Kris Erskine

Kris Erskine Photo


Dr. Erskine was born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina and considers himself a Southern boy.  But Erskine has spent much of his life outside the South after leaving for college.  He spent three years as an undergraduate just outside London, England, and then spend a year teaching on a small island in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia.  After getting his career started teaching high school in Upstate New York, Erskine and his wife Marla, and their two boys, Kellen and Ian, moved to Asia where Kris was both a teacher and vice-principal at an American School in Taipei, Taiwan.  In 2007 the parent company of his school in Taiwan transferred Erskine to Hong Kong where he was tasked with opening and a new American high school, of which he was also the headmaster. During this period Erskine also acted as director of an English-language elementary school-within-a-school at Huamei International School, a Chinese-language K-12 school in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

While living in Hong Kong Erskine completed his PhD at The University of Hong Kong in history, the history of Chinese-U.S. relations, primarily focusing on the 1930s and 1940s. In 2012 the Erskine family left Hong Kong and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where Kris began teaching full-time in the history department at Southern Adventist University, where he also was department chair in his final year.  In 2017 Kris made the move back to high school education and into teacher education programs. While remaining in Chattanooga Kris was hired as the Chief Academic Officer for his old employer in China and oversaw the development of online programs, stand-alone campuses in China, and the recruiting and hiring of native English-speaking teachers.

Kris began teaching at Athens State University in 2019.  He teaches in both the College of Education’s secondary program and the College of Arts and Science’s history department and loves being here.  Kris spends part of his week in Athens and loves Athens, the people at the university, and enjoys walking to his office from his house on the other side of the courthouse square. The rest of his time he spends in Chattanooga with Marla and his boys. 


  • Ph.D., History – The University of Hong Kong
  • M.S.Sc., Social Science – Syracuse University
  • M.Ed., Education – Atlantic Union College
  • M.S., International Relations – Troy University
  • B.A., History & Religion – Andrews University’s Newbold College


Dr. Erskine’s research interests focus on twentieth century American cultural history, particularly in the South.  Specifically, he is interested in the interplay between religion and politics in this region.  Erskine’s research considers the missionary impulse in China – understanding how the missionary of the 1930s and 1940s left a larger imprint on American foreign policy in the United States than on the religious life of the Chinese.    

Erskine is working on a couple of projects.  The first is a case study on how non-state actors shaped American public opinion, and in this case how the Chinese government-funded American missionaries and enlisted their help to shift American foreign policy just prior to World War II. This is a particularly relevant topic in today’s political climate. The second project on which Erskine is working is a history of commercial sweet cake, pie, and cookie-baking in the south.  This project centers on the rise of the McKee family, and other local and regional commercial baking families, and raises many questions about southern food and its impact on southern culture and history.

Course Portfolio

  • U.S. History to 1865
  • U.S. History from 1865
  • American Nation and State Government
  • American Foreign Policy since World War II
  • Modern China
  • Modern America
  • Research Methods
  • Classroom Management
  • Field Experience Practicum I and II
  • History Content Area Methods and Materials – Elementary and Secondary

Awards and Grants

  • NEH Summer Institute, Slavery and the Constitution, Washington D.C., 2018
  • McKee Library Research Grant, Southern Adventist University, 2017
  • NEH Summer Institute, China and America, Calvin College, 2015
  • Taiwan Fellowship, Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2012
  • George C. Marshall Foundation Baruch Fellowship, 2012
  • University of Hong Kong Research Grant, 2011

Publication Highlights

Conference & Presentation Highlights

  • “The History of Seventh-day Adventist Cookie Bakers.” Presented to the executive board of McKee Baking Company, July 2020.
  • “Make America Healthy Again: How early 20th Century Cookie Bakers helped end Disease.” The Triennial Convention of the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Historians, Keene, Texas, June 2019.
  • “Cookies in Chattanooga: Little Debbie, Moon Pies, Bishop’s and Dortch.” The Chattanooga Area Historical Association, March 2019.
  • “The Food Revolution: Piggly Wiggly and You.” Invited talk for the Cookie and Snack Bakers Association annual meeting, Sea Island, Georgia, February 2018.
  • “Take this pill, please!” Invited talk for the “55+ Club,” about my trip to North Korea, Chattanooga, January 2018.
  • Interviewed for a local news channel in Chattanooga, Tennessee on the Republican tax bill on which Congress voted, December 2017.
  • “American Public Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics: Missionaries in the (China) Lobby, 1938-1941,” presented at American Association for Chinese Studies annual conference, October 2017.
  • “You are Not Going to North Korea!” Lecture given at La Sierra University, June 2017.
  • “Donald Trump: The First Six Months.” Luncheon talk at the “55+ Club” in Chattanooga, June 2017.
  • “You have to actually know history to teach it.” Convocation talk given to Southern Adventist University Department of Education, January 2017.
  • “Dear Smart People,” a lecture for the Southern Adventist University Southern Scholars, December 2016.
  • “American Public Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics: Missionaries in the (China) Lobby, 1938-1941,” presented at The Association of Seventh-day Adventist Historians conference, March 2016.
  • Moderator for an American Historical Association panel on the history of American missionaries in China at the annual convention in Atlanta, January 2016.