My Story

I came to Warren Wilson College in 1996 after an almost decade-long career working for the International Trade Administration. My job working for the government allowed me to represent the United States and take part in trade negotiations around the world. But over time I came to realize that I enjoyed teaching more than negotiating and a settled life more than constant travel. So I returned to graduate school and pursued my love of history. My focus has been on issues of identity and cultural contact in the eighteenth-century Atlantic World. In particular, I have written about German-speaking migrants to North America, especially to New York and to North Carolina, and have explored in depth the relations between these migrants and Native Americans during the colonial period.

Philip Otterness
A number of new Warren Wilson College first-year and transfer students spent Service Day working at Verner Experiential Gardens, a partnership between the College, Verner Early Learning Center, The Roots Foundation and North Carolina Outward Bound School.
Asheville Farm School


  • B. A. in History, University of Pennsylvania
  • M.S. in Education, University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A. in History, Cambridge University
  • M.A. in International Relations, Johns Hopkins University
  • Ph.D. in History, University of Iowa

Research Interests

  • German and Swiss migration to colonial America
  • Cultural contact in early America
  • The eighteenth-century Atlantic World

Courses Taught

  • HIS 3400: Conflict and Community in Early America
  • HIS 2700: Modern German History
  • PSC 2570: International Relations

Crews and Other Activities

  • Public history and genealogy, which has given me the chance to appear on several episodes of the nationally-televised program "Who Do You Think You Are?"
  • National Endowment for the Humanities review board for fellowships in American History

Contact Dr. Otterness

(828) 771-3733
Jensen 310
WWC CPO 6042

PO Box 9000

Asheville, NC 28815-9000
Download CV