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Master of Arts in Folk Studies

Issued November 2022, Updated August 2023

The Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology is saddened to report the suspension of the Master of Arts Program in Folk Studies, approved by the WKU Board of Regents and the university’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The college cannot provide replacement faculty lines sufficient to support continuation of the program in a manner consistent with its 50-year history of excellence.

The department is committed to working with the college to meet the needs of students currently enrolled in the Master of Arts program to complete their degrees.

The suspension applies only to the graduate program, not the undergraduate folklore minor or the anthropology major/minor.

We are grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to make the Master of Arts program in Folk Studies successful for a half-century. We all should take pride in what we have accomplished.

See the American Folklore Society website for a comprehensive list of where to study folklore.


Why WKU Folk Studies? Our alumni will tell you!

WhyWKUFolkStudies Video Preview


 “I have a network of public folklorists across the country from my time at WKU, experience developing exhibits, experience producing public programs, understanding of the infrastructure of public folklore on a national level, an understanding of the cultural and theoretical history of the field of folklore, experience doing fieldwork, and respect from folklorist colleagues from having a degree from one of the premiere folk studies graduate programs in the country.” 

“WKU provided a fantastic theoretical grounding in the field of folklore and the necessary practical skills—from grant writing and teaching opportunities, to ethnographic interviewing and public programming experience. I've written several grants in my current position, utilized resources from our Folk Arts and Education, Folk Arts and Technology, Fieldwork, and Public Folklore courses, and felt extremely prepared to enter the job market.” 


How do I get a graduate degree in folklore?

Students in our renowned Master of Arts program in Folk Studies take a core of courses that provide them with a firm grounding in the theories and methods of the field of folklore, preparing them for further study in folklore and/or a wide range of careers. In addition to core requirements, students choose from electives that suit their interests. 

The MA program is designed as a two-year program for full-time students, but we are happy to work with students who prefer to complete the program on a part-time basis over a longer period of time. We also offer a JUMP (Joint Undergraduate-Master's Program) for highly qualified and motivated undergraduates. 

Our students come from all over the country (and the world) to study folklore at Western Kentucky University. We don't require an academic background in folklore, and our graduate students come to us with a wide range of degrees. Please contact the Director of Folk Studies with questions or see more information about graduate student funding and how to apply.

Download our brochure for more information, or watch these videos to see what some of our alumni have to say about how WKU Folk Studies launched their careers.

Degree Concentrations

Students in the MA program take a shared core of courses and choose an area of specialization:
Degree requirements for all of our concentrations can be found in the graduate catalog


Public Folklore

Interested in working hands-on with a community to showcase and support local culture? Students in the Public Folklore concentration focus on creating effective public folklore products—festivals, school curricula, and other forms of public programming—in collaboration with communities.

This option prepares students for careers in public folklore, jobs that engage with communities in a variety of ways, and permits individually planned programs (with advisor) stressing those combinations of course-related research, applied skills, and writing experiences that will best prepare them for their personal and professional goals. Students can choose to complete an internship with a public folklore program and/or to complete a capstone project or write a thesis.

Historic Preservation

Do you want to preserve local cultures and historic sites? Students in the Historic Preservation concentration receive training in classic historic preservation and cultural conservation, working to learn skills for conserving both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

This option prepares students for careers in historic preservation, cultural conservation, and other areas.  Students can choose to complete an internship related to historic preservation and/or to complete a capstone project or write a thesis.

Museum Studies

Can you picture yourself working in a museum?  Students in the Museum Studies concentration receive hands-on training—from exhibit development to education and outreach—to prepare them for a variety of museum careers.

This option prepares students for careers in a wide range of museum settings. Students can choose to complete an internship related to museum studies and/or to complete a capstone project or write a thesis.

Research Thesis

Do you want to dig deeper into your folklore research interests? Students in the Research Thesis concentration work with a committee of faculty advisors as they conduct independent research—from fieldwork to archives—and write a thesis in their second year of graduate study.

This option provides advanced knowledge of the theoretical and methodological aspects of folklore and folklife and is designed to prepare students for both academic and public sector professions and for further academic research. Students work with the support of a committee of faculty members to conduct research and write a thesis on a folklore topic of their choosing.


Degree Requirements

Prospective students must choose a Concentration within the degree at the time of application; changes can be made to the Concentration in consultation with the Folk Studies Program Director.

Degree requirements for all of our concentrations can be found in the graduate catalog

Students consult with the Folk Studies Program Director to design their individual program of studybased on their concentration. Students in all concentrations must successfully complete a comprehensive examination in order to graduate. The comprehensive exam reading list, thesis & portfolio guidelines, and other important documents can be found on our Policies & Forms page. 

Why study folklore at Western Kentucky? Ask our graduates:

"As the PhD program I entered is not centered explicitly on folklore studies, the disciplinary grounding I received at WKU is one that I would not have otherwise obtained given the structure of my current program…. My time at WKU helped me develop a set of practical—and marketable—skills related to historic preservation, and to fieldwork more broadly. This background has allowed me to participate in, and be hired to conduct, field- and community-based projects through my doctoral institution.”

“My job requires understanding the cultural values of a variety of diverse community groups especially in regards to how values are shaped by experience and perspective, creating connections between those communities and cultural and natural resources, creating audience centered experiences, collaborating directly with community members and other partner organizations to develop public programs, understanding public policy as it relates to cultural and natural conservation, developing interpretive media (exhibits, brochures, etc), working with historic objects, developing k-12 programs, understanding/developing/utilizing oral history projects, and handling contentious topics in a public space. I am the only person in my current workplace who can say they gained experience in all of the above and more in one place. It is also the reason I have been offered all of the positions I have received since graduating.”

Want to know more about what kind of jobs you can get with a Folk Studies Masters degree? Learn more about what our alumni do.

Download our brochure for more information, or watch these videos to see what some of our alumni have to say about how WKU Folk Studies launched their careers.



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 8/11/23