Speaker bios

Joanne V. Gabbin is a professor of English at James Madison University where she is Executive Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. She is author of Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition, editor of Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry and The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry, and executive producer of the Furious Flower video and DVD series. A dedicated teacher and scholar, she has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Among them are the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Award for her book Sterling A. Brown (1986), the James Madison University Faculty Women’s Caucus and Women’s Resource Network for Scholarship (1988), and the Outstanding Faculty Award, Virginia State Council of Higher Education. Recently, Dr. Gabbin was the recipient of two faculty awards: the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Service and the JMU Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award. In October 2005, Dr. Gabbin was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. She is also founder and organizer of the Wintergreen Women Writers’ Collective, owner of the 150 Franklin Street Gallery in Harrisonburg, and author of the children’s book I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum.

For more information on Dr. Gabbin, visit her faculty homepage at http://www.jmu.edu/english/dept/faculty/gabbin.html


Christina Kunkle is founder of Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching, LLC and creator of the “Synergy Success Circle,” a group of professional women who meet monthly for inspiration, motivation, education, networking and friendship as they seek work/life balance. To learn more, visit her website: www.synergylifeandwellnesscoaching.com.

            Christina graduated from Southern University in Tennessee, where she earned a registered nurse degree. After 20 years working as an R.N. in the fast-paced fields of Emergency Medicine and Ambulatory Surgery, she felt overwhelmed and overworked and experienced symptoms of burnout and stress-related illness. Not satisfied to “settle,” she set out on a journey to find happiness, balance and restored health.           

This journey with many twists and turns helped her to go from “just surviving to truly happy and thriving,” she says, as she found her true calling in Life and Wellness Coaching. She believes that while each of us has a different set of tough life challenges, it’s essential to find healthy mentors, seek serenity, and build resilience in order to make lasting changes going forward.

For this reason she has dedicated her private coaching practice to helping busy women  transform stress into strength, so instead of getting frazzled under pressure, they can effortlessly rebound quickly with grace and ease. “With a tough mindset, emotional hardiness, and physical resilience, it’s possible to enjoy work/life balance, managing energy instead of burning out like I did,” she says.

A confident and from-the-heart individual, her writings have appeared on websites and in “Bloom,” a magazine for women published in Harrisonburg. She also is a columnist for RMH HealthQuest, the quarterly health and wellness magazine published by Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Her passion and purpose is to use her intuitive gifts to teach, guide, and coach through speaking, workshops, and one-on-one engagement with clients.

Christina lives in Bridgewater, Va. with Garth, her husband of 17 years; Ben, their fun-loving 15-year-old son; and Dani-Grace, their spirited 6-year-old daughter. As a family they have a great love for the outdoors, playing with their dog Rocky, and finding the humor and gifts in each new day.


 Kathe Kutsher Scripture holds a BS in health and physical education from Longwood College (now Longwood University) and an MS in counseling from James Madison University. She is a former certified mediator and trainer. She has been a certified group fitness Instructor since 1984 and a certified yoga instructor since 2006.

In her many “reincarnations,” she has taught health and physical education; served as executive director of the Community Mediation Center; been an adjunct instructor at JMU and Mary Baldwin College; worked as an employee relations specialist at Banta Book Group; and served as chief operating officer for The Resource Group.

She currently is a member services specialist at the RMH Wellness Center. She works daily with people who are trying to figure out how to start or continue their personal journeys toward improving their health and well-being. “I am still teaching group fitness classes and am the oldest instructor on the roster at 61!” she says.

Kathe is the mother of two and grandmother of four; her family circle also includes her husband Jerry’s two daughters and three grandchildren, as well as the Scriptures’ two dogs. She is a self-proclaimed “arts and crafts nut,” with multiple projects of beadings, stained glass, knitting and polymer clay underway (and all over her “art room”). 


Scott Hamilton Suter, Associate Professor of English & American Studies and Chair of the English department at Bridgewater College, received his Ph.D. in American Civilization from The George Washington University in 1994. He also holds a B.A. in English from James Madison University and an M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His graduate work at GWU focused on American folklife and Material Culture Studies.

In 1996, Dr. Suter was selected as a Senior Fulbright Scholar and taught American Studies and American Literature at Prešov University in the Slovak Republic. He has also been an Adjunct Assistant Professor in both the English and Anthropology departments at James Madison University. In addition to teaching, Dr. Suter was curator of the Shenandoah Valley Folk Art & Heritage Center, and has served as a consultant to museums including the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, and the Blue Ridge Institute, as well as to the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

In 1999, the University Press of Mississippi published his Shenandoah Valley Folklife, an introduction to the traditions of that region, and he has published articles and lectured on other topics ranging from cottage style gas stations to the significance of amateur baseball leagues, to Amish and Mennonite humor. His recent publications include the essays, “ ‘Funny and Bright Though Even Under Adversary Conditions’: The Comic Innocent in Edward Streeter’s World War I Humor,” in the journal Studies in American Humor, and “‘There’s a Sort of Evil Out There’: Emersonian Transcendentalism in Twin Peaks” in the book The Philosophy of David Lynch, published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2011.

             He is currently at work on two significant projects: a comprehensive study of the life and work of the nineteenth-century Shenandoah Valley folk potter Emanuel Suter, and a study of American humor from World War I.


 Marti Weston blogs at AsOurParentsAge.net, focusing on aging and health topics about adult children and their aging parents. At another blog, MediaTechParenting.net, she writes for teachers and parents on technology issues such as individual behavior, privacy, personal information, responsibility, and digital footprints. Marti also writes for the Teaching Tolerance blog of the Southern Poverty Law Center where she connects technology issues to equity, diversity, and social justice concerns.

Marti is the mother of a 30-year-old adult daughter and the adult daughter of aging parents. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Illinois State University.

Another part of her professional life is as a K-12 instructional technology teacher at an independent school in Washington, DC, where she has taught for 30 years. However, she enjoys teaching people of any age–children, teachers, parents, and seniors–about digital tools and how to use them to learn more effectively. For the past four years Marti has also led computer skills and web basics classes for newly arrived immigrants in Arlington, Virginia.

Marti also is co-author of Washington! Adventures for Kids. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Media Literacy, Independent School Journal, and The Washington Post and have been carried by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

A dedicated lifelong learner, Marti enjoys gardening, reading, kayaking, playing the piano, quilting, community service, and sensibly using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. An active member of Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ in Arlington, she has served on a wide range of committees, including Christian Education, Personnel, Social Justice, and Caring Ministry. In 2008-2011 she chaired the church’s resettlement committee for an Iraqi family (three parents and five children).

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