Staff and Board

Local Learning Board

Doug Blandy (Chair) is a professor in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon (UO). He is also core faculty in the Folklore Program at UO. He received his PhD in Art Education from The Ohio State University.

Halle Butvin (Vice-Chair) is director of special projects at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She leads the Center’s cultural sustainability work around the world, designing collaborative projects to support communities in their efforts to safeguard their heritage, promote cultural expression, and elevate cultural practices to improve local economies. An experienced trainer, for more than 15 years Halle has designed and led creative industries projects, including festival-making, artisan craft development, enterprise development, and organizational development for non-profits, in Europe, East Africa, and several countries across Asia.

Lisa L. Higgins (Treasurer) is Missouri Folk Arts Program’s Director, where she most often works at grant writing and reporting; developing and supporting projects; fundraising; and teaching student workers. She serves as the Program Specialist for the Missouri Arts Council’s Folk Arts grants, assisting applicants and grantees. She spent the first part of her life in the “Mid-South” and has called Columbia, Missouri home for well over twenty years.

Ellen McHale (Secretary) is the Executive Director of  New York Folklore, a statewide service organization. She serves as managing editor of “Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore” and is the author of Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania.

Maribel L. Alvarez holds the Jim Griffith Chair in Public Folklore at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona, where she also is Associate Dean for Community Engagement in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences. She is the founder of the Southwest Folklife Alliance, an independent nonprofit affiliated with the University of Arizona, which produces the annual Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festival in addition to 20+ programs connecting artisanal economies, foodways, and traditional arts to community planning and neighborhood-based economic development throughout the US-Mexico border region.

Flávia Bastos, Ph.D. is a Distinct Research Professor in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Cincinnati where she also serves as Associate Dean in the Graduate School. She is a native Brazilian and her scholarship honors educator Paulo Freire. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Art Education from Indiana University.

Marcus Cederström is the community curator of Nordic-American folklore in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He earned his B.A. from the University of Oregon in Sports Business, History, and Scandinavian Studies and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Jean Tokuda Irwin is the Arts Education Program Manager for the Utah Division of Arts & Museums. From the beginning of her tenure in 1991, including folk and traditional artists as integral to arts education in school and community has been central to the Arts Education Program. She manages arts education partnerships such as the Native American Curriculum Initiative and professional development conferences. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Terry Liu is retired. Most recently he was Chief Executive Officer at Hawai‘i Arts Alliance. He also served the National Endowment for the Arts as an Arts Education Specialist.

Shanedra Nowell is Associate Professor of Secondary Education in the School of Teaching and Curriculum Leadership, Oklahoma State University – Stillwater. Shanedra does research in Social Studies Education, Teaching Methods, Secondary Education and Teacher Education.



Paddy Bowman is founding director of Local Learning and co-edits the Journal of Folklore and Education. K-12 teachers, community scholars, and arts administrators around the nation have benefited from her ability to connect non-folklorists with our discipline. Her influential university courses and professional development training programs in folklore for educators around the country, implementation of model school-based projects, authorship of seminal publications, and development of online and off-line curricular materials have significantly extended the reach of folklore to hundreds of teachers and thousands of students throughout the United States. She co-edited Through the Schoolhouse Door: Folklore, Community, Curriculum (2011) and co-wrote a chapter in Folklife and Museums. She was awarded the 2013 American Folklore Society Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Public Folklore and in 2016 was named a Fellow of the American Folklore Society. She has an MA in Folklore from the University of North Carolina.



Mira Johnson, D. Ed., is the New York Folklore and Education Network Coordinator–a joint position of Local Learning and New York Folklore. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Bronx Community College in the English Department and the First Year Seminar Program. She holds a doctorate in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning from Penn State University and an M.A. in folklore from the University of Oregon. As a regional culture specialist for Pennsylvania’s state folklife program she conducted fieldwork with rural and urban folk artists and tradition bearers, and served as the program coordinator at FolkArtPA, Pennsylvania’s statewide folklife program. She later served as the Folk Arts and Education Coordinator at the Pelham Arts Center in Pelham, New York, where she oversaw the folk art performance and workshop series and worked to integrate folk art education into the center’s studio art curriculum. She is currently board member and board secretary in the New York Folklore Society. Her research addresses the role of traditional knowledge and ecological relationships in community-based education, as well as regional belief practices.


Lisa Rathje is Executive Director of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education. She has directed in- and out-of-school programs and written curricula for diverse learning environments. She directs the Local Learning education and training initiative in Upstate New York: Culture, Community, and the Classroom. She co-edits the peer-reviewed, multi-media Journal of Folklore and Education. She also consults internationally, specializing in professional development for educators and teaching artists, including for the Center for Integrated Arts Education, the Institute of Thai Studies at Chulalongkorn University, the Community Works Institute, and others. Rathje taught courses on research methods and non-profit and community partnerships in the Goucher College Masters in Cultural Sustainability program (2012-2021).  She also served on the Arts Education Partnership Advisory Board (2018-2020), and their Equity and Higher Education Working Groups (current). Publications include chapters in Through the Schoolhouse Door (2011) and Folklife and Museums (2016, with Paddy Bowman), as well as multiple film credits for a series produced by Dr. Juanamaria Cordones-Cook on Afro-Cuban writers and artists. She has a PhD in English from the University of Missouri.

Our Local Learning Organization and Staff Chart reflects our organizational culture of partnership and collaboration. The leadership of the Executive Director and the Board of Directors supports this culture through excellent governance, leadership, and vision for the organization, informed by our consultants, partners, and volunteers.

*Key Partners include American Folklore Society; The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes, New York Folklore, City Lore, Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures School, Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage, HistoryMiami Museum, and others.

**2021 Journal of Folklore and Education Publications Committee: Rebecca Smith, Reviews Editor, Betty Belanus, Norma Cantú, B. Marcus L. Cederstrom, Lisa Falk, Robert Forloney, Rosemary Hathaway, Sandy LaBry, Rossina Liu, Jackie McGrath, Vanessa Navarro Maza, and Lucinda Megill Legendre.

*** 2020 Teaching for Equity Advisory Committee: Danny Belanger, Louisiana Division of the Arts; Jean Bergey, Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center, Gallaudet University; Sue Eleuterio, Goucher College; Jenna Gabriel, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Laura Marcus Green, South Carolina Arts Commission; Keonna Hendrick, Brooklyn Museum; Jean Tokuda Irwin, Utah Division of Arts and Museums; Nakia Lent, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; Rossina Zamora Liu, University of Maryland; Phyllis May-Machunda, American Multicultural Studies, Minnesota State University Moorhead; Vanessa Navarro Maza, HistoryMiami Museum; Susan Oetgen, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies; Suzy Seriff, University of Texas at Austin; Nancy Watterson, Cabrini University. 2021 Creative Writing Advisory Committee: Betty Belanus, Smithsonian Center for Folklore and Cultural Heritage, Kimi V Eisele, Editor of Borderlore at Southwest Folklife Alliance, Nadia Inserra, Virginia Commonwealth University, Rick Kearns-Morales, Award-winning poet and freelance writer, Sarah McCartt Jackson, Teacher, Andy Kolovos, Vermont Cartooning and Culture Project, Vermont Folklife Center, Sahar Muradi, City Lore, Mark Miyake, Western Washington University, Chrissy Widmayer, Co-editor for Gazing Grain Press, Langston Collin Wilkins, Washington Cultural Traditions, Steve Zeitlin, City Lore

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