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.

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.

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, Vermont Folklife, and others.

**2023 Editorial Board
Taylor D. Burden, Reviews Editor
Chris Antonsen
Flávia Bastos
Betty Belanus
Norma Cantú
B. Marcus L. Cederstrom
Lisa Falk
Robert Forloney
Incoronata (Nadia) Inserra
Sandy LaBry
Lucinda Megill Legendre
Rossina Zamora Liu
Sarah McCartt-Jackson
Vanessa Navarro Maza

***2023 Advisory Committee
Michael Knoll, Vice President of Curatorial Affairs, HistoryMiami Museum
Andy Kolovos, Associate Director and Archivist, Vermont Folklife Center
Vanessa Navarro Maza, Folklife Curator, HistoryMiami Museum
Tina Menendez, Director of Education, HistoryMiami Museum
Sarah Milligan, Head, Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, Oklahoma State University
Shanedra Nowell, Associate Professor of Secondary Education in the School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences, Oklahoma State University-Stillwater
Guha Shankar, Folklife Specialist in the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress