Western Kentucky University

Featured Student: Virginia Siegel

Virginia Siegel

Let's talk about some of the things that you do here in the Folk Studies program. You're the graduate assistant for The Gardner House. What do you do for The Gardner House?

I am in charge of coordinating some of the repair work that's happening at the Gardner House. This includes organizing volunteers to go up and work on the Gardner House. Usually, those volunteers are from classes within the Folk Studies and Anthropology Department. This year, specifically, we're focusing on the parlor and the goal is to have the room finished by the end of the year.

Can you talk a little bit about your background? Why were chosen to be the graduate assistant at The Gardner House?

I was chosen as the Gardner House graduate assistant because prior to attending Western Kentucky University, I served as an AmeriCorps Service Member. The title of my service position was construction coordinator. I worked to make repairs for low-income homeowners who couldn't afford to make repairs themselves. Prior to that position, I didn't really have a lot of construction knowledge. I knew how to use power tools and I knew how build basic units of set design because I started out as a set design major. I had picked up a few skills there, but as an AmeriCorps Service Member; I gained quite a bit of skills in housing repair, especially in older homes. Because of this, I have seen a lot of tricky situations where you had to a lot of problem solving to make repairs. The Gardner House, being as old as it is, inevitably needs that.

Tell me about your upcoming Graduate Student Fellowship.

We learned about this Graduate Student Fellowship opportunity for thesis projects that involve research conducted with the student's graduate advisor. I've been assisting Dr. Williams with the traditional cultural property nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for a casita in New York. There's an American Folklore Society working group in historic preservation and they're working with City Lore in New York, specifically Place Matters, to nominate this property as a model traditional cultural property. It would be a model project because there are few TCP nominations for non-Native American places. . We're trying to widen what can be accepted on the National Register. A lot of work has been done by Dr. Williams and previous students at Western Kentucky University on this project as it is and, to date, I've put in a lot of work too. Dr. Williams and I talked about turning it into a thesis project. It seemed like a logical application for the fellowship.

There are several casitas throughout greater New York City. Apparently, there are casitas in other places throughout the country too, but this particular one is in the Bronx. I have been in New York City multiple times but I have never actually stopped in the Bronx, so it will be a first. Sometime in June, I will be going up to write an architectural description of the casita and I'm really excited about it.

Where will you be interning this summer?

I have an internship with the American Folklore Society. Fellow student Kaitlyn Berle and I will be assisting Lorraine Cashman with a few projects. We'll be working on the website. First, we'll be in charge of monitoring the New in AFS Review, the ongoing feed of all the opportunities and events that are happening. By helping Lorraine, we'll be giving her more time to work on other things. The 2nd project is working on the Folklore Wiki, which is a part of AFS's website. I think we're going to do a little redesign work to make it more user-friendly. I would also like to design some sort of mini-campaign to promote it and to make people aware that's it's going to take user involvement to make it successful.

Just one last thing – a day in the life of Virginia Siegel.

In the early morning, that's my one time to watch the news or watch music videos. On days of classes, there are always meetings in between. I'm always running off to one place or the other to get things done. After the busy, hectic day, I always go home and play with my cat, Dave. He's a bit needy. He likes to play chase like a dog. Then comes the ever-familiar moment where you realize you have to get back to work and it's usually a late night, only to get up and repeat.

Virginia Siegel
 Last Modified 4/21/14