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MACS Professor Betsy Peterson Named Director of American Folklife Center

Release date: January 03, 2012

Elizabeth "Betsy" Peterson, a faculty member of Goucher's Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability (MACS) Program, has been appointed as director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, effective January 16.

Since 2009, Peterson has been a consultant, specializing in folklife-related cultural planning, program design and assessments, development, meeting facilitation, writing, and research. Her clients have included the American Folklore Society; the Ford Foundation; the Wallace Foundation; Carnegie Hall; the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress; and the National Endowment for the Arts, for which she wrote, edited, and compiled The Changing Faces of Tradition: A Report on the Folk and Traditional Arts in the United States, published in 1996.

Prior to her work as a consultant, Peterson was executive director (2004-2009) and program director (1998-2004) of the Fund for Folk Culture. In these positions, she worked with private foundations to increase national visibility and resources for the folklore field, initiated working relationships with Grantmakers in the Arts, Inc., established a donor-advised fund, cultivated more than 30 individual donors, and attracted corporate support for the fund.

Among other previously held positions, Peterson was a co-founder and program coordinator for Texas Folklife Resources and director of the Traditional Arts Program at the New England Foundation for the Arts. In 1990, she was a visiting professor at the Folklore and Mythology Program at UCLA. 

She also co-founded Preserving America's Cultural Traditions, a coalition of folklore nonprofits and federal agencies whose members meet annually to share information and plan collaborative programming.

Peterson has been part of the faculty of Goucher College's Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability since the program's inception in 2009. Her coursework at Goucher focuses on community and economic development as critical features of cultural sustainability, particularly developing strategies that align with economic vitality and benefit cultural practitioners.

Goucher's Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability Program-the only one of its kind in the country-brings together tools from anthropology, history, communications, business and management, linguistics, and activism, and it teaches students how to sustain cultural traditions in an era of increasing homogeneity and globalization.

Peterson holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Redlands and a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University. She has written or edited a number of professional works, including handbooks, reports, white papers, and commissioned articles for such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and Animating Democracy.