrees to shape American public policy for the betterment of society, whether that be working directly to craft the legislature on Capitol Hill or indirectly through the myriad of NGOs, governmental affairs or consulting firms, that work in the political sphere in Washington. He is excited to work on the Taylor-Fillmore project not only because he wants to enable these important conversations to be easily accessible but also in the hopes that by reading the letters, he can gain a new lens to better understand contemporary partisan politics.


Leila Rocha Fisher is a junior history and environmental studies major at St. Olaf College and an intern on the Taylor-Fillmore project. She has a passion for social history curation and archival restoration work, believing it important that we all understand our past in order to better our future. She is honored to participate in the important work of making historical documents and artifacts accessible to all.



Former Staff

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