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What Folklorists Do


What Do I Do With a Folklore Degree?

Depending on their particular career track, graduates of our program may answer that they are public folklorists, museum curators, educators, preservationists, doctoral students, film producers, professors, and even intelligence analysts. We pride ourselves in preparing students for both professional employment and further graduate study. Below is a sample of what some of our alumni are doing.  We are also proud of the wide range of research activities in which our faculty are engaged. 

Folk & Traditional Arts and Health & Wellness Specialist, Wyoming Arts Council

Graduated: 2015

 

I graduated from WKU Folk Studies in May 2015. Since then I have worked a variety of short-term and contract positions, until January 2019, when I got on full-time with the Wyoming Arts Council as the Folk & Traditional Arts and Health & Wellness Specialist. Prior to that I have worked as a Folklorist-in-the-Park with KFP, an AmeriCorps member with the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area in WV, Historic Preservation Specialist with FEMA following the 2016 flooding in WV, a fieldworker for the Nebraska Folklife Network, a fieldworker for the Idaho Commission on the Arts, helped staff the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, contract folklorist for the Four Rivers Cultural Center in OR, and contract folklorist for the South Dakota Arts Council. I’m relieved to now have one full-time position in Wyoming, and to be so close to my family and friends back home in Colorado.  

 

Folk and Traditional Arts Program Coordinator, Wisconsin Arts Board. 

Graduated: 2015

Where do you currently work?

I’m the Folk and Traditional Arts Program Coordinator for the Wisconsin Arts Board. In this position, I work to support and sustain Wisconsin’s traditional artists, and cultural communities and organizations through the coordination and implementation of statewide initiatives and services focused on folk and traditional arts. I manage the Arts Board’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program, which provides support for individual artists, as well as our Folk Arts and Arts in Education grant programs. I also oversee our Woodland Indian Arts Initiative, which provides support for both traditional and contemporary Native American arts and artists. A great deal of this work involves disseminating information about our grant opportunities, providing technical assistance to applicants, and just generally being a resource to artists, communities, and organizations. I also conduct fieldwork related to WI folklife and work to develop public programming to increase exposure to traditional artists and arts organizations, while encouraging dialogue in hopes of building understanding. The goal of increasing the visibility of traditional artists is also to encourage economic support for their work. Anne Pryor was my predecessor at the Arts Board and I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside her in some of this work since I started in August. In addition to the Folk and Traditional Arts Program, I also direct the Arts Board’s Folk Arts in Education Program, and much of this work relates to representing the Arts Board as a partner Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture. I’ve had the opportunity to join Anne Pryor and Mary Hoefferle, Art Education faculty member at UW-Madison, (and lots of other folklorists) in developing cultural tours for educators rooted in encouraging the application of local and place-based knowledge in curricula and in the classroom setting.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

My time at WKU gave me the opportunity to fine-tune my fieldwork skills and think critically about public folklore and cultural work. At WKU, and as an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, I had the opportunity to work alongside some great professors, folklorists, and fellow students who were instrumental in shaping my understanding of the field. WKU provided opportunities for hands-on experience with an emphasis on practical skills like grant writing, public speaking and presentation, ethnographic interviewing, and active listening, and I utilize these skills all the time in my work at the Arts Board. My understanding of folklore continues to shape my worldview and day-to-day interactions, and my time at WKU helped me think more critically about why I do this work. Following graduation in 2015, I had to opportunity to further develop my fieldwork, documentation, and facilitation skills while piecing together contract work. I worked on a state-wide folklife survey in Mississippi, under the guidance of WKU graduate Jennifer Jameson, Folk & Traditional Arts Direction with the MS Arts Commission. Prior to my move to Madison, I also worked for Community Partnerships RC&D based in Lewistown, PA. As the contracted folklorist on staff, I documented traditional artists in central PA, and worked to promote the PA Council on the Arts’ Folk & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. The Kentucky Folklife Program also pulled me in on their recent Bosnian Project, and I assisted with interview transcriptions.

Architectural Archivist & Volunteer Coordinator, Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Graduated:2014

What do you do on a day to day basis?

Some days are full of emails, meetings, reference, and volunteer questions. I spend about two hours on the reference desk in a rotation with other staff members. I process architectural drawings and architectural office records that have been donated to HMRC. I have a lot of appointments to view architectural drawings with architects, preservationists, and property owners. Through those appointments, I often receive orders for reproductions of drawings. I digitize those in our digitization lab. I also answer architectural reference questions, conduct oral histories, and conduct architectural programs related to our materials. I also interview, select, and provide a basic training to incoming volunteers to HMRC.

What are the goals of your work?

HMRC’s mission is to locate, preserve, and make available the documentary evidence of Houston’s history. The architectural section, the Stephen Fox Architectural Archives, focuses on collecting the architectural history of the area. My own professional goal is to make this collection more inclusive of the city’s vernacular architecture. Most of our architectural records come in through donations from architectural firms. However, Houston is diverse and always developing, and I am trying to gather more stories and documentation on the historic housing styles, and the current use of existing buildings, that reflect that.

How did folklore prepare you for your career?

I went to Western because I loved architecture and historic preservation, but I was disheartened by preservation’s lack of focus on the people and communities that made historic buildings worthwhile. Through folklore at Western, I learned that there are folklorists working their way into preservation by emphasizing community’s importance to an area’s architecture. I also found people researching buildings through spatial use and oral histories, which fascinated me. I am now starting to use these ideas when collecting material and interviews for HMRC’s collections. The professional and fieldworking skills I gained at Western are great basis for an interdisciplinary job where I have to appear neutral while I often talk to groups on both sides of an issue.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

With so few jobs marketed towards folklorists specifically, I would encourage grads to emphasize their unique skills to employers in many fields. Follow your interests to locate jobs that you will enjoy and where you will be able to make an impact on the surrounding community.

Director, Downing Museum. 

Graduated: 2014

Where do you currently work?

I am the Director at the Downing Museum in Bowling Green, KY. I came into this job actually through an internship that I did while working on the M.A. During the summer of 2013, I worked with Sandy Staebell, who is the Collections Curator at the Kentucky Museum, on a large textile collections inventory project. I began that summer inventorying quilts, but my internship took a completely different turn toward the middle of that summer. On June 27, we received a call informing us that the Downing Museum was on fire and we needed to go assist with removing artwork from the building. My time at the Kentucky Museum was reallocated so that I could assist in compiling a complete damage inventory of the Downing Museum's collection. A year later, after graduation, I came on board with the Jerry E. Baker Foundation as the Collection's Manager for the Downing Museum. Initially, my job was to facilitate efforts to ensure both short and long term preservation of the collection. In February of 2016, I stepped up as Interim Director of the Downing Museum and have served as Director since the summer of 2016. 

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

On the surface, learning the core tenants of historic preservation and museology were highly valuable and important aspects of my training, as well as learning to work with the variety of individuals that I've encountered in the small museum setting. I learned a great deal about museum education, exhibition, curation, and collection's management during my time at WKU. More importantly, studying folklore gave me the skills that have assisted me in establishing programs that expand the Jerry E. Baker Foundation's core value of community outreach. One of my main goals in my first year as director here at the Downing Museum has been to develop and implement a variety of art education programs geared to enrich the lives of all members of our community. Two of the most memorable groups that we've worked with include the Boys and Girls Club of Bowling Green and the WKU Intercultural Student Engagement Center. With each of these groups, we were able to demonstrate how art can provide a safe environment for self expression. To quote Henry Glassie, folklore deals with the "dynamic association of the ideas and individual creativity and collective order". Seeing these individual expressions and collective order working together as a dynamic force is very rewarding not only to myself, but more importantly, to the group. It allows for enrichment on both the personal and community level.

Academic Coordinator, ETS, Western Kentucky University.

Graduated: 2013

Where do you currently work?

I am the Academic Coordinator for ETS (educational talent search) At Western Kentucky University. ETS is a federal grant funded program for educational outreach. I work directly with high school students in the Bowling Green area, preparing them to apply and attend college. Lesson plans, grant writing, explaining FAFSA forms, and working directly with students are all a part of my job!

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

During my time as a graduate student in the Folk Studies department, I always loved education. At first it took me a little while to feel like I was a folklorist in my career, but after a couple of years, my training as a folklorist began to make daily appearances.  The public folklore classes offered gave me the tools to create the lesson plans I now use for every trip I make to a high school and experience needed to a write a grant which is especially important because by position is funded by a federal grant. I fulfilled my internship requirement as a student at the South Union Shaker Village. At South Union, I gained the experience and knowledge pertinent to the Kentucky education statutes and how to create events, tours and programs which would fulfill education requirements.  My folklore education has become an integral part of how I do my job. I constantly ask myself, what are my students thinking and what do they need? This perspective is one which I learned to take advantage of while a graduate student in the Folk Studies program.

Education Programs and Collections Projects Assistant, Michigan State University (MSU) Museum.

Graduated: 2012

Where do you currently work?

In this job, I actually work for two different departments: Education and Collections. As an active member of the Museum Education Team, I coordinate with educators to provide field trips and on-site programming, as well as our Virtual Outreach Program, in which we provide web-based live programming for classrooms around the country. I also manage our docent program, which provides interpretation and direction for museum visitors. I help facilitate a Teacher Advisory Group that meets to help the MSUM offer better support to educators in the Greater Lansing area and beyond. I also work with other team members to plan and produce special events throughout the year, which include both annual programs like Darwin Discovery Day, the Great Lakes Folklife Festival, and 4-H Days, and one-time programs serving the Michigan community, like a day celebrating the local Hmong community and their cultural traditions. The other part of my job is with the collections department of the museum. There, I work on cataloging, offer tours of and lectures on the stored collections for MSU students, and create on-going public access for specific collections we hold, including the Great Lakes Quilt Center, the Benberry Quilt Collection, and our extensive collection of folk life artifacts. My day-to-day work puts me in touch with History, Natural Sciences, Folk Arts, and other cultural collections, informing the public of what the MSUM has to offer and engaging with them through school outreach, special events, and more. This is never a boring place to work!

 

Ph.D. Candidate and Folklore Fellow. Independent Radio Producer, The Ohio State University.

Graduated: 2012

What do you do on a day to day basis?

At the moment, my primary occupation is undertaking research for a dissertation which is an ethnographic study of the community of Argentine tango dancers in Cincinnati. So I’m going to Argentine tango events, participating, observing, doing interviews, and then spending hours typing up my field notes and transcribing the interviews (which I sort of enjoy, although I wish I could do it quicker).

What are the goals of your work?

Right now, it’s to get the material together to write a grand dissertation, finish it in a timely manner, and become Rachel Hopkin PhD by May 2019 at the latest.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Well, I’m in a folklore program at OSU, too, so it was excellent to have all that coursework already under my belt from WKU. All of my courses from there count towards my degree at OSU. I would also say that the understanding I gained of the academic discipline of folklore at WKU has been hugely important. It has also changed the way I think about radio producing and other types of public folklore work too, particularly with regard to how one regards one’s interviewees. I trained in radio production at the BBC which is built along largely journalistic lines and journalists often feel they have carte blanche to do what they want with the material their interlocutors give them or to which they have gained access. That doesn’t mean that they will be setting out to do any kind of hatchet job at all and I hope I was always respectful of those I worked with. But now I find I check in more and more with the people who are kind enough to allow me to interview them.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

I feel that being a folklorist is a way of life as well as a profession – so you can bring your folkloristic being to any sphere of activity.

 

Program Director, The Food Literacy Project at Oxmoor Farm.

Graduated: 2012

Where do you currently work?

The Food Literacy Project is the education non-profit arm of a working commercial vegetable farm (Field Day Family Farm) in Louisville. Our main goal is to transform youth and their communities through food, farming, and the land. As Program Director, I plan, implement, monitor, evaluate, and report on the Food Literacy Project’s Field-to-Fork Program, which consists of experiential education initiatives that invite students to experience hands-on activities as they get their hands dirty, taste new foods fresh from the field, and get involved in the work of the farm or in their school garden. The farm and school gardens are our outdoor, living classrooms where students are challenged by inquiry-based group programs that emphasize hands-on experiences using their senses.I hire, train, and supervise a program staff team of farm-based educators, ensuring the delivery of high-quality, safe, effective programs; maintain and build community partnerships; and develop and refine curriculum that aligns with core content. All of this is to say my day-to-day is varied, and I love it! One hour might find me behind my computer on the farm writing grants or sharing our Field-to-Fork story with our constituents. Another hour might find me in the Learning Garden, teaching students how to harvest asparagus and doing the plant dance (it’s a real thing!). Another day might find me driving our Truck Farm (our mobile learning garden planted right into the bed of a red Chevy pickup truck) around town to bring a piece of the farm to those who are unable to visit us. Every day is truly different from the farm to the community.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Folklore prepared me tremendously well to work in education and in community-based programming. Learning how to interview people through projects like the Elkmont Oral History Project and the Allen County Folklife and Oral History Project pulled me out of my introverted side and taught me how to identify and interact with key community members to meet community needs. The opportunity to work as an assistant curator with Mammoth Cave National Park through my WKU graduate research assistantship prepared me for several years of museum work. Additionally, the range of coursework from vernacular architecture to folk belief in combination with countless and varied internships at places like the Kentucky Museum, Gardner Historic House, American Folklore Society’s Traditional Cultural Properties project, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park project, the Allen County project, and more prepared me for a variety of jobs. Because I was able to try many different career paths before I even ventured into a career, I was able to determine what kind of work I found enjoyable and most meaningful.

State Folklorist, Florida Folklife Program

Graduated: 2011

Tell me about your career.

I am the State Folklorist and Director of the Florida Folklife Program dedicated to identifying, documenting, presenting, and promoting Florida's folklife and rich cultural heritage through fieldwork and projects designed to increase the awareness of and engagement with Florida traditional arts and culture.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

As State Folklorist, I coordinate and conduct annual fieldwork surveys, build programming for the annual Florida Folklife Festival and present tradition bearers, oversee the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program and the Florida Folk Heritage Awards, and facilitate Artist-in-Residence events.

 Depending on the time of year, I can be engaged in a variety of tasks such as:

· planning and evaluation, writing budgets and grants, and completing grant reporting requirements;

· cold-calling survey leads, scheduling interviews, hiring contract fieldworkers, conducting fieldwork, and processing fieldwork;

· planning advisory council meetings and preparing Apprenticeship applications and Heritage Award nominations for review by the council;

· creating flyers, press releases, and formal letters;

· negotiating honoraria, scheduling and presenting artists, helping them navigate the state’s third party vendor registration system so they can receive payment, and building Purchase Order contracts within that vendor registration system;

· seeking new partnerships and maintaining existing partnerships with organizations and community collaborators;

· editing photos and videos for social media

What are the goals of your work?

The Florida Folklife Program’s objectives are to identify, document, preserve, and promote folklife, folklore, and traditional arts. FFP provides resources to artists and valuable opportunities for Florida citizens to engage with their own cultural heritage and that of others.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

With its focus on public sector folklore the WKU Folk Studies program provided the practical experience and varied skills that made me stand out to my employer and that I now use on a daily basis.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

Don’t give up, think outside of the box, toot your horn, and never underestimate what your training as a folklorist can bring to the table. Folklorists are better at everything because we are folklorists and it’s our job to prove that in our actions and work. Don’t get caught up in telling people what folklorists do – show them in ways that can be meaningfully applied.

Preservation Coordinator and City Sign Administrator, City of Bardstown.

Graduated: 2011

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I am the administrator for all of the 480 historic buildings that are located in the Bardstown Historic District. I handle and oversee all exterior alterations to those properties and make sure that any changes made to them comply with the Secretary of Interiors Standards for Preservation as well as our local preservation guidelines. I am also the city sign administrator which means any signage created or changed in the city limits must be approved by me.

What are the goals of your work?

To preserve and protect the historic buildings in our district, to promote preservation, and to administer and oversee the signage in our community.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Folklore allowed me to understand the context of what to preserve as well as the process. Being in the Folk Studies Program allowed me to gain important knowledge and skills that I use on a daily basis with my position. The hands on training at the Gardner House was literally invaluable for my position. Learning to document oral histories and the history of whole communities was also a major part of my position that I still refer to daily. I learned how to do National Register Nominations as well, and I continue to use those skills often. So current students pay attention to how to understand the process and formation of your projects. Take good notes! Because in my experience you will use them again and continually!

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers what would it be?

Never be afraid to ask for help and keep in touch with your former bosses and professors. There will always be a time when you may need to ask other questions or ask for advice and help. Having those people that you have worked with as a resource will be so important in all of your future endeavors. You have amazing people willing to help you all you have to do is keep in touch and ask!

 

Ph.D. Student, Indiana University, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

Graduated: 2010

Where do you currently work?

I'm currently a Ph.D. student within the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, a senior co-convener for the Graduate Student Section of the American Folklore Society, a member of the SMART team of the Media Preservation Initiative at Indiana University, Bloomington, and am on the editorial board of New Directions in Folklore.

Tell me about your career.

At the present moment, I'm in the process of conducting multimedia ethnographic fieldwork for my dissertation concerning steampunk costuming, adornment, and body art at Atlanta, Georgia, a project that fellow WKU graduate Suzanne Barber and I began in 2010 while attending WKU. The primary focus of this work will center on the notion of what science fiction authors Bruce Sterling and William Gibson have called atemporality or temporal cosmopolitanism. I will explore the relationship between the past, present, and future as ideologically constructed space-time objects or events, and how steampunks employ history as a source content to imagine, materialize and embody/animate alternate and counterfactual histories as a means of social critique and transformation within the present. While an undergraduate and later as a graduate student at WKU, I was fortunate to win a number of awards including the Cam Collins Outstanding Undergraduate (2008) and Graduate (2010) Awards, Outstanding Graduate of Anthropology (2008), the Potter College of Arts and Letters Outstanding Graduate Student Award (2011). Most recently, I was the recipient of the Warren E. Roberts Prize for Best Student Paper in Folk Art (2011) awarded by the Folk Art section of the American Folklore Society for my ethnographic research on contemporary lutherie practices, the subject of my both WKU MA thesis and my forthcoming publication in Folklore Forum entitled "Shaping Theory, Bending Method, Tapping [New] Media" (2012). While a student at WKU and since graduating from the program, I have presented at a number of academic conferences including single authored multimedia presentations at the Ohio State University and Indiana University Folklore and Ethnomusicology Student Conference (2010 and 2011), and co-authored presentations with Suzanne Barber at the American Folklore Society (2011) and the American Anthropological Association (2010 and 2011). Based upon our joint research in technology and posthumanism, Suzanne Barber and I are currently working on a co-authored article entitled "Enacting the Never-Was: Upcycling the Past, Present, and Future in Steampunk" for an edited volume on steampunk cultural productions.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

I took my first folklore class in the Spring of 2005, my second semester of college, from Barry Kaufkins at Glasgow, Kentucky. Over the next three years, I enrolled in 14 more folklore courses and 11 in cultural anthropology. In the Fall of 2007, I took Dr. Kristin Dowell's Visual Anthropology course, later taking its companion course, Ethnographic Video Production and in the Spring of 2008. These two courses piqued my interest in the aesthetics and technologies of ethnographic craftsmanship, in particular in the use of video and multimedia modalities in ethnographic representations. This interest lead me to apply to the graduate program at WKU, where I took 10 advanced seminar courses in folk studies, and sat in on numerous others, completed an internship, created several ethnographic short films and multimedia displays, and composed my Master's Thesis, "Human Things: Rethinking Guitars and Ethnography" (2010). In each of these courses, graduate, and undergraduate, WKU shaped my perceptions of human expressiveness and what it means to be ethnographic and to make ethnographic things within the 21 century. As a graduate assistant within the program, I was given several opportunities to teach undergraduate students in a tangible, live classroom setting, and online just two years later when I taught two online courses at WKU after graduating from the program. In each of these instances, I came to the realization that I not only loved doing ethnography, but that I also loved teaching it. I applied to, was accepted, and entered the Folklore Institute at Indiana University in 2011 where I currently reside. At WKU, I developed my own style and way of being ethnographic , and began what would come to be a primary area of interest for my current work, the history of ethnography, modernity, postmodernity, and its relation to atemporality and hypermodernity, "sensuous scholarship," embodiment, and "techniques of the body," ethnographic film history, theory, and production, and the philosophy of ethnography.

Survey Specialist, North Carolina Historic Preservation Office.

Graduated: 2010

Tell me about your career.

I am employed as a survey specialist conducting a comprehensive survey of the historic architectural resources of rural southern Beaufort County, North Carolina. My fieldwork has resulted in the recordation of nearly two hundred previously unidentified houses, churches, schools, and occupational structures south of the Pamlico River. The history of the southern half of Beaufort County has received very little attention from historians and architectural historians focused on eastern North Carolina, so this project has been particularly dependent upon local knowledge. Upon concluding my fieldwork, I will prepare a countywide report that outlines the history of Beaufort County with regard to its architectural heritage.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Folklore, and perhaps more specifically the focus and strengths of the curricula at Western Kentucky, has enabled me to approach strangers on their own turf, engage them through meaningful dialogue about the places they know best, and cultivate relationships that allow natives of these remote communities to play a heavy-handed role in creating a record of local history. Folklore has taught me that locals best understand the meaning and significance of the communities I am studying and that only by exchanging information with the experts can I create a record of interest and value to future researchers. The Department of Folk Studies at Western Kentucky, in particular, prepared me for this project by teaching me the methodology I need to conduct fieldwork day-to-day and providing the experiences that gave me confidence when beginning the survey.

Director of Learning & Civic Engagement, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML)           

Graduated: 2009

What do you do on a day to day basis?

Every day is different! One day, I will take a group of second graders throughout our museum for their immigration studies; the next day, I will work with someone across the country on a curriculum project. But overall, I direct the education department of the NCSML, where we create curricula, learning experiences and public programs based around three topics related to Czech and Slovak culture: immigration, folklife and human rights. A lot of my work is dedicated to community and regional engagement, connecting the NCSML’s educational efforts to a variety of schools, universities and other organizations, such as refugee support groups, cultural institutions, and even folklife programs around the country.

What are the goals of your work?

Our museum’s goal is to promote “Czech life. Slovak life. American life.” The goals of my work involve working to promote and share Czech and Slovak culture within and outside of those communities and also sharing the Czech and Slovak stories in ways that promote self-reflection and increased cultural awareness.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Having completed the Public Folklore track at WKU, I’d say that my courses for that track were very helpful in guiding my understanding of how culture is presented, and represented, in the best way possible. I was hired in my position not because of having a museum background, but because of my experience as a public folklorist, and the MA program gave me the tools that I needed to work in other places and fields. To this day, the course that impacted my work the most was Folklore & Education, and the experiences that helped the most were my internship with Traditional Arts Indiana, as well as my GA position at the Glasgow regional campus. Those opportunities gave me the teaching, presentation and analytic skills that I needed to succeed as an educator.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

What you do outside of class, such as a volunteer position, internship or part-time job, is just as impactful (if not more) than what you do on campus. Those experiences can make all the difference on the job search.

Assistant Professor, City University of New York

Graduate: 2010

Where do you currently work?

I’m currently Assistant Professor of English at Bronx Community College, which is one of the campuses of the City University of New York, the largest urban university in the United States. I have also taught in the American Studies, English, and Communications programs at Penn State Harrisburg. Prior to college teaching, I worked in folklore archives at the National Park Service, Penn State’s Archives and Special Collections, and the Kentucky Library. My first foray into folklore was as an intern at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

I am past president of the Middle Atlantic Folklife Association, editor of New Directions in Folklore, Member at Large to the Executive Council for the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, and a member of the editorial boards of Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore and Supernatural Studies.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My day is split into teaching, scholarship, and service, although not always in tidy, equal portions. When I am on campus, I’m primarily focused on classroom teaching, advising, and service. As tenure requires scholarship, I also build time for research into my schedule. The days I am home I devote to scholarship, online teaching, writing letters of recommendation, working on grant proposals, etc. Most professors are off a few weeks in the winter and a few months in the summer. I like to use these breaks for more extensive field research.

The most common day of all includes teaching, research, and service—with a big emphasis on the teaching. I try to incorporate student’s real world examples into every topic we cover. A flexible schedule is one of the benefits of college teaching. Faculty will have at least one day per week, sometimes more, that can be devoted to work that doesn’t fit into this daily schedule.

What are the goals of your work?

My goal is to introduce students to folklore and folklife. Unlike history, literature, or algebra, it is unlikely my students have encountered folklore as a legitimate field of study prior to my course, besides perhaps brief units on Paul Bunyan or Greek and Roman Mythology. They have, however, spent a lifetime studying folklore. They just haven’t realized it yet. The diversity of the Bronx makes teaching folklore in the classroom especially fun. It’s not unusual to have members of fifteen different ethnicities in a single classroom, many of them still closely connected to the traditions of their culture. I encourage students to appreciate their own traditions and their classmates’. I also bring my folkloric training with me to other the courses I teach, such as composition, drama, and children’s literature. My final goal goes beyond the classroom. I believe folklore has the power to connect the campus at large to the community through shared interests and dedication to cultural appreciation.

How did folklore prepare you for your career?

First and foremost, while at WKU I didn't just study folklore; I became a folklorist. This strong disciplinary identity has been the cornerstone of all of my subsequent work. The broad and well-conceived curriculum and assortment of senior faculty with a variety of research and teaching interests instilled in me the knowledge and confidence necessary to bring the study of folklore to the next generation of students.

In an otherwise unruly interdisciplinary "discipline" known as American Studies, being a folklorist first has given me the identity I need to make my own contribution to the study of American culture. Acknowledging folkways as important is a step unto itself—a step most will never take—and has opened possibilities for new insights into American culture. Studying folklore forced me to hone the well-worn tools of the folklorist's trade: ethnography, tape-recorded interviews, and archives. Together this training has prepared me for a future dedicated to the study of American folklore and folklife.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

If you want to pursue college teaching, do it! There’s no better job in the world. The pessimistic notion that you are condemning yourself to a life of poverty and unemployment is overstated. There are twenty million students in the United States (and a hundred million more abroad). Someone has to teach them, and professors can’t live forever. Work hard. Do all the noble graduate students tasks (reviewing, conferencing, networking, leading, organizing, publishing, teaching, etc.). Be sure to finish your dissertation (no one is impressed by an A.B.D.). And then conduct a worldwide job search. If you are flexible—willing to teach anything and anywhere—you will find your spot, and it will be worth it.

Workforce Specialist, Utah Department of Workforce Services

Graduated: 2008

Where do you currently work?

My official title is Workforce Specialist at the local office of the Department of Workforce services, but if anyone asks, I tell them what I really do, which is work with the Burmese and Karen refugees who live here in Logan, Utah. I recently left a position as Education Director at the American West Heritage Center (AWHC), an outdoor living history museum located in northern Utah (hence the goat-milking photo).

Tell me about your career.

After graduating from WKU, I drove across the country to my homeland of Utah and pretty much rolled out of the car and into the education department of the AWHC. I had interned there the summer before, and when my internship supervisor's position opened up, I sent in my resume and walked right in. For three-and-a-half years I did a lot of unexpected things, such as cow-milking, goat-chasing, putting up fences, setting up tepees, and gardening. I also taught children and families about history in an experiential setting, partnered with the Cultural Resources staff of the Northwestern Band of Shoshone, wrote grants, designed museum exhibits and education materials, and picked up some graphic design, marketing, and website maintenance duties. When I was at Western, I spent a lot of time at the Bowling Green International Center. Since then, I had dreamed of doing cultural education with refugee and immigrant communities. When my current position materialized, I jumped at the opportunity. Right now I've been charged with helping refugee families from Burma find a self-sufficient, solid ground for their community to stand on, and ways to integrate into the larger community in this area. Economic, educational, and medical stabilization are at the top of this list, so over the last couple of weeks I've helped families navigate job applications, government aid, and housing applications. The goal is to guide this particular refugee community to the language skills and other knowledge that they need to help each other and the wider community of Logan.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

During the spring commencement exercises of 2008, my folklore friends and I got mixed up in line and marched in next to the P.E. masters students in the College of Health and Human Services. "You shook the wrong dean's hand!" Michael Ann exclaimed afterward. But really, if you strip off the connotation that accompanies "Human Services" in a government context, public folklorists really are servants to humanity-- to the folk. As a historically-dressed farmgirl teaching kids how to milk a cow by hand, and now as someone trying to mediate between the culture of the Burmese, the Karen, refugees, state government employees, English pedagogues, and a host of other groups, I am doing what I do because of, and for, the folk. My training at WKU developed the beginnings of a mindset that helps me see cultural difference, realize the effects of those differences, acknowledge that no one has the complete story, and work to present the missing pieces and the common ground in a way that everyone can understand. The cool thing about this mindset is that it can be applied in probably every career out there. You just have to work at showing the people who think that you spent two years learning how to tell stories and folk dance that "folklorist" means much more than that.

Ph.D. Student, Department of Geography, University of Kentucky

Graduated: 2007

Where do you currently work?

I am working on a Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Kentucky. My time is spent on dissertation research, taking courses and teaching GEO 160: Lands and Peoples of the Non-Western World. My research interests include Cultural and Economic Geography. Specifically, I am studying craft production, cultural consumption and economic development in Eastern Kentucky. My advisor is Dr. Michael Samers, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies.

In what little free time I have, I am a member of the Graduate Student Congress, Appalachian Research Graduate Student Council, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Geography Graduate Student Union, Association of American Geographers, Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers, and the Oral History Association.

Tell me about your career.

After I earned my WKU M.A., I moved to Somerset, Kentucky, to serve as Arts and Culture Outreach Coordinator at The Center for Rural Development. While at the Center, I was responsible for facilitating the Kentucky Appalachian Craft Council, organizing training workshops for artists and crafters, and providing arts-based educational outreach programs to a 42 county service area in Eastern Kentucky. After spending time in Eastern Kentucky, I decided I wanted to go back to graduate school so I could study the craft industry of the region in depth. I wanted to document methods being employed by arts organizations, thinking critically (rather than romantically) about craft production/consumption and how oppressive power regimes and inequalities can be created on a microeconomic scale.

So, I accepted a teaching assistantship in Geography at the University of Kentucky in August 2008. I am currently conducting semi-structured interviews throughout the region of Eastern Kentucky in hopes of better understanding how organizations are making economic decisions and what social factors, other than or in addition to profit, come into play. Once everything is said and done (who knows how long it will take?) I plan to publish my research in various outlets available to academic scholars and community activists, offering insights into the industry and suggestions for future paths.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

My M.A. in Folk Studies prepared me to work in the public sector (which I enjoyed and may return to) and also positioned me for acceptance in highly competitive graduate programs in Geography (specifically Human Geography programs). Whether I have been in the field as public folklorist or as an academic researcher I have found that I am constantly utilizing the qualitative methods I learned at WKU. I would argue that students leave the Folk Studies program prepared not only to conduct qualitative research, but to theoretically defend our choice of utilizing qualitative methods! This has been an incredibly valuable skill that has served me well!

Religious Studies Ph.D. Candidate, University of California.

Graduated: 2007

Where do you currently work?

I’m currently a Ph.D. student in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tell me about your career.

After graduating from WKU, I spent some time reworking my MA thesis into a monograph for the University Press of Mississippi, published July 2011. The book examines legend-tripping: a folk ritual in which people strive to explore and find manifest events described by supernatural legends. (http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/1398). Here at UCSB, I’m specializing in religion in America with an emphasis in cognitive science. I remain principally interested in a range of behaviors and activities that typically fall within the categories of “supernatural,” “paranormal,” and “magical,” and so I continue to work closely with folk narratives and beliefs.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

My folklore training has enabled me to draw upon a range of methods and genre distinctions in order to develop a more nuanced appreciation of the complex interactions among tradition, belief, and experience. The folkloristic approach that I learned at WKU continues to help guide my inquiries into aspects of life that aren’t commonly thought of as religious yet nonetheless influence and are, in many cases, essential components to everyday religious practices.

Musician, Writer, Independent Folklorist, Self Employed

Graduated: 2007

Where do you currently work?

Since graduating from WKU, I have been primarily reinvigorating the music career that I put on "hold" to attend school.

Tell me about your career?

I play the mountain dulcimer --a folk instrument-- write songs about real people you've never heard of and sing them.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Although I am not currently in a full-time pursuit of folklore. My degree gave me an understanding of folklore and how groups interact and create their own networks of identity. This information is something that I find useful in real-world terms every single day. In addition, I still am independently pursuing subject topics discovered through the education process, and I will likely pursue a Ph.D. at some point. I met wonderful, deeply intelligent people who stimulated my thinking and opening me up to a world of new ideas and concepts.

Data and Federal Programs Consultant, State Library of Oregon.

Graduated: 2005

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I oversee two statewide programs for libraries in Oregon: an annual public library survey and a competitive grant program – both of which are funded through the federal Library Services and Technology Act. Both programs’ outcomes and activities are reported to the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, and these in turn help inform national trends, opportunities, and priorities for libraries across the US.

What are the goals of your work?

Along with improving the accessibility and transparency of our grants program, I’m working on building capacity for data analysis and visualization across the library community in Oregon. I’m also involved in a statewide plan with other state agencies and regional library consortia to help smaller cultural heritage organizations create their own digital collections, and to make these collections more discoverable through a regional repository and (eventually, we hope) through the Digital Public Library of America.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Although I am not working as closely with folklife collections or with public folklore programs these days, I feel that my public folklore background from WKU is really invaluable in that I am able to easily work with other professionals from allied fields, including museum studies, arts administration, and historic preservation. Although my undergraduate program was highly beneficial – I studied music performance in a program that fashioned its curriculum after a (somewhat insular) conservatory model – I feel like the Folk Studies program at WKU provided me a more well-rounded, liberal arts education which has helped me adapt and thrive in a variety of professional contexts.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

I think the public folklore landscape has changed a lot in the last 15 years and I’ve seen many fellow graduates from WKU and other public folklore programs do some very creative and inspiring things in their chosen communities, despite the realities of a tough job market during this period. Not to sound trite, but the main advice I can offer is to keep in mind something that we as folklorists have already learned: that there is intrinsic value in the things we know (both formally and informally), whether or not those things help us pay the rent.

Department Head, Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University.

Graduated: 2005

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I clear the path for my department to be able to continue to document and provide access to Oklahoma culture and history through oral history methodology. I place into context our work in cultural documentation to the library administrators and demonstrate the value of our work within the greater goals and mission of library. I seek external funding through grant writing and fundraising and manage all of the associated paperwork with applications and reporting. I also work to build relationships with like-minded organizations in the state and look forward to community relations for potential future documentation projects. I listen a lot to what my institutional colleagues, my professional peers, and the people I meet out in the state have to say about the work that needs to be done for documentation of and access to Oklahoma’s varied history and cultural representation. In short, I listen, I talk, and I help plan strategy for future work.

What are the goals of your work?

Documenting the history and culture of Oklahoma. Looking at what areas of the state which are under-represented in historic and cultural context and working to give space to those voices as they would like to be heard.

How did folklore prepare you for your career?

Completing the Master’s Program in Folk Studies at WKU prepared me immensely for this career. Not only did the faculty help me identify and nurture my strengths through practical application, I was lead to understand how the theoretical applications of a folklorist could work for a plethora of roles in cultural work. I gained invaluable practical and theoretical skills to help get me started in the field of folklore, regardless of what my job title ended up being for any given position.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

Deep listening and cultural ethnographic or mediation skills are valuable in any job. Don’t undervalue the skills you have gained in the program through intense critical thinking or practical organizational work.

 

Executive Director, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY)

Graduated: 2004

Where do you currently work?

I am Executive Director of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY), Canton, NY, an independent non-profit folk arts organization serving the vast rural 14-county region of Northern New York State. Our research and programming takes us from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario, from the 1000 Islands on the St. Lawrence River to the Adirondack Mountains. I am also an adjunct professor in the anthropology department at the State University of New York at Potsdam, teaching introductory folklore classes.

Tell me about your career.

I'm a folklorist who worked in the field for 10 years before I got a degree in the discipline. Following my undergraduate program in Modern Languages, I taught, ran a freelance writing business, and worked part-time at a historical society. In 1993, TAUNY's founder called to ask me if I would join him in developing a folklife organization he'd started. I had never heard of folklore as a field of study. I said yes. We built the organization from the ground up. I was hired for the administrative side of the business, but almost immediately started tagging along on research jaunts. I was deeply attracted to the work of documenting and presenting local traditional culture, so moved more and more into the program side of the operation. Eventually it became clear that I would have to legitimize my standing as a folklorist to deepen my role in programming. All the public folklorists I knew said I should go to WKU. Off I went. After completing the degree, I worked as Program Director at TAUNY until becoming Executive Director in 2008.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Having the degree in Folk Studies expanded my employment opportunities in the cultural sector. My training in the theory and practice of folklore is a specialization that I can sell to other cultural organizations, universities, and private enterprise. You can combine training in folklore with almost any profession focused on people. I'm currently looking for a folklorist with an interest in retail to run TAUNY's museum shop. Through TAUNY, I do a lot of contract work for other institutions. The degree gives me standing to secure grants for projects I'm interested in and to teach at the university level. It also gave me credentials to write about regional culture for non-academic publications (homesteaders and saunas are two recent topics). The program at WKU is a jewel. The department commitment to teaching is exemplary. Every faculty member substantially affected my thinking about our field of study. I have very fond memories of my days in Bowling Green.

Program Facilitator, Appalachian Program, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College

Graduated: 2004

Tell me about your career.

For the past five years the focus of my work has been as part of the production team for a community theatre project. The first play "Higher Ground," was produced as part of a Rockefeller PACT (Partners Affirming Community Transformations) Grant. We wanted to see how we could use arts to transform our community. Southeastern Kentucky is experiencing a prescription drug epidemic. We saw that almost every family in our county was being touched in some way by drugs, either directly or indirectly. What we also saw, was that no one was talking about it. Harlan County is a place rich is stories, of survival, hardship, family relationships, beauty, and humor. We gathered stories for two years and wound up with over 1500 pages of transcripts. We sent that collection of stories to Jo Carson, a noted community playwright from Johnson City Tennessee. She drafted a script, and working with our director and community production team we crafted it into our final script. We gathered a cast of sixty local people, most of whom had little or no theatre experience, brought in a professional director, choreographer and lighting designer. The production played to a full house every performance, gained funding to do a revival of the production the next year and was taken "on the road" to an Appalachian Regional Commission Governors meeting and to the Charleston, West Virginia to the New Horizons Substance abuse conference. In 2008 the show was revived again and was filmed as part of a KET documentary "Finding Higher Ground." Also in 2008 we received funding from NEA and the Steele Reese Foundation to produce two more of these community dramas. We are currently working on the second play in our Higher Ground Production series. The new play is called "Playing with Fire" and will open in April 2009. I guess Ann Schertz, the production's music director who is also an ethnomusicologist, sums up this project best for all of us, "Stories are so tremendously powerful beyond their just being art-they are essential to the fabric of communities. Faced with such a danger-the effects of prescription drugs-it's so easy for individuals to feel helpless and out of control. At the core of what we've done with Higher Ground is its strong sense of community integrity, and that's exactly what's going to help us the most. This process of telling our story gives us the same voice that could help any community during hard times. For more information about the KET documentary of this project go to:http://www.ket.org/muse/higherground/. For more cast comments about Higher Ground go to: http://www.ket.org/muse/higherground/performers.htm.

Assistant Professor, English Department, Eastern Carolina University

Graduated: 2003

here do you currently work?

I am an assistant professor in the Department of English at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. I am also a Professional Associate with the Discipline of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Tell me about your career.

My primary research is with folklore and medicine, specifically the anti-vaccination and vaccine safety movements. I spend most of my research time looking at how contemporary legends affect medical decision-making. My teaching duties involve teaching both Folklore and Multicultural and Transnational Literature courses at the graduate and undergraduate level. Since the nursing program at ECU encourages their students to take folklore classes, the majority of my students are in the health sciences. Additionally, I serve as a Faculty Advisor on the Entertainment Committee of the Student Activity Board, which brings various cultural activities to the campus. I have also recently sat on the North Carolina Arts Council Grants Board and on the committee that produces The Common Reader, the English Department's newsletter. I also occasionally travel to Newfoundland to give lectures for Faculty of Medicine.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

My MA in Folk Studies at Western not only prepared me for my Ph.D. work in Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland, but for so many of the other activities I've encountered in my career. When I sat on the grants board for the North Carolina Arts Council, I knew what to expect as we sat on mock granting boards in Dr. Evans' Public Folklore class. I was also able to argue for the inclusion of an outsider art application because of what I learned in Dr. Williams' Folk Art and Technology classes. The internship I completed with Community Health at WKU was crucial in understanding how large public health organizations function, which has enabled me to take into consideration how my research can be utilized by others. When attending the Canadian Immunization Conference, I was able to explain how folklore can be used and applied to current issues in immunization, which not only resulted in many of the participants asking how they could use folklore in their own research, but also resulted in several post-doctorate offers and being awarding the Bernard Duvall prize for best student paper.

Program Officer, Humanities Tennessee.

Graduated: December 2003

Where do you currently work?

I work as a Program Officer for Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Though each state and US Territory has a Humanities Council, each council operates differently within the broad mission of providing public programming in the humanities. In Tennessee, we do this through programs we fund through grants to other organizations, as well as through programs we conduct ourselves.

Tell me about your career.

My duties are pretty diverse. I administer a general grant program as well as an awards program for humanities teachers in grades 3-12. Through our Community History Program, I work with small museums and history organizations throughout the state. We provide such organizations with professional assistance, training, workshops, and exhibits. Finally, through our Language and Literature programs, I write for an online publication called Chapter16.org.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Typically, job search websites do not list "folklore" as a search term. But every job opening has certain skill set requirements. My career requires experience in writing, grants administration, interviewing (oral history), museum operations, historic interpretation, non-profit management, and K-12 education. It doesn't hurt that I've had experience in radio, photography, historic architecture, traditional music, etc. During my two years at WKU, I garnered some experience in each of these areas, and I've drawn on all of them during the last six years at Humanities Tennessee.

Environmental Manager/Historian, Indiana Department of Transportation.

Graduated: 2000

Tell me a bit about your career.

After graduation I went to work for the Delaware Department of Transportation as a planner coordinating Section 106 compliance. Since 2006 I have been with the Indiana DOT engaged in shepherding projects through the Section 106 process by identifying and evaluating properties for the National Register of Historic Places, consulting with the State Historic Preservation Office, statewide and location preservation groups, property owners and the general public, assessing a project’s affects on historic properties, and developing minimization and mitigation measures if there is an adverse effect. On a day to day basis, I have a mix of tasks which may consist of research, field visits, correspondence, documentation preparation and attending meetings. Working in Section 106 is both challenging and exciting, requiring a good amount of consultation, negotiation and outreach with diverse peoples. Especially since I work on a statewide level with transportation related projects, I deal with a variety of resources. For instance, currently, I am preparing a National Register assessment for a 1957 contemporary style ranch and an early 20th century stone arch culvert.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

The education and guidance I received in the Folk Studies program helps me provide a unique perspective to conducting Section 106 compliance. As a direct influence of the Folk Studies program, I have utilized and advocated talking and learning from the people who actually live in and among the properties I study. When feasible, I incorporate oral history as a major component of my research and this has been especially useful in connecting with disenfranchised communities that are often largely absent in local historical accounts. Ultimately, learning about the history and relationship between a resource and the people who made, lived or experience it is that perspective that comes from folklore and in particular the Folk Studies program.

Chief Curator of Folklife & Fieldwork, University of South Carolina, McKissick Museum.

Graduated: 1998

Where do you currently work?

As the Curator of Folklife and Fieldwork at McKissick Museum, I'm responsible for coordinating all of the traditional arts programming at McKissick Museum. In addition, I manage the Folklife Resource Center, an archive housing all of the audio, video, and image documentation gathered throughout the Museum's 30 year history. I also teach in the South Carolina Honor's College - usually one class a semester.

Tell me about your career.

I started out pursuing an art history career, but soon became passionate about architecture and the built environment. Came to Western because of the Historic Preservation track, but was soon influenced strongly by Larry Danielson, who I blame for diverting my interest from vernacular architecture to the people responsible for said architecture. So I shifted from historic site work to an applied folklore career path. Hence I jumped on the opportunity to come to USC.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

See above. Western's emphasis on combining academic study with practical, real-world job experience was crucial. This approach provided the impetus for me to get out of the library and into a job in the field that required me to make decisions on a day-to-day basis. While a strong academic foundation is necessary, the internship-driven nature of the "public" track was key to my future job outlook.  A wonderful two years. Challenging and demanding with top-notch professors who not only instructed, but mentored. Only regret is that Western has no PhD program. Would have stayed on to pursue a doctorate if the option was there.

Deputy Director, Mississippi Arts Commission.

Graduated: 1997

What do you do on a day to day basis?

A variety of administrative duties – agency budgeting, hiring, reporting to state and federal funders, plus “whatever needs to be done” (fixing chairs, editing documents, pricing computer equipment. . ).

What are the goals of your work?

To assist the program staff in carrying out the programmatic goals of the agency by having a smooth operating administrative and reporting functions.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

The Folk Studies program at WKU provided me the grounding in theory and practice that I used on a daily basis during my ten years working as the Folk Arts program director at my agency. I continue to use my research skills working on our agency’s radio show.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

Your “dream” job may not materialize right after graduation, so try to keep busy with part-time, contractual, or other projects that are relevant to the field and can be included on your resume as work experience. As someone who is involved with hiring staff at our agency, the first thing I look at on a resume is whether or not the applicant has relevant work experience.

Director, Traditional Arts Indiana.

Graduated: 1997

Where do you currently work?

I direct Traditional Arts Indiana, a partnership between IU and the Indiana Arts Commission. As part of my work, I have produced documentary videos, hosted public events, curated public exhibitions, provided training to artists and community scholars, as well as other activities, which strengthen and deepen Indiana's folk and traditional arts infrastructure.

Tell me about your career.

It all started with a class with Warren Roberts at Indiana University. He planted the seed of my interest in Indiana folklore. Being interested in public sector, I chose to go to WKU, as the only program at the time that focused on the scholarship and techniques of public folklore. While at WKU, I learned much from Michael Ann Williams about folk art, folklore history and theory, which prepared me for my career. I do not think I would be doing what I am today if I had not gone to Western Kentucky. While at WKU I also worked with Bob Gates as a folklorist in parks Eastern Kentucky. Right out of Western, I worked a long series of contract jobs for: Kentucky Arts Council, Vanceburg Bicentennial Festival, Kentucky Folklife Festival, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center. Since then I have worked as a folklorist in Florida, where I directed the Florida Folk Festival and served as the president of the Florida Folklore Society before returning to Indiana in 2004.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

I think WKU's connection with the Kentucky Folklife Program cannot be under estimated. While I think back fondly about my time at WKU, I think my experiences with KFP, really jump-started my career. I think the faculty's blending of academic scholarship and public practice made WKU the perfect place to begin my professional career.

Director of Programs, Marketing, and Grants, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.

Graduated: 1995

What do you do on a day to day basis?

I do a little of everything. Some of the more prosaic day-to-day work is managing budgets and expenses; writing and reviewing press releases and advertisements; confirming participation of interpreters, speakers, artists, etc.; making sure we have the printed pieces (rack cards, visitor guides, etc.) that we need and where we need them and setting up and taking down for big events. I also guide our interpretive planning, program development and community engagement, which is the fun stuff.

What are the goals of your work?

My approach to (and goal for) programming, public engagement and community outreach: Finding multiple entry points to illuminate stories: emphasizing different angles, perspectives and ways of knowing; and asking questions and providing participants opportunities for feedback and dialogue.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

In subtle but sustained ways. In program development and engagement, working to understand the community’s or group’s or artist’s experience and way of seeing, rather than my institution’s point of view. Listening more than talking. Some folklore methods I had to re-learn. We had a terrific gospel group perform at a program and the lead singer had a spoken word segment where she talked about her family fleeing segregation in Florida. Some in the audience did not see the connection between African American gospel music and the spirituals and experience of enslaved people. Afterwards, I recalled my experience as a facilitator at folk festivals as a student, and how that would have illuminated the connections for the audience.

If you could give one piece of advice to recent graduates/jobseekers, what would it be?

Apropos the previous anecdote, don’t silo your experiences. If you don’t find a job in the field right away, then find the right volunteer position to stay engaged. Picking up grant writing and fundraising experience where you can is a plus.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Graduated: 1993

Where do you currently work?

I am now an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where I am also an Associate Faculty member in the Folklore, Oral Tradition, and Culture Studies Program. I regularly work with Folklore graduate students and serve on Folklore MA and PhD committees.

Tell me a about your career.

My work in religious studies is heavily informed by folkloristics. As a scholar of American religious history and culture, I am especially interested in religion "as it is lived" in particular situated contexts -- especially as it is shaped by cultures of work. My first book, Work and Faith in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Fields: Subject to Dust (Indiana University Press, 2008), examines religious responses to the industrialization of eastern Kentucky. I am currently exploring the world of 19th century whaling out of New England, and the intercultural exchanges and comparative religion that emerged from this culture of work in its global and local contexts.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Folklore is the root of what is today called "cultural studies." It has been worrying about the relationship between the local and the national (or global) longer than many other fields. It takes seriously the interaction between tradition and innovation. For all of these reasons, Western's Folk Studies Program prepared me well for thinking about how culture works, which lies at the heart of my perspective on the study of religion .I actually think about my time at Western a lot! The friends, the professors, the classes, the assignments, and the adventures remain touchstones of my formation.

Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Western Kentucky University

Graduated: 1990

Where do you currently work?

I currently work in the Department of Family and Consumer Science at Western Kentucky University.  I teach classes related to interior design and fashion merchandising. Some of the classes I teach are History of 20th Century Dress and Clothing and Human Behavior.  I serve on the board of the Kentucky Museum. My students complete a project in collaboration with the Kentucky Museum where they document and research a piece of historical clothing from the museum collection. I have served as curator of education at the National Quilt Museum and the outreach coordinator for the Department of Science, Engineering and Technology at Murray State University.  My research has focused on the everyday women’s clothing of the 1920's in the US.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

Opportunity has always had a way of finding me. As each opportunity came my way, I found I could utilize my folklore training. This is especially true when I began work on my dissertation.  The interview skills I learned in Folklore Fieldwork set the tone and directed the interviews and information I collected while researching at the University of Missouri. My folk studies training offered me many different tools, but most importantly it allowed me to appreciate the pluralistic nature of society. In the classes I teach today, at WKU, I try to pass this on to my students to help them understand how they can be global citizen

Senior Program Director of Traditional Arts & Film Programs, South Arts.

Graduated: 1989

Where do you currently work?

I'm the Senior Program Director of the Traditional Arts and Film Programs at South Arts. South Arts, a private non-profit, is one of six Regional Arts Organizations in the country. We promote and support the arts in the South. I have the privilege of working with folklorists from nine Southern state folklife programs. As the organization's senior manager, I coordinate the annual Folklorists in the South meeting, oversee Southern Visions: The Southern Arts and Culture Traveling Exhibits Program (which includes developing exhibits), and serve on various grant panels. I'm the Exhibit Director for Tradition/Innovation, American Masterpieces of Southern Craft & Traditional Art, a project of the National Endowment for the Art's American Masterpieces' Initiative. I also served as Co-Chair of the 2005 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting (a true learning experience!) and am a charter member of the Craft Advisory Committee for the HandMade Institute/HandMade in America.

Tell me about your career.

I have been extremely fortunate to have continuous employment as a public sector folklorist since graduating from WKU. An internship with Bob Gates of the Kentucky Folklife Program resulted in a series of contracts with the KFP (1989-1990). Michael Ann Williams encouraged me to apply for an NEA-funded position with the Maine Folklife Program at the University of Maine (1990-1993). Working with Dr. Sandy Ives was a remarkable experience! He and Lynwood Montell were wonderful fieldwork mentors. The next stop was with the Florida Folklife Program (1993 ' 1999); first in White Springs, Florida, and later in Tallahassee. These combined experiences have provided opportunities for fieldwork, writing, exhibit production, festival development, event coordination, educator and artist training, concert tour production, fundraising, grant writing, etc. See Question #1 for my current status.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

WKU provided an incredible balance of folklore theory and applied folklife experience. One of my most valuable lessons was dissecting NEA grant guidelines, and producing and defending a faux federal grant. (Thank you, Cam Collins!) Little did I know at the time, the countless grant applications that were ahead of me! A career as a folklorist has given me the opportunity to meet fascinating traditional artists and community leaders whose paths I would have never crossed. I've had the opportunity to travel, work consistently in my chosen field, and always have a topic of conversation for cocktail parties.

Historian, Weintraut & Associates.

Graduated: 1988

Tell me about your career.

This firm specializes in public and private historic preservation and archaeology projects. As a historian, I do fieldwork, research, and writing for our projects and reports. My post graduate school career began in Wake County, North Carolina doing architectural survey work. This work translated into the writing of an architectural survey publication and eventually into a job staffing a local historic preservation commission. From there, I spent several years working as a program associate for the Southwest Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a job that had me working with local preservation groups in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. After leaving the National Trust, I worked as a consultant in Indiana, Maryland, and North Carolina until joining Weintraut & Associates.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

My degree in folk in Folk Studies has taught me to look at the built environment in a broad way, to look for relationships between the built environment and other elements of local culture, and to be aware, always, of context in fieldwork and research.

President & CEO, Historic Savannah Foundation.

Graduated: 1987

Tell me a about your career.

I have been working in historic preservation for more than 25 years. I began working for the Office of Historic Properties in Frankfort, KY and in 1991 moved to Charleston, SC to work for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  After nearly ten years serving in the Southern Office I moved to Fort Worth, TX to run the Southwest Office of the NTHP until I began working with the Historic Savannah Foundation in 2008.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

WKU Folk Studies prepared me with rigorous academic requirements (reading, writing and critical thinking) and it has served to sensitize me to issues of diversity and creative approaches to doing historic preservation work.

Director, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Graduated: 1975. 

Where do you currently work?

I was the director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress from 1999-2011. The Center is home to the largest ethnographic archive in the nation (perhaps the world), and it exists as both a division of the Library of Congress and a national service organization for the field. We have a staff of 24 at the Center, with another 20 staff members assigned to the Veterans History Project. As director, I served as a division chief for LOC Library Services and I also directed the Center under the guidance of a 25 member Board of Trustees. The Center is charged with "preserving and presenting American folklife" (Public Law 94-201). We do this by collecting, preserving and making accessible multi-format folklife, ethnomusicology and oral history collections of national and international significance, as well as producing media programs, publications, symposia, concerts, lectures, exhibits and other public programs (on-site and online). In addition, I serve as a consultant and delegate to international cultural policy entities such as WIPO, UNESCO and OAS.

Tell me about your career.

When I graduated from WKU, I worked briefly at Berea College's Appalachian Museum and then was tapped to be the first "state folk arts coordinator" for Florida. At the time (1976) there were only six state folklorists and the field of public folklore was very new. It was a marvelous experience. I had a one year grant from NEA that developed into a permanent position, and then an entire Florida Folklife Program was created. My one year in Florida turned into a twelve year stay. During this time I took a one year sabbatical and completed my course work for a PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania (1985-86) and I finally graduated in 1992 (it's hard to write a dissertation while working fulltime!). In 1989 I was selected to be the first "regional" folklorist, and my family and I moved to Atlanta where I began work for the Southern Arts Federation. This was a terrific way to work in collaboration with the nine state folklorists in the South and it is marvelous that a WKU graduate, Teresa Hollingsworth, is now doing a terrific job continuing and expanding on that position. In 1999 I became the director of the American Folklife Center (taking over from founding director, Alan Jabbour) and I have been here ever since. This is the most rewarding position that I can imagine and I continue to learn new things every day, especially from the AFC/VHP staff -- a terrific cadre of professional folklorists, ethnomusicologists, archivists and oral historians. I have also been on the Board of Directors for the National Council for the Traditional Arts since 2000.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

My career has been entirely in public folklore, and I guess my colleagues and I (from the mid 1970s) would be considered "pioneers" in this field. WKU offered the first MA degree that was geared toward work beyond the academy and this was a key to my career path and how I developed as a folklorist. My work as a student assistant in the WKU Folklore Archive proved to be invaluable and my field work experiences informed all of the survey work that I eventually did in Florida and beyond. The WKU curriculum and emphasis on real-world applications of folkloristics is a model for preparing students for public folklore work.

Tim Frandy is currently finishing a translation of Inari Sámi Folklore, a 19th century Sámi folktales from the village of Inari, which will be the first anthology of Sámi oral tradition available in the English language. His following book project will involve a series of public folklore programs he helped design and implement in partnership with Lac du Flambeau Anishinaabe artist and educator Wayne Valliere and the Lac du Flambeau Public School. 

 

Kate Horigan is currently working on an ongoing oral history project with Bosnian refugees in Bowling Green, combined with research in Bosnia on memory of war and genocide in the 1990’s. This work so far has included a ZSEIFS seminar and research trip to Bosnia, as well as involvement in a collaborative exhibit at the Kentucky Museum, “A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green.” Research in this area continues Dr. Horigan’s broader interests in vernacular narratives and commemoration of disaster and conflict. Dr. Horigan’s graduate research assistants have assisted in making connections with Bosnian ethnographers and in processing fieldwork data. Her undergraduate students have completed service projects with Bowling Green non-profits serving refugee populations, and they have also done coursework related to the museum exhibit.

Barry Kaufkins just completed aerial documentation of the historic Gardner House, located in Hart County, Kentucky.  He is currently in the planning phase of implementing a partnership between a local farmers market and students to address issues of food insecurity in the community.  Feel free to email for updates as this project progresses.   

 In addition to her ongoing research with Kentucky farmers, Ann Ferrell is currently engaged in research for a book she is co-authoring with Diane Goldstein (Indiana University), entitled The Soul of a Folklorist: Expressive Culture, Political Representation, and the Weight of Social Responsibility.
Read about our ongoing projects with student, faculty, and community involvement.

 

 

237 Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center  |  Potter College of Arts and Letters  |  Western Kentucky University  |   1906 College Heights Blvd. #61029  |  Bowling Green, KY 42101-1029  |  Email: fsa@wku.edu | Phone: (270) 745-6549  |  Fax: (270) 745-6889   


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 Last Modified 9/19/19