50-year WKU Folk Life MA program faces proposed suspension

suspension pends the university’s accredited body's approval

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Western Kentucky University’s Folk Studies Masters program is celebrating its 50th anniversary…and quite possibly its last year.

The WKU Master of Arts And Folk Studies program faces suspension pending the university’s accredited body’s approval.

This decision leaves some graduate students devastated.

WKU folklore masters program graduate Madison Rippy said in the United States, “There are only seven folk studies programs that are by themselves and they’re getting rid of another one. So it’s a really big deal in the folklore community. It’s a really big deal for Western.”

Potter College of Arts and Letters Dean Terrence brown cited low enrollment as one reason for the potential suspension in an email. The MA program’s current enrollment stands at an 11:2 student-to-faculty member ratio.

Dr. Erika Brady, a name akin to legend in the tight-knit folklore circles, says she hates to see the program leave.

The retired WKU folk life professor emeritus said, “I think what people don’t realize, necessarily, is how intimately this program, and especially this graduate program, has been bound up in the community of South Central Kentucky, Bowling Green, and throughout the Commonwealth.”

Rippy added, “I was able to work with the Smithsonian because of this program. I wouldn’t have gotten it without going to WKU and this folk studies program. And I got a job two months out of graduate school, which is unheard of, because of my connections within the WKU folk studies program.”

Dr. Brady says the masters program’s high-quality yield stems from close-knit bonds between professor and student.

“I don’t have kids so [these students are] my legacy. And to see something strong that’s been a conduit for wonderful, productive, rewarding lives in community arts [face potential suspension], it’s just heartbreaking.”

The current master’s level program students will complete their degrees.

Dean Brown’s email says the university is requesting approval for a teach-out plan from the school’s accredited body.

Brown says receiving an answer may take six months to a year.

News 40 will continue giving you firsthand continuing coverage on this story the more we know.