A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Kessler's work draws on three main areas: the American musical, the intersection of genre and gender — most specifically masculinity and the Hollywood musicals of the post-studio system era — and the mainstreaming of lesbianism in American television and film. She's currently working on her second book, a historical look of the musical on American television. "Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical" (Oxford, forthcoming) explores television's range of musical engagements and its flirtations with liveness, Las Vegas, Broadway divas, arts cable and musical television series. From Ethel Merman and Carol Burnett to Liberace, MTV, and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," it interrogates how and why the musical has always been part of the television landscape. She also served as the editor and contributor of a special issue of Studies in Musical Theatre unpacking the iconic image of the musical diva.
Her scholarship can be found in works such as Studies in Musical Theatre, The Journal of E-Media Studies, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, Television and New Media, Movies, Moves, and Music: The Sonic World of the Dance Film, Televising Queer Women: A Reader, and The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming. Her first book, "Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity and Mayhem," was released by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010.
Kessler has been at the forefront of online learning at DePaul, earning the university's first DePaul University’s Quality Matters Star Award in 2011 and serving as the chair of the university's Committee on Online Learning from its founding through 2018. She has presented and published on the topic of online learning/teaching, including “Finding the Face-to-Face When You Have No Face: Fostering Student-Student and Student-Professor Engagement in the Online Media Classroom” in the Society for Cinema and Media Studies' Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier.
Kessler was also a member of the Television Academy Foundation's 2014 Faculty Fellowship program in Los Angeles.