Joanna Tobin was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and spent her childhood in Guyana, Hong Kong, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon as the daughter of a U.S. diplomat. She earned a B.A. in Medieval-Renaissance Studies from Wellesley College, an M.A. in Liberal Studies from St. John's College, and a Ph.D. in Political Theory from Georgetown University. Her dissertation was on the conception of democracy articulated in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was entitled Poetic Democrat: Ralph Waldo Emerson on Democracy, Self-Reliance, and the Imagination. At present she is completing a manuscript entitled This Too is America: The Emersonian Idealism. Other areas of interest include writing on the connections between Emerson's essays and Plato's dialogues and, more generally, politics and American Literature. She was a member of the faculty of St. John's College in Annapolis from 2002 to 2006 where she taught throughout the Great Books curriculum in small, discussion-based classes in subjects ranging from Ancient Greek to Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Astronomy. She is now an independent scholar.
Joanna has been a moderator for The Aspen Institute since 2006. The seminars she has moderated include Executive Seminars, the Wye Faculty Seminar, a four-part series on Creativity, and seminars on Leadership and Global Values at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Joanna worked as an actress and also as a development officer for several arts organizations. She also worked on the first Clinton inauguration, and later at the Vice President's residence for Tipper Gore.
Joanna is married to Steven Tobin who is a Program Manager with Honeywell Technical Services. They have a six-year-old daughter named Diana, and a rather ancient rescued racing Greyhound named Asta, and live in Annapolis, Maryland where, in their spare time, they tend their large vegetable and perennial garden and ever-expanding orchard.