Folk Studies Student Profiles and Projects
Zahra is from Iran. She got her BL in Law from Shiraz University, and also she got both her MA and a Ph.D. in Criminal Law and Criminology from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran, Iran.
Zahra has always been intrigued by interdisciplinary studies and the knowledge that one can acquire in interdisciplinary research. She is interested in the intersection of such issues as women, cultures, and law, and that is why she finds the Folk Studies program at WKU a fascinating place to combine and synthesize these disciplines. She is a graduate assistant working with with Dr. Ferrell. Her most beneficial experience in the program so far is learning ethnographic skills in Dr. Ferrell’s Folklore Fieldwork class.
Fun Fact: Zahra has been inspired by the best-selling novel A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. She loves Kish Island in the Persian Gulf for its nightlife and the weather which sounds unique for her.
Storytelling has always been a massive part of Camille's life and Camille believed the WKU Folk Studies program was the perfect medium for exploring the human experience and bringing it to light
Fun Fact: Camille can eat Tacos every minute of every day, and pair them with an episode of Adventure Time.
Hunter is from Franklin, Kentucky. He graduated from Western Kentucky University with a double major in Anthropology and History.
Hunter chose the WKU Folk Studies program because of his wide range of interests; he has studied military history, weaponry, mythology, foodways, and many other areas. Hunter plans to use the skills and education he gets from WKU to move into the field of museum studies. Currently he is working at the Kentucky Museum assisting with items and curation.
Hunter plays the trumpet.
Taylor is from Owensboro, Kentucky. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BA in History and Organizational Leadership.
Taylor was drawn to WKU because of her interest in folk studies, informed by her love of history, culture, people, and the sharing of their stories. Taylor ultimately chose WKU because of the incrediblly supportive and encouraging staff who are committed to education and excellence. She is currently a graduate assistant for Dr. Kate Horigan.
Taylor is a singer-songwriter and worship leader.
Ellie is from Williamsburg, VA, where she received her BA in Anthrpology at the College of William & Mary.
Sam is from Richards, Missouri. He graduated from Baker University, where he majored in History.
Sam chose WKU partly because of the music traditions that surround Bowling Green, and partly because of the faculty in the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology. He studied History in his undergraduate program and minored in music with an emphasis on violin performance. He is the current graduate assistant with the Kentucky Folklife Program, and is excited to learn skills such as great writing and event planning that will help him in his future career.
Fun Fact: Sam once considered a career as a ceramic artist before discovering the world of folklore.
Aaron is from Gallatin, Tennessee. He graduated from Western Kentucky University with majors in Anthropology and English and a minor in History. He also graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont.
Aaron chose WKU's Folk Studies Program because he has always been drawn to the discipline in one way or another. Folk Studies covers most of his interests. He took some undergraduate folklore classes and was hooked. He is the current graduate/teacher assistant to Dr. Tim Evans. Aaron is excited about all of the possibilities folk studies has to offer!
Fun Fact: Aaron used to jump from perfectly good aircraft for a living!
Josh currently lives in Bowling Green, KY. He received his BA in Broadcasting with an emphasis in production from WKU. He has spent the past eleven years as a producer/director at WKU PBS.
Josh chose this program because of his interest in narrative and ethnographic fieldwork, and how it connects with his work as a producer and storyteller. He has already started putting his academic work to use in projects in his professional career.
Fun Fact: Josh has been nominated for six regional Emmy awards by the National Academy of Television Arts and Science - Ohio Valley Chapter!
Chloe Brown, 2018, "On Being Trans: Narrative, Identity, Performance, and Community"
Anita Kay Westhues, 2017, "Beliefs and Practices Related to Community Water Sources: "The Specialness of Springs"
Azadeh Vatanpour, 2017, "The Healing Power of Music and Chants amongst The Ahl-E Haqq People"
Sarah T. Shultz, 2017, "Nightmares in the Kitchen: Personal Experience Narratives About Cooking and Food"
Samantha G. Castleman, 2017, "Inexhaustible Magic: Folklore as World Bulding in Harry Potter"
Anthony Stellaccio, 2016, "The Past is Open to the Future: Lithuanian Folk Pottery 1861 Present"
Eleanor Hasken, 2016, "Performing Gender through Bowling, or 'I was in Shock Other Girls Could Bowl'"
Virginia Siegel, 2015, "Traditional Cultural Properties and Casita Rincón Criollo"
Dale Joseph Rose, 2015, "Our Master’s Legacy: Belief and Ritual in Mission De L’esprit Saint"
Afsaneh RezaelSahrael, 2014, "Iranian Political Humor in Social Media"
Steven Goddard, 2014, "Neither (Fully) Here Nor There: Negotiation Narratives of Nashville's Kurdish Youth"
Arthur Van Ness IV, 2012, "Haunts of the Hill: Western Kentucky University Ghostlore"
Suzanne Barber, 2011, "The Transformation of a Shire: Local Negotiation in the Society for Creative Anachronism"
Matthew Hale, 2010, "Human Things: Rethinking Guitars and Ethnography"
David Puglia, 2010, "The Folklife Archives at Western Kentucky University: Past and Present"
Cynthia Cotton, 2010, "The Blood Drive of WKU Greek Week: Issues of Altruism, Egoism, Integration, and Separation"
Michael Kinsella, 2007, "The Incunabula Papers: Legend-Tripping and World-Making in Cyberspace"
Matthew Cook, 2007, "The Narratives of Ann Lee as a Core Component of Shaker Theological Evolution"
Mary Koegel, 2007, "Never Alone: A "Look" at Imaginal Companions"
Andrea Kitta, 2003, "Narratives of Cancer Survivors in Religious Life"
Dina Abousamra, 2001, "Beirut's Displacements: Reconstituting Place and Community in a Time of War"
Kirsten Anderson, 1999, "National Powers of Belief: Folklore, Mythology and Festival in Nazi Germany"
Ann Ferrell, 1999, "Beyond Celebration: A Call for the Study of Traditions of Dominance"
Virginia Scheer, 1999, "Farmhouses That Become Boarding Houses in the Catskill Mountains of New York State"
Brian Gregory, 1998, "Approaching Fallingwater: An Ethnography of Place"
Andrea Mericle, 1998, "Festivals, Function and Context: An Ethnographic Study of Three Festivals at Holden Village"
Hayden Roberts, 1998, "Portraits and Landscapes in Family Narrative"
Kymberly Helbig, 1996, "'An Exploration of the Self': Contemporary Tattooing in the Creation and Expression of Identity"
Brandon Kwiatek, 1995, "The Dark Ride"
Thomas Zimmerman, 1995, "Roadside Memorials in Five South Central Kentucky Counties"
Tami Harbolt, 1993, "Too Loved to Be Forgotten: Pet Loss and Ritual Bereavement"
Joseph Ruff, 1993, "Country Music in the Northeast: Two Careers"
Richard Callahan, Jr., 1993, "Legends and Narratives of Phantom Ships: An Examination of Belief"
Jon Rushing, 1991, "Horsetrading: An East Texas Study in Establishing Context"
Janet Tracy, 1991, "Jack Epperson: A Modern Folk Healer"
Mella Davis, 1991, "Zora Neale Hurston: The Voice of the Goddess"
Gregory Jenkins, 1990, "The Altered Mobile Home: A Stationary Image of Work and Value"
Sara McNulty, 1990, "An Ethnography of a Trance Channeling Session"
ElizaBeth Hester, 1989, "Vadie Williams, Folk Artist: Drawnwork as a Reflection of Personal Identity in Rural Kentucky"
Mary Zwolinski, 1988, "Displays of Culture: Personal Museums in Wisconsin"
Eleonore Mitchell, 1988, "Pre-Lent Celebrations: Shrovetide and Carnival"
Chad Berry, 1988, "Folk Custom as a Barometer of Social Change in a Tennessee Community"
Gregory Hansen, 1987, "The 'Blankety-Blank' of Bear Creek Camp: A Rhetorical Analysis of a Folk Drama"
Ann Taft, 1986, "At the Spiritual Grassroots': An Analysis of Visionary Art and Artists"
Sheila Riley, 1986, "Mam Ma: An Oral Life History of Mona Baldwin"
Donald Beisswenger, 1985, "Singing Schools in Southcentral Kentucky"
Julie Hauri-Foster, 1984, "Two Hairdressers: Artistry and Communication"
Kathleen Young, 1983, "Ethnobotany: A Methodology for Folklorists"
Deborah Hall, 1983, "Using Folklore to Teach English as a Second Language"
Denis Kiely, 1983, "The Loving of the Game: A Study of Basketry in the Mammoth Cave Area"
Theresa Jureka, 1983, "Women and Work at the Turn of the Century: The Mrs. A.H. Taylor Dressmaking Company"
Nana Farris, 1982, "Ink in My Blood: The Folklore of a Commercial Print Shop"
Timothy Cochrane, 1982, "The Folklife Expressions of Three Isle Royale Fishermen: A Sense of Place Examination"
Edward McCurley, 1982, "A History of the Bowling Green Fire Department: A Look at Two Traditional Methodologies"
Debbie J. Gibson, 1981, "Folklore, Folklife and Still Photography: A Synergetic Approach"
Keith Ludden, 1981, "'No Bob Yet': A Collection of Narratives from Nobob, Kentucky"
John Marshall, 1981, "Barbecue in Western Kentucky: An Ethnographic Study"
R. Raymond Allen, 1981, "Old-Time Music and the Urban Folk Revival"
Gilbert Howard, 1981, "Fiddle Songs and Banjo Songs: A Description and Index"
George Reynolds, 1980, "Home, Loved Ones, and Heaven: Folk Expression in the Songs of Katherine O'Neill Peters
Rebecca Morse, 1979, "Tinsley Bottom, Tennessee: An Historical Reconstruction Utilizing Oral Narrative Traditions"
Lori Kaplan, 1979, "The Lark on the Strand: A Study of a Traditional Irish Flute Player and His Music"
Kate Grenier, 1978, "Folklore, Poetry, and Identity: A Study of the Archetypes in the Poetry of Leslie Silko"
J. Vaughan Webb, 1977, "Traditional Elements in the Selected Columns of Allan M. Trout"
Benjamin Vincent, 1977, "The Price of Folk: The Progression of Two Decoy Makers' Work from Folk to Non-Folk"
David Axler, 1977, "Fandom is a Way of Life: A Folkloristic Ethnography of Science Fiction Fandom"
Dianna Zacharias, 1976, "An Interpretation of the Florida Ex-Slaves' Memories of Slavery and the Civil War"
Eugene Umberger Jr., 1975, "Tobacco Farming: The Persistence of Tradition"
Ada Parker, 1975, "The Cedar Grove Community in Oral Folk History"
Michael Morse, 1975, "The Hensley Settlement: An Oral Folk History of Its Material Culture"
Our students hold wide-ranging internships that build skills and provide networking opportunities. Past placements include the American Folklore Society, the National Park Service, the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the Middle Tennessee State University Center for Popular Music. Some students have sought internships more regionally, through the Kentucky Folklife Program, WKU Library Special Collections, and various regional and state organizations, museums, and historical societies in Kentucky and Tennessee. Others have held internships out-of-state, including placements at the Vermont Folklife Center, Pennsylvania Folklife Archives, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, the Folk School of St. Louis, and even the National Trust for Ireland. Accounts of some recent examples are included below.
During the summer of 2017, I worked as an intern at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in New York, New York. While interning, I worked primarily with the Folk Arts program, but also with the Museum program as well as the Director of Public Information. Working with the Folk Arts program, I reviewed and organized grant applications and accompanied the Folk Arts program director on site visits to applicant organizations. One of the highlights of the internship was the opportunity to meet all the folklorists doing great work in my home state. I was able to attend grant panel meetings and take notes for applicants to view upon request. I built on and applied my experience as the WKU Folk Studies program's graduate assistant in charge of social media by working on tasks assigned by the Director of Public Information. Over the course of the summer I attended multiple NYSCA funded events and wrote blog posts that were featured on the organization's blog, "The NYSCA Network." While interning, I honed my administration and organizational skills. Additionally, I learned, in detail, the structure of not just the folk arts field, but also the arts and museums fields in New York State.
As an intern at the Hartman Rock Garden in Springfield, Ohio, I spent seven weeks working on interpretation and conservation under the supervision of Kevin Rose at the Turner Foundation. The Hartman Rock Garden was started in 1932 by H.G. “Ben” Hartman after he lost his job as a molder during the Great Depression. I spent the first several weeks writing object studies for the docent manual. In future, each volunteer will be given a manual that will provide basic rules about giving a tour, as well as the object studies, family history, archival photographs, and local Springfield history for individuals to read on their own time. In addition to training future docents, the manual will be the foundation of a written body of work about the art environment and guide future research. I researched two pieces: “God’s Gift to the World” and “Noah’s Ark.” I provided a short narrative of the piece in its current state and compared it to family photographs, noting the changes over time. The final weeks of my internship focused on hands-on conservation on “Noah’s Ark.” After passing my conservation plan to the board, I began my work. I weeded around the object, cleaned the concrete form, helped create two polyurethane turkeys after creating a silicone mold from the original metal turkey, and painted the remaining animal figurines. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative and I did not get to finish our full plan. My internship experience allowed me to work in the realities of a non-profit position. Because the garden is owned by two separate foundations, I saw how projects balanced the desire for tourism with the need to preserve objects so they can be further interpreted and remain part of the future of the garden.
I worked this summer as a historic preservation intern at South Union Shaker Village in Auburn, Kentucky. I worked on five different tasks over the course of the internship. Two were completing projects begun over the school year that utilized skills I had learned at previous internships and student jobs. I finished entering the museum’s collections card catalogue into a basic database, and I cleaned, sorted, and packaged for storage archaeological materials recovered in a brief salvage archaeology attempt in April. The other three tasks focused more on developing skill areas with which I had not had previous experience, but that I may need moving forward into a career in historic preservation. One was researching the Wash House, scouring the South Union record books and other primary sources for mentions of the building’s construction and history of use. Another was documenting the building pre-restoration, since extensive renovations completed in the 1970s reflect the Wash House’s later history as a worship, education, and living space for two orders of Catholic priests. Finally, over the last three weeks of the internship I helped with the restoration work itself, tearing out the modern wall paneling and ceilings to expose the 1850s Shaker plastering, woodwork, and elements such as fireplaces. Overall, my internship experience at South Union has been extremely valuable, not to mention fun. In combination with attending the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts’ Summer Institute in the middle of the summer, I have further developed my research skills, getting to work on projects that both relate to my personal interest in religious history and demonstrate how to do research using museum materials and that will be useful in a museum setting.
I began my work at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico in May of 2017. This internship required my assistance in the curatorial and education sectors of the facility. In the first few weeks, I partnered with the curator of textiles and dress to prepare an exhibit book for “Beadwork Adorns the World.” My work on the book caused me to reflect on how the recontextualization of an object can be implemented through the organization of the overall book. I had to ask myself similar questions when an exhibit of Syrian folk art was erected in Lloyd’s Treasure Chest. My supervisor, Felica Katz-Harris, worked hands-on with myself and the head preparator to ensure that each object was displayed in such a way that its placement would lend proper assistance to visitor interpretation. Working with the education sector also helped me refine and reflect on my own methodology as I work towards becoming a public folklorist. As part of the education sector of my internship, I helped to clean out excess objects from the hands-on education collection. At the time, the museum was moving forward with the construction of a new auditorium, and me and three other education staff members were tasked with deaccessioning and donating education items to the annual folk art flea market or passing them on to other New Mexico state education associations. After combing through objects of all sorts, from religious items and shadow puppets to dress up trunks, we were asked to debrief with the education director and conceive new methods of deciding how the collection would expand and operate moving forward. I now understand how integral my ethnographic training as a folklorist has been in building rapport with the people I collaborate with, including students and artists. I feel that my responsibility lies with these groups first and, as a curator, I would be educating visitors by extension as I work to adequately recontextualize objects and information.
During the summer of 2017, I interned with the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX). RUX describes themselves as “a statewide program that brings rural and urban people together in unique community settings over three, weekend-long intensives each summer,” as a way to “explore commonalities, deepen connections to people and places, and collaborate towards place-based innovation.” The primary component of my internship was planning the Bowling Green Community Intensive. Through this, I was able to put my folklore skills to work by curating an experience for RUX participants that reflected the culture, history, landscape, and identity of South Central Kentucky from multiple perspectives. I organized a variety of experiences that allowed community members to share their stories in environments that allowed for interaction and dialogue between community members and RUX participants. I also gained experience handling the logistical considerations of the Community Intensive, such as securing lodging, serving as the liaison for sites and partners, and attracting local sponsorship. Furthermore, I was tasked with organizing a host committee. Serving as the leader for the host committee gave me experience in coordinating a group, running meetings, and delegating tasks. The second part of my internship involved documenting the three Community Intensives and creating media pieces (photo essays and short films) for RUX, which share stories from the people, communities, and places we interacted with during the weekends. Through this, I’ve been able to further develop my skills in storytelling and fieldwork, as well as photography, filmmaking, and writing.
Outstanding Graduate Student
Eleanor Miller, 2019
Eleanor completed her MA in Folk Studies with a concentration in Historic Preservation.
She completed three internships while in our program: with Local Learning, which works nationally to promote folklore and education initiatives; with the Historic
Preservation Coordinator of Bardstown on the creation of a city archive; and with
Pine Mountain Settlement School, working on K-12 Environmental Education curriculum. She
served as a graduate assistant in the Education Department at the Kentucky Museum
and served as the PCAL student representative on the Graduate Council, among her many
Nicole Nusgrave, 2018
Nicole was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student in Folk Studies Award, the Potter College of Arts and Letters Outstanding Graduate Student Award, and the John D. Minton Graduate Student Award (the highest honor for a WKU graduate student). During her time as a student Nicole worked as a graduate assistant with the Kentucky Folklife Program where she learned invaluable hands-on experience in public folklore work which she will utilize after graduation as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member with Hindman Settlement School, where she will help expand their Folk Arts Education Program. Her interests include foodways, health, and Appalachian culture.
Rachel Haberman, 2017
Rachel Haberman is perhaps best known in our department as the Folklore Trivia Queen, a coveted title among students taking Dr. Ann Ferrell’s Folklore Theory course. She has been outstanding as a student, assistant, intern, and member of our community. In classes she’s shown herself to be very bright, very conscientious, and creative. She is a leader in class discussions and writes excellent research papers. One of her professors especially remembers her paper for a Folk Art class about her father's carpentry. He recalls, “she did a wonderful job looking not only at his artistry, but at the way it serves as a kind of communication in the family.” In her graduate assistantship, she has worked on everything from processing fieldwork data and compiling reference works, to guest lecturing on graffiti in Haiti and witchcraft in Kentucky, to creating a tombstone craft project for the PCAL Fall Festival. She has a wide range of skills and a willingness to help as needed. After her work cataloging, organizing, and inventorying Kentucky Museum collections, her supervisor wrote “Rachel is a real keeper and will do well anywhere she lands”—we certainly agree and wish her well as she decides where that might be.
Cam Collins Outstanding Undergraduate Student
Hannah Banks, 2019
Hannah Banks is a Folk Studies minor and an Anthropology major with concentrations
in cultural resource management and biological anthropology. She will be graduating
in December 2019, and is currently in process of submitting an application to the
Masters program in Folk Studies at WKU. She is interested in working with the intersection
of folklore and medicine, and working to develop culturally responsive health programs
within multicultural communities. She will spend the summer of 2019 studying in Mongolia
with Dr. Houle.
Hunter J. Bowles, 2018
Hunter was a double History and Anthropology major with a minor in Folk Studies. Hunter took his first Folk Studies class with Dr. Tim Evans. We are looking forward to having Hunter as a graduate student in the Folk Studies M.A. program next year!
Jennifer Walworth, 2018
Jennifer was a Biology major with minors in Folk Studies and Outdoor Leadership. During her time in the program Jennifer has taken many classes with our department and looks forward to using her folk studies skills while pursuing a career with the National Park Service.
Ariel Moore, 2017
Although only a junior this year, Ariel has already earned distinction with a perfect GPA in her six folklore courses. She is consistently outstanding in her contributions to class, whether through original ethnographic research, thoughtful engagement with assigned texts, or insightful participation in discussion with classmates. We look forward to seeing what Ariel will do next!