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Debra Lattanzi Shutika
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Debra Lattanzi Shutika, Director, Folklore Studies Program; Chair, Department of English, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

PhD and MA Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania; MA American Literature (concentration in Appalachian Literature), George Mason University; BS Nursing, West Virginia University. Higher Education Resources Services (HERS) Institute, Bryn Mawr College. Associate Professor (2007), Assistant Professor (2001), George Mason University. Undergraduate Curriculum Director, Department of English, 2007-2013. Director, Mason Project on Immigration, 2007-09. MAFA executive committee, 1998-2001. Co-convener of the Folklore Latino, Latin-Americano y Caribeño Section of AFS, 1999-2001. Author of Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico (2011, University of California Press), winner of the 2012 Chicago Folklore Prize.

Public folklore projects include National Humanities Alliance lobbyist, 2016-; Academic Director, George Mason-American Folklife Center Field School for Cultural Documentation, 2011-; Summer in the Parks ethnographic documentation project, 2017; Northern Virginia Civil Rights Oral Histories Archive, 2015; Baile Folklórico Boliviano documentation and bilingual interpreted performance, 2012; Text and Community, AFS 2008 annual meeting; Cher Shaffer: A Retrospective exhibit and lecture by Appalachian Folk Artist Cher Shaffer, 2002. 

How do folklorists best prepare for an uncertain future? In the last year, the US has experienced political and social upheaval, threatening the institutional structures that have long sustained public folklore projects and universities. I have devoted my career to building lasting folklore programs with deep connections to the local community and public sector agencies. This work has found an audience with a new generation of academic administrators who see the value of academics who engage with communities and create research of consequence. This interest in community-based work provides a remarkable opportunity to showcase public sector folklore and its value.

If elected to the Executive Board, I would use my professional experiences to help AFS build the next generation of folklore advocates to support the humanities and folk arts. This starts with building support for the organizations and programs that exist by finding new sources of funding for our work, and expanding our outreach efforts to recruit a more diverse Society. But it would also include hands-on training, taking established resources like the Folklore Advocacy Toolkit and creating advocacy workshops that prepare our members to lobby state and national leaders, and to find everyday opportunities to advocate for folklore.

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