Alumni

 

Above: in 2014, Devi Lockwood ’14 rode her bicycle from Memphis TN to New Orleans LA on the Mississippi River Trail. The goal of her trip was to meet as many people as possible and collect stories for her senior thesis. On the left: after a 30-mile ride, a stop outside Clarksdale, MS, to visit the site of Blues legend Muddy Waters’ house.  On the right: on the banks of the Mississippi at Memphis, along with Meredith Keffer ’12 (left) and Caroline Lowe ’12 (middle), also Folklore & Mythology concentrators, and traveling companions for part of the trip.  Post-graduation, Meredith worked at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey as the Assistant to the Artistic Director.  Caroline taught American History at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville, CO, and went on to tutor and be a media coordinator for Epidemic Answers.  She is now at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

 

 

Hear about what some of our alumni have done after graduation! (In order by graduation year.)

 

Sarah Burke (2005) - The definition of my undergraduate course changed a few times. But I think I can safely say that I studied the medieval Mediterranean, with an emphasis on religion. My thesis was about the translation of a (lost) Muslim mystical text into Latin in medieval Spain. It was probably over-ambitious in scope, but writing it was very rewarding.

 

After graduation I traveled for a year on one of Harvard's traveling fellowships. My project was officially to study apiculture (beekeeping) in the Mediterranean. I started off spending a few months in Malta, the bullseye of the Mediterranean, where I immersed myself in the small and hyper-competitive world of Maltese beekeepers. Lots of ethnographic techniques – asking questions, buying alcohol (thanks, Harvard!) – came in handy there. I learned about different forms of hives from a number of eccentric men, and one woman, and got particularly fascinated with how the vocabulary of beekeeping matched up with Malta's particular form of xenophobia (lots of disparaging comments made about aggressive "black bees" which supposedly come from one of several countries that also send many il/legal immigrants to Malta). I never wrote about this (probably because it all happened so close to when I finished my undergrad thesis) so it's up for grabs…

 

I learned about beekeeping in Sicily, too. Then I went to Slovenia for the winter months where I traveled around looking at painted beehive panels, a folk art peculiar to Slovenia. By then I had kind of burned out on bees… I found myself wandering the great museums of Europe looking closely at still lifes to see if the painter had included a bee on any of the flowers. I also looked at bees on coins in Italy and Turkey, and drank lots of warm honey wine in Munich. Then I gave bees a pass altogether and traveled in Tunisia for a month with the famous Marcel Q. Laflamme ('05). I went immediately from there to a convent in Italy where the nuns (wait for it…) keep bees. I stayed there for a month and thought about Catholicism a lot. It was Easter. Then I took trains and buses from Munich to Beijing. Then I took trains from LA to Boston.

Last year I received an MA in medieval art from the Courtauld Institute in London. Besides occasionally feeling like an anthropologist doing fieldwork on the English upper classes, I also used Folk & Myth to analyze things like the way stories moved from an oral tradition to a literary form to a stained glass window. I thought a lot about how seeing the same thing repeatedly can codify it, and how decoration can contribute to a ceremony. My thesis was about a group of liturgical scrolls used to bless the Paschal Candle, and about the manufacture and meaning of candles in the M. Ages (beeswax was one of the priciest commodities… and don't even get me started about how Christ was born to a virgin and bees were considered to regenerate without sex, because that will get me going on wax as flesh substitute and the burning of the candle as fleshly sacrifice…).

Now I'm studying library science at Simmons in Boston. I hope to work with medieval manuscripts again in the future, in a special collection or a museum. I am also thinking about museum archives as a career path. I tutor several elementary and junior high school kids to pay my rent. And I have an internship in the archive of the Blaschka glass flowers collection at Harvard. My only question is, do glass flowers need glass bees?

 

Emma Firestone (2005) - Gee, in some ways my post-Harvard doings appear uncharitable indeed to my F&M roots (but see below!!!); because, after all those mighty undergraduate labours, I decided that what I really wanted to do was ... get another BA. English was my special field and I had grandiose notions of carrying on as an English academic from at least my sophomore year; but F&M was my temperamental and spiritual as well as my academic home, and I was perfectly happy to stick to a focused English curriculum that complemented my studies of 19th.c mythography, etc. After graduation, though, I went off to Cambridge U, stocked up on all the monuments of Medieval and Renaissance verse, and commenced a hairbrained rabid dash through their undergraduate English curriculum, finishing the whole thing in 2 years. The schedule was ludicrously demanding, but it was also a thrill, an invaluable survey -- and a proper introduction to Shakespeare, with whom I now hope to form some sort of long-term professional relationship. Oh, and it brought me to Pembroke College, for which I have come to feel something that approximates the love I still feel for Warren House and all its inhabitants.

 

With all luck, I'll start my Ph.d in Shakespeare and performance studies at Cambridge in the fall. The initial research and process of applying showed me once again that F&M remains, without question, my intellectual anchor and sail. The syllabus I submitted was mostly cribbed from a 104 unit on phenomenology and performance. More importantly (but maybe more ineffably), I would like to think that F&M's warmth and particular, accommodating humanism somehow permeates my sane-r research efforts.

Oh, and in the meantime I'm in a waffl-y, between-meals sort of period... spent the fall studying Japanese in Tokyo, where Pembroke has a sister-school of sorts. Now I'm back in England blundering around, waitressing and copy-editing and things like that. I also write dance reviews for an online magazine. This is a costly amateur interest, but I'm confident that they'll start paying my London travel expenses within 1-2 years.

Okay, so now I've taken the largest amount of space of anyone to inform you that all I have done is stay in college. Typical. But hey, it's been really wonderful to hear from all of you. If any of you come to Cambridge/England, please feel free to get in touch with me; if we can't meet up, I'll at least try to direct you someplace nice to eat.

 

Kaitlin Heller (2005) - Five years ago, I matriculated into Cambridge University's M.Phil. program in medieval history. My focus at Harvard had been medieval folklore, and I was pleased to find my undergraduate work better than simply useful: rather, it put me well ahead of the game. Not only did my knowledge of a wide array of methodologies enable me to incorporate disparate sources into my master's thesis, my background in medieval folklore proved to be precisely the foundation I needed to work on the wondrous and perplexing Otia Imperialia of Gervase of Tilbury, to which I was pointed by the inimitable Dr. Carl Watkins, for whose supervision I remain immensely grateful.

 

Still, after a year of intense research, coursework, and exams, and at the tender age of twenty-three, I began to feel I needed a break from the academic world. Upon completing my degree, I moved to New York and began, as they say, pounding the pavement, looking for a job in publishing. I spent a brief interlude at the prestigious literary agency Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, working as the agency assistant, and then landed what was for me a dream job: Del Rey Books, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, hired me on. 

 

I had a wonderful three years working at Del Rey. The other editors tolerated my eternal fascination with folklore and history admirably, and if they occasionally mocked me for nattering on about the correct etymology of an Old Norse word being misapplied in a fantasy novel--well, it was perhaps no more than I deserved. But I spent those three years thinking all the time about history and about the medieval world, keeping up with the field, and presenting at conferences. Eventually I knew I had to come back, for good.

 

Five years after my graduation, I have the great good fortune of preparing to enter a doctoral program in medieval history at the University of Toronto. I am not insensible that I owe this to my work at Harvard and Cambridge, and to the brilliant people there who educated me, wrote me letters, and encouraged me to tackle--and surmount--challenges I might otherwise never have attempted. I hope that the program in Folklore and Mythology continues to flourish. 

 

Amber Rose (2004) - After graduating in '04 (special field Celtic and Scandinavian) I stuck around Harvard for a year working at Widener; then I decided I wasn't ready for a 9-5 yet and went back to school. I got an MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at Cambridge University, then decided school wasn't for me either. So now I'm working as an editor at a tiny publishing house of illustrated nonfiction (that is, coffee table books). I'm also trying to find my writer's voice, which I've found to be about as easy as juggling cats.

 

My name is Paul Hersh, class of 2004, special field in religion. After college I lived in Alaska for a year as a Sales & Marketing Intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center, then I moved to New Zealand for 2+ years where I worked as Marketing Coordinator for the Auckland symphony. After that I moved to Singapore to be a speech writer for the President of the National University of Singapore (where I'm at now), but the Pres just took a job as the first President of a new university in Saudi Arabia so I've been travelling all over the world with him for meetings with nobel laureates and deans and presidents of other universities and later this year I'll be moving to Saudi Arabia to work at the new university.

 

 

Alison Kent (1999) - I wrote my thesis on the symbolism and folklore surrounding an indigneous movement in Bolivia--and after graduation, I returned to Bolivia on a Fulbright to research Afro-Bolivian identity and culture in a tiny town in the Yungas region called Chicaloma. I ended up staying in Bolivia for almost two years, on the Fulbright and then consulting for a public health NGO. I loved it there, and return to Chicaloma whenever I can. It's been so gratifying and fascinating to watch the Bolivian political scene evolve--and an indigenous man become President!--since my time researching the mobilization of indigenous movements there. A lot of potent ethnic symbolism was involved! I returned to the US in 2001 and worked for almost three years for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, a small human rights NGO, primarily working with indigneous and women's rights groups in Guatemala and southern Mexico. I then went to law school at the Univ. of Michigan, spending a summer in Sierra Leone, and just became an attorney. I'm clerking for a federal judge in Boston now, working on a range of cases, from suits against the FBI based on the Whitey Bulger murders to much more mundane disputes between companies. After my clerkship, I'm heading back overseas and hope to do human rights/refugee/rule of law work long-term; it looks like I'll be based in Kampala, Uganda as of fall 2008.

Without a doubt, my folk and myth degree has helped me, especially in my work in the field. In Sierra Leone, I worked in a rural area helping to train paralegals to take on civil and criminal cases under the customary law system, which functions seperately from the Western-based legal system which is only in the capital. I wrote a law journal article about the internalization of human rights norms there when I returned, and I used case studies of stories of the different clients we'd assisted to illustrate--I felt like I was back writing a folk and myth paper for Deborah. What I learned from folk and myth has been a huge asset, especially what I learned doing my thesis field research in Bolivia. I'm incredibly grateful for such good preparation--it might sound strange coming from an attorney, but it's the truth.

 

Rebecca Nesson (1998) - I wish I could more clearly connect what I'm doing now to my Folk and Myth background because I loved (and still love Folk & Myth). I graduated in 98 after studying American women's folklore and writing a thesis about the stories women tell each other about oral sex. My timing was interesting vis a vis Lewinsky. I went directly to Harvard Law School after graduating because I wasn't sure what else to do. That is not a good reason to go to law school, it turns out. Although I finished, I don't practice law now. While there I got interested in Internet technology and computing and started studying computer science. I'm now about one year away (I hope) from completing my Ph.D. in computer science. Lately I've spent a lot of my time working on using 3D virtual worlds (such as Second Life) for education and I talked a bit about the role of female avatars in Second Life at a recent F&M symposium. 

 

 

Louis Monoyudis (1998) - After graduating in '98 I worked in the ultimate world of tale telling and fantasy: advertising at Leo Burnett in Chicago. While there focused on brand strategy and applied several ethnographic techniques to interview the public to create psychographic profiles. Yeah, it was kind of as gross as it sounds.

But, let's be honest, it was glamorous, the travel was fab and the expense accounts were fierce! Oh, the dotcom days...

The upshot of that experience was the realization that instead of telling people what to buy, I want to tell people what to wear. Never knew just how bossy I am!

Thus, moved to NYC and studied fashion design at Parsons. Since then have worked as a menswear designer for John Bartlett, John Varvatos and, my current post, Calvin Klein. Every season we research the trends, pick color and fabrics, sketch the silhouettes and work on models to get the perfect fit.

From this experience I was able to present at last year's FM Symposium (2007) about the appropriation of male archetypes such as the rocker, the cowboy, etc. in men's fashion.

In addition, have been moonlighting as a freelance writer for the daily paper Metro focusing on Pulitzer Prize worthy topics such as which gay bar in the city has the hottest go-go boys (Boysroom) and if men in Chelsea are too self-conscious about the size of their pecs (yes, a disorder called male body dysmorphia). Check out some coverage of NY Fashion Week (attached).

From that was tapped to work on a music website, www.riffin.com, and I am now the Editor in Chief with a team of writers who contribute content on a range of topics from interviews with musicians such as Chemical Brothers to music-based fashion trends such as Japan's Visual Kei.

Check it out:

Chemical Brothers

Visual Kei

 

Sara Berliner (1998) - I graduated alongside Becca in ‘98 (special field: VES) and would make the case that her work on virtual worlds connects pretty directly with Folk & Myth.  Our online lives are the stories we get to tell about ourselves  — to communities both pre-existing and formed anew — often to anyone that’ll listen.

After building a freelance career across disciplines (ethnography on public housing for the Field Museum of Chicago, directing/performing in puppet theater, putting together orchestras for pop and opera stars on tour) I co-founded Star Farm in 2002 (www.starfarmproductions.com).  Our mission is to tell great stories for kids across media.  It’s been a DIY business school degree, a wild and sometimes heartbreaking 5 1/2 years, but a fantastic creative challenge, and an intense and rewarding collaborative process.  We’ve got 4 book series either in stores or launching this year, a cartoon on the Nicktoons Network, a thriving online community (www.EdgarAndEllen.com), a board game, jigsaw puzzle, DVD, etc.  We believe in never telling the same story twice (e.g. adapting a novel into a film) because it’s more fun, for us and for the audience, to always get a new piece of the story arc or world.

We started with "Edgar & Ellen", for ages 6-12, about mischievous twins pranking the status quo in a saccharine-sweet town.  Next up is "The Kinetics", our first preschool project, about superheroes who save the neighborhood one dance move at a time (), and for all you fantasy/sci-fi fans, "Kaimira" (turn up your sound), a five-book series from Cambridge’s own Candlewick Press.  Little, Brown will publish the first book in our teen supernatural horror series, Devouring, in the fall.  Each will have an age-appropriate online strategy, ranging from an activity-filled marquee site to a multiplayer game to a plot-based ARG (alternate reality game).

As you can imagine, I tap into my F&M background on a daily basis.  Deborah and Steve certainly informed my worldview.  People used to ask me what I’d do with my degree, but they don’t anymore.  Somehow even my personal life dovetailed nicely — my husband’s first name is Ulysses!

 

Montana Miller (1996) - I ended up here in spectacularly flat Ohio, a far cry from my days of high-flying adventures and big-city excitement. After Harvard, I continued to work as a professional high diver in theme parks (Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster PA and other such weirdly offensive cultural tourist traps), diving from an 80-foot perch into an 8-foot pool. Quickly realizing that even when you do this correctly it hurts like hell and that I would soon be addicted to painkillers like all my high diving teammates, I applied to graduate school and went to get my M.A and Ph.D. in Folklore at UCLA. I never would have known they even had a program without Deborah's sending me in that direction, and she was right--it was perfect for me. I was able to spend the next 6 years thoroughly enjoying grad school (FAR less painful than trapeze and high diving) while continuing to perform my aerial act in all kinds of cool venues in L.A. (art galleries, awards shows, raves, political events, even a musical comedy created  by a bunch of Harvard alumni!).

Someone else mentioned how people laugh when they see her Harvard diploma with Folklore and Mythology on it--well, I now also have the Ph.D. diploma, and to make it even more perplexing to visitors, it has Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature across it! (He became governor of California the semester I graduated.)

After a year and a half of very discouraging job searching, through which Deborah provided countless recommendations and steady encouragement, I finally got lucky -- Bowling Green State University's Department of Popular Culture had a position for someone specializing in youth culture. Having written my dissertation on a drunk driving prevention program in high schools (a folk drama full of symbolism and theatrics), I fit the bill, and came here to join this small department where I teach both undergrads and grad students. I get to design my own courses, which is wonderful--among other things, I teach Youth and Popular Culture, Internet Communities, Occupational Folklore, and Health, Illness, Addiction, and Culture. I absolutely love the job, but can't keep up with all the demands--publishing my research is my biggest struggle. I serve on the Human Subjects Review Board here, which I love because qualitative research ethics is one of my major interests, ever since being Deborah's student in Fieldwork. I'm one of the few "qualitative" people on the board, and one of my roles is to teach the other members about the new world of Internet research, as we're seeing more and more applications that involve studies of Internet behavior and culture.

I've never been so happy in my personal and professional life, and I count my blessings every day, even though I am homesick for the East Coast and I still have pangs of longing for my aerial acrobatic career! 

 

Nathan Lump (1996) - After graduating way back when ('96), I spent a year doing silly jobs in New York -- I wrote copy for the J.Crew catalog ("taking it easy... in buttery cashmere, corduroy"), then press releases about romance novels at Simon & Schuster ("Jayne Ann Krentz does it again, with a tale of intrigue... and passion!") -- which was really meant to be a break from school before heading somewhere to start a Ph.D. program. But in many ways I fell in love with the city and my life here, and decided maybe I just hadn't hit upon the right thing. Taking a cue from my friend Eleni, and remembering the fun I'd had as an editor at Let's Go, I tried to get into magazines, and landed an editorial assistant job at Condé Nast Traveler, the upscale travel mag. Which started me on a new path entirely.

Moved up the ranks at CNT, did a stint at SmartMoney magazine (during the dot-com boom: money was culture!), then spent several years at Travel + Leisure, and today I'm the editor of T: Travel, the travel magazine of The New York Times (f.k.a. The Sophisticated Traveler, now part of the Times's T family of "style" magazines). As others have suggested, to me F&M was the perfect training for what I do -- it made me sensitive to the stories we choose to tell, and how we translate experience into meaningful narrative, and how we can refine a sense of self from our encounters with foreignness, difference. Today when I work with great writers to develop pieces -- and write myself about all the amazing places I've been (Patagonia, southern Africa, Greenland, India, etc.) -- I know my sensibility, my wish to explore bigger ideas about how we relate, as individuals and collectively, to the dynamism of our world, has been shaped significantly by my time at Harvard in F&M.

 

Adam Holland (1994) - After graduating, with a special field in social anthropology, I immediately began training full time for the US Olympic rowing team. I did that for 10 years, retiring form international competition in 2004 after Olympic trials. I was on the Olympic team in 1996, and was second at US trials (which means no Olympic team) by tenths of a second in 2000 and in 2004.

During that time I was, variously, taking classes part time, assistant coaching crew at Harvard, and working for four years in the Home Depot electrical department as part of the Olympic Job Opportunities program.

I taught middle school English and American History for a year in 2004-2005, and then began coaching at a school in Cambridge. I coached six teams there for two years. I was an assistant coach for Middle School soccer, JV soccer, and varsity wrestling, and the head coach for MS wrestling, MS crew and varsity crew.

I started law school this year at BU, but am still coaching wrestling and crew. I'm also trying (fitfully) to write a science fiction novel.

 

Henry Bial (1992) - I guess I'm one of the folks who has stayed more or less "in field." I graduated in the class of '92 with an emphasis on US pop culture. I was a little ahead of the curve on that -- my thesis, "Myth and Meaning in American Automobile Model Names," was accepted, but just barely. After a couple of years coaching college tennis, I went back to grad school for an MA and PhD in Performance Studies at NYU, where I was able to combine my formal F&M training with the interest in theatre that sometimes kept me from doing my F&M homework. I completed my dissertation under the direction of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in 2001 and subsequently taught theatre and performance studies at the University of New Mexico for four years. Since 2005 I have been teaching and directing the doctoral program in Theatre and Film here at the University of Kansas. My course rotation includes classes on pop culture and ritual, as well as more conventional theatre. So while I would not call myself a "folklorist," I often find myself lecturing on material I first studied with Joe Harris, Steve Mitchell, and Deborah Foster among others. I've published an authored book, Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen (U of Michigan Press, 2005) and edited a collection called The Performance Studies Reader (Routledge, 2004; 2nd Ed. 2007) that includes contributions from several folklorists as well as theatre scholars, philosophers, etc.

 

 

Josh Solomon (1990) - After writing my thesis on the burakumin caste of Japan, I ended staying in Japan off and on for most of the 90's, working as a teacher in the JET Program in Kyushu and eventually working in finance at Chase Bank in Tokyo and New York.

 

I decided to return to a career in education. I returned to New York for good in 1999 and became a math and Japanese teacher in the NYC school system. I am now a principal of a new public high school in Manhattan called Business of Sports School (nycBOSS.org). In May 2010, I earned my doctorate in education (Ed.D.) at Columbia Univ. Teachers College, writing my dissertation on training urban school principals using internships.

 

Katie Orenstein (1990) - After graduating, I traveled to Haiti to study folklore on a Peabody-Gardner grant from Harvard – but since there was a very dramatic election and a violent coup shortly after, instead of studying folklore I ended up becoming a journalist, with a focus on human rights  - I also consulted for the UN and for the (democratically elected) government of Haiti in 95 and 96. Then, about 10 years ago  I returned to the states and turned what had been my senior thesis for Folk & Myth into a book – “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale.” It follows the story over 500 years and across genres and continents, and it’s about how the stories that we tell, and those that are told about us, shape our lives. It’s also an attempt to debunk the idea that stories about men are epic, and stories about women are not. It did pretty well – some of it was excerpted in op-ed pieces that ran in the NYT, and there were even some meetings about a TV miniseries idea based on it for HBO, which was exciting, but went, uh, nowhere. (Anyone know anything about TV limbo?)

 

More recently, I have been writing  and teaching writing – specifically, for the last couple of years I’ve been spearheading a project  with a think tank I am affiliated with to target and train women experts across the nation to write for the op-ed pages of major newspapers, which are currently overwhelmingly dominated by male voices.    There’s info on the project on my website, for anyone curious.   One more funny thing – I recently gave an interview about my career to an organization called “career peeks”, and reviewing the interview I felt that actually for the first time I saw how Folk & Myth had played a great part of shaping my career –   because most of my career has been around the power of narrative to shape our lives, and the power of owning your  own narrative.   My book was grounded in that idea, but also the kind of journalism I do (I think journalism and folklore as closer than most people think), the op-ed project I run, even the literacy class that I teach. (That interview is here.)