Laura Rinaldi Dufresne was raised and educated in the west. Born in Los Angeles, California, she is a product of the California public school system of the 1960's and 70's. She studied psychology at the University of California-Santa Cruz, later earning a specialist degree in Gerontology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. During her time in Nebraska, she worked as a V.I.S.T.A. (Volunteer in Service to America) assisting the elderly poor. Dufresne earned her Ph.D. in art history from the University of Washington-Seattle, where she served as a teaching assistant as well as an intern at the Textile Collection of the Henry Art Gallery.
Dufresne came to Winthrop in 1989, earning tenure in 1996 and the designation of full professor in 2002. Her book, The Fifteenth-Century Illustrations of Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies was published by Mellen Press in the fall of 2012. She has written articles and given numerous presentations on pedagogy (1989-2000), Christine de Pizan (1990-2012), medieval art and dress (1990-2012), ceramic sculptor Paula Smith (2000-10), and book arts (2000- present). In the spring of 2012 Dufresne was named the Gale DiGiorgio "Woman of Distinction" and in May of 2014 she was awarded the title of Distinguished Professor for her teaching, scholarship, and service to Winthrop University. In 2015-16, Dufresne and colleague Dr. Laura Gardner were awarded an N.E.H. (National Endowment for the Humanities) Summer Seminar for College Professors grant titled: Take Note and Remember: The Commonplace Book and its American Descendants to be held in Asheville, N.C.
During the past three decades, Dufresne has curated several exhibitions, juried a number of art and film competitions, and was awarded numerous civic and academic grants, including a Fulbright to Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia and the Czech Republic). She has lead several student travel groups to Italy, most recently in May of 2013. Dufresne assisted with the development of the Medieval Studies Program and the Annual Art History Foreign Film Festival at Winthrop. Her community work is focused primarily in two areas; first working with the ABC (Arts in the Basic Curriculum) Project to provide arts infused learning in South Carolina's elementary school, and second, fostering dogs for various animal adoption organizations.