Patty is the former Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a Professor of History. Patty has dedicated her career to bridging the gap between academics and the general public and to demonstrating the benefits of applying historical perspective to contemporary dilemmas and conflicts. In January 2016, Governor Hickenlooper named her as the Colorado State Historian and she served in that position until 2018. Also in January 2016, she was appointed to the National Endowment for the Humanities advisory board, the National Council on the Humanities. Patty was nominated by President Obama in Spring 2015 and was confirmed by the United States Senate in November 2015, and served until October 2019.