Master of Arts in Folk Studies
Students in our renowned Master of Arts program in Folk Studies take a core of courses that provide them with a firm grounding in the theories and methods of the field of folklore, preparing them for further study in folklore and/or a wide range of careers. In addition to core requirements, students choose from electives that suit their interests.
The MA program is designed as a two-year program for full-time students, but we are happy to work with students who prefer to complete the program on a part-time basis over a longer period of time. We also offer a JUMP (Joint Undergraduate-Master's Program) for highly qualified and motivated undergraduates.
Our students come from all over the country (and the world) to study folklore at Western Kentucky University. We don't require a background in folklore, and our graduate students come to us with a wide range of degrees. Please contact the Director of Folk Studies with questions or see more information about graduate student funding and how to apply.
Students in the MA program take a shared core of courses and choose an area of specialization:
Plan A (Thesis Option)
This option provides advanced knowledge of the theoretical and methodological aspects of folklore and folklife and is designed to prepare students for both academic and public sector professions and for further academic research. Students work with the support of a committee of faculty members to conduct research and write a thesis on a folklore topic of their choosing.
Plan B (Public Folklore Option)
This option prepares students for careers in public folklore, jobs that engage with communities in a variety of ways, and permits individually planned programs (with advisor) stressing those combinations of course-related research, applied skills, and writing experiences that will best prepare them for their personal and professional goals. Students can choose to complete an internship with a public folklore program and/or to complete a capstone project or write a thesis.
Plan C (Historic Preservation Option)
While firmly grounded in the folk studies curriculum, the historic preservation option introduces students to the multiple facets of historic preservation and cultural conservation theory and practice. Students can choose to complete an internship related to historic preservation and/or to complete a capstone project or write a thesis.
Students consult with their advisor to determine the most appropriate option for their needs and to design their individual program of study. All students must successfully complete a comprehensive examination in order to graduate. Degree requirements for each of the three options (Thesis, Public Folklore, and Historic Preservation) can be found in the graduate catalog. The comprehensive exam reading list, thesis & portfolio guidelines, and other important documents can be found on our Policies & Forms page.
Graduates describe the benefits of the MA program in these ways:
“WKU provided a fantastic theoretical grounding in the field of folklore and the necessary practical skills—from grant writing and teaching opportunities, to ethnographic interviewing and public programming experience. I've written several grants in my current position, utilized resources from our Folk Arts and Education, Folk Arts and Technology, Fieldwork, and Public Folklore courses, and felt extremely prepared to enter the job market.”
“I have a network of public folklorists across the country from my time at WKU, experience developing exhibits, experience producing public programs, understanding of the infrastructure of public folklore on a national level, an understanding of the cultural and theoretical history of the field of folklore, experience doing fieldwork, and respect from folklorist colleagues from having a degree from one of the premiere folk studies graduate programs in the country.”
"As the PhD program I entered is not centered explicitly on folklore studies, the disciplinary grounding I received at WKU is one that I would not have otherwise obtained given the structure of my current program…. My time at WKU helped me develop a set of practical—and marketable—skills related to historic preservation, and to fieldwork more broadly. This background has allowed me to participate in, and be hired to conduct, field- and community-based projects through my doctoral institution.”
“My job requires understanding the cultural values of a variety of diverse community groups especially in regards to how values are shaped by experience and perspective, creating connections between those communities and cultural and natural resources, creating audience centered experiences, collaborating directly with community members and other partner organizations to develop public programs, understanding public policy as it relates to cultural and natural conservation, developing interpretive media (exhibits, brochures, etc), working with historic objects, developing k-12 programs, understanding/developing/utilizing oral history projects, and handling contentious topics in a public space. I am the only person in my current workplace who can say they gained experience in all of the above and more in one place. It is also the reason I have been offered all of the positions I have received since graduating.”