Western Kentucky University

Rachel Hopkin

Rachel Hopkin

Program Coordinator

Nevada Humanities

Graduated: 2012

Rachel Hopkin smiles 

Where do you currently work?

As of October 2012, I work at Nevada Humanities which is one of 56 state and territorial councils that are affiliated with, and largely funded by, the National Endowment for the Humanities.  To give you an idea of what we're about, here is our new mission statement:

"Nevada Humanities fosters cultural enrichment and connection for all Nevadans.
By creating and supporting dynamic public programs that inspire engagement,
we deepen a collective sense of place and belonging, and encourage mutual understanding and empathy, which are the foundations of community and democracy."

I've joined the organisation as a Program Coordinator, which means that I'll be working to put in place and cultivate those aforementioned public programs.

Tell me a bit about your career?

Most of my career prior to doing the MA at WKU was in radio production. I worked as a radio producer in various music departments of the BBC in the UK for 6 years and then turned freelance and made documentaries about traditional culture and the arts for most of the major English language networks around the world. Once I reached WKU, I spent my graduate assistantship making pieces about Kentucky folklore for WKYU, the local NPR affiliate.

Thanks to my training at WKU, and the opportunities that arose as a result, I've also worked on various public folklore/historic preservation projects. For example, I worked on an oral history program for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I'm now part of the American Folklore Society's taskforce on "Folklore and Historic Preservation" (which is co-led by Dr. Michael Ann Williams). In addition, I worked as a researcher for the Historic American Buildings Survey in the Summer of 2012 (thanks to a Sally Kress Tompkins Fellowship) and documented some of the buildings important to the music industry in Nashville. I'm hoping to draw on my previous experience in my new role at Nevada Humanities.

How has folklore prepared you for your career?

I cannot say enough good things about my training at WKU. My education was eminently practical, whilst also being firmly rooted in current folklore theory. Aside from increasing my appreciation of and knowledge about traditional culture and heritage in general - both tangible and intangible - I think the most important thing I learned was the utmost importance of doing fieldwork and ethnographic study. Only through this methodology, can we really learn what is useful and necessary at a grassroots level. This is something of which I must remain ever vigilant. For example, in my current role, I could come up with programs I might think are great, but it is only by connecting with, and listening to, the people I am serving - namely, the people of Nevada – that I can really understand, and thus meet, their needs and interests.

 Last Modified 7/22/13