AFS Calls on Leaders in the Field to Advocate for WKU Programs

AFS News
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Dear Colleagues:

We’ve recently learned that the administration of Western Kentucky University has decided not to give the University’s Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology the resources it will need to replace two folk studies faculty members and to continue a folklife specialist position with the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP), headquartered on campus. This is the latest in a series of faculty positions that have not been replaced, which has reduced the number of tenured/tenure track folk studies faculty from six in recent years to two next academic year. This decision will mean the suspension of the Department’s graduate program in folk studies.

WKU’s folk studies graduate program is one of a very small number of the University’s academic units that is nationally recognized as superior. Now in its 50th year, the program has trained generations of folklorists for productive, creative work across our field, and its graduates occupy positions of leadership and responsibility throughout the country. The program provides sound and thorough training for both academic and public-sector folklorists, and Western’s graduate concentrations in public folklore, museum studies, and historic preservation have delivered on the University’s goal of providing workforce training by producing active, engaged professionals who are now advancing these three sectors of our field through their achievements. 

The Kentucky Folklife Program—the Commonwealth’s public-sector folklore program—is an integral part of the graduate program, providing real-world on-the-job training to many Western graduate students and alumni, and connecting the University with communities across Kentucky. Together, the graduate program and KFP fulfill the University’s commitment in its statement of purpose to provide “engaged research and public service.” But the administration intends not to continue to fund the KFP’s only full-time staff position, putting the future of this program in jeopardy as well.

We’re writing to encourage you to contact the University administration to register your support for the folk studies graduate program and Kentucky Folklife Program at WKU, to make administrators aware of the ways in which these programs serve the university’s mission, and to strongly encourage them to provide the resources necessary to hire the faculty and staff to continue this work. 

Please contact the university administration (President Dr. Timothy C. Caboni, Provost Dr. Robert Fischer, and Potter College of Arts and Letters Dean Dr. Terrance Brown) at [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]. Please do not contact folk studies faculty members or the Kentucky Folklife Program. If you have questions, please contact AFS Executive Director Jessica Turner at [email protected]. Thank you for your support and action.


Marilyn White, AFS President
Jessica A. Turner, AFS Executive Director
Timothy Lloyd, AFS Senior Advisor

AFS Executive Board: 

Karen Abdul-Malik, National Association of Black Storyteller and Clemmons Family Farm
Amanda Dargan, CityLore
Thomas A. DuBois, University of Wisconsin-Madison 
Norma E. Cantú, Trinity University
Tim Frandy, University of British Colombia 
Rossina Zamora Liu, University of Maryland 
Mintzi Martinez-Rivera, Providence College
Ellen McHale, New York Folklore 
Fernando Orejuela, Indiana University
Meltem Türköz, Bogazici University, Istanbul 
Langston Collin Wilkins, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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