Sam Castleman, PhD (2020)

Sam Castleman arrived at UL-Lafayette from Western Kentucky University, which meant her foundation in folklore studies was already both deep and wide. There was not much more that we could add, and yet Sam never hesitated to re-read materials or to read intractably theoretical articles. That is who Sam is: she has an incredible drive, and the discipline to go with it, to do anything she wants. My job as her faculty member was to get out of her way — okay, I will confess to occasionally nudging her in this direction or another, but, it never took more than a nudge.

In an effort to maximize her time in graduate school — I don’t think the word minimize appears anywhere in her brain — Sam took on a number of duties, many of which, when she discussed them with me, I shook my head in response. Every time she proved my head shake wrong, somehow able to throw herself into organizational affairs and continue to excel at her studies.

When it came time to write her dissertation, Sam wrote it in 6 months. One day we were discussing possible topics and sequences, the next she was emailing me her first chapter. And the next she was presenting a part of another chapter to great interest at the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. The chapters continued to pile into my inbox, and as soon as I had marked one and returned it, she had revised it and piled it back into my inbox. All the while Sam kept up all the other facets of her life, both personal and professional.

To be sure, there was the occasional anxious moment, a moment of doubt, and for those, to be honest, I was glad. I finally had something to do besides always be behind on returning the latest draft of a chapter to her! Nothing, however, defeats Sam for long, and I am incredibly excited to see what comes next for her. I’m not sure who learned more through all this, her or me — to be honest, it was probably me. I am humbled by that, and grateful to Sam for her continuing just to be her indomitable self.