I joined the English department at George Mason University in 2001 after completing my Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania. My path to my career as a folkorist was not a direct route; in fact, it was my second career. My first career was in nursing. I completed a B.S. in nursing in 1987 at West Virginia University. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Alexandria, Virginia and began working as an intensive care nurse, first at the Washington Hospital Center, then at Columbia Hospital for Women. During that time, I began taking classes toward an M.A. in American Literature at GMU and graduated in 1993. I also worked as a nurse volunteer at Mary's Center, a wellness health clinic for Latina women in Adams Morgan. Working with Latina women, the majority of whom had recently arrived to the United States, aroused my curiosity about new immigrant groups in the United States. I began to wonder how Latino families were able to adjust to their new lives in the U.S.and how their cultural practices were transformed by this transition.
It was at GMU that I first discovered the field of folklore under the direction of Margaret Yocom and Mary Hufford. In the fall of 1994, I moved to Philadelphia to pursue a Ph.D., graduating in the spring of 2001. While in Philadelphia I began what I initially thought would be a brief field study of a newly emerging Mexican community in the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. After a few months, however, I knew that my work in Kennett Square required the commitment of long-term research. My fieldwork took place between October, 1995 and May 2001 in Kennett Square. I also completed twelve research trips to Textitlán , Guanajuato between 1999 and 2005. Texitlan is the hometown of many of Mexicans who have settled in Kennett. In July 2006 I started fieldwork for my second book project, a study of Americans who retire and live full-time in Mexico.