Department of Geography, University of Kentucky
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 a bit 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 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!