Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas, an associate professor in the Frostburg State University Department of Sociology, will be honored at the spring meeting of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents with the Regents’ Faculty Award for Public Service.
The USM Regents’ Faculty Award is the highest honor that the board bestows to recognize exemplary faculty achievement. Rogers Thomas’ honor marks the fifth time since 2007 that an FSU faculty member has been honored by the regents.
“Dr. Rogers Thomas demonstrates great talent, creativity and passion for traditional arts and culture of the Appalachian region,” said FSU President Jonathan Gibralter.
Among her contributions is the development of the annual Appalachian Festival that celebrates all that makes the region unique, including its history, culture, natural environment, musical and artistic traditions, and food. Each year, the vast majority of the featured performers, presenters and organizations come from Western Maryland and adjoining counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Under Rogers Thomas’ leadership, the festival, currently in its seventh year, has grown to become a major event, with more than 50 exhibitors and over 4,000 attendees in 2012.
In spring 2009, Mountain City Traditional Arts developed as an outgrowth of the Appalachian Festival and a product of Rogers Thomas’ participation on the original steering committee for Frostburg’s Arts and Entertainment District designation. The venue, located on Frostburg’s Main Street, is dedicated to the education, sales, documentation and perpetuation of traditional arts in the mountain region. Housed in a formerly vacant storefront, the space has helped to revitalize Main Street. MCTA offers concerts showcasing traditional music and provides hands-on workshops and demonstrations of the traditional arts.
Rogers Thomas has been successful in cultivating a strong relationship with the Maryland State Arts Council, which supports many of her programming efforts, and the Maryland Humanities Council. She has twice partnered with the latter to host a traveling Smithsonian Exhibit. In 2008, she brought “Key Ingredients” to the Frostburg Science Discovery Center and, in 2011, served as the coordinator of “Between Fences” hosted by the Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville, Md. In addition to staffing the exhibit, she produced a series of six complementary weekly “Dinner Time Talks” at Penn Alps Restaurant exploring various dimensions of the exhibit.
She is also a founding member of the Appalachian Independent, a not-for-profit online news source dedicated to the promotion of citizen journalism. As the editor of the Appalachian Culture section, in 2011 she served as the chief advisor for a Mountain Traditions Film Project documenting those who carry on local traditions.
Students enjoy her emphasis on experiential learning, field trips, projects and outreach activities that introduce them to Appalachian culture and folklore. Rogers Thomas involves them in projects with the community, and they become actively involved in the community doing service because of her leadership.
She is also a successful grant writer who receives thousands of dollars to support her projects.
“Kara has proven herself to be a dedicated community servant committed to preserving the traditions of culture and folklore in Western Maryland,” notes Dr. Joseph Hoffman, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at FSU. In all of her community endeavors, Rogers Thomas encourages residents to celebrate and find value in the culture and heritage of Appalachia while simultaneously striving to address its challenges and improve the quality of life for those residing in the region.
Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.