Patricia Turner is a professor in World Arts and Cultures and African-American Studies whose research focuses on racial dynamics as they surface in folklore and popular culture. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from SUNY College at Oneonta and a master’s and Ph.D. in rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation, "Tampered Truths: A Rhetorical Analysis of Antebellum Slave Narratives" challenged existing views of slave narratives. A Humanities Graduate Research Grant funded her work in the summer of 1983 reading original slave narrative texts housed in the Moorland-Spingarn Collection at Howard University, the Library of Congress, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the New York Historical Society. Her fourth book, Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African-American Quilters, was published by University of Mississippi Press in 2009.
Turner was appointed senior dean of the UCLA College in June 2016, and has served as dean and vice provost of UCLA’s Division of Undergraduate Education since December 2012. Turner came to UCLA from UC Davis where, in 1999, she was appointed vice provost for undergraduate education. From 2004 to 2006, she served as interim dean of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, before returning to the position of vice provost of undergraduate education in the spring of 2007. Turner is a member of UCDC Academic Advisory Council. She also has served as executive director of the Reinvention Center, a national consortium of deans and vice provosts of undergraduate education at research universities.
Changing perceptions through African American folklore, in her own words:
"I was in graduate school earning my Ph.D. in rhetoric when I attended a lecture on the ways in which a culture's most popular proverbs are a reflection of that culture's worldview. It stirred memories of my childhood – listening to sermons, hearing stories of past African American experiences. I realized then that I could apply rhetorical theory to African American folklore. It was an important field for me to enter – introducing the many traditions of African American folklore allows us to see how extraordinarily diverse the experience is.
As a professor of African American Studies, I seek to give a richer set of examples from which we can derive our scholarship of the field. In my book, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, I show how misperceptions about African American culture can move quickly to popular belief. My book Crafted Lives follows the traditions of African American quilt making, an area rich in folklore, artistry, and diversity. It is through the real stories and real examples that we can make changes in perception. My hope is that through teaching and writing, I can help all people better understand the richness and diversity of African American culture."
Source: UCLA Faculty page
Learn more: Faculty Profile at UCLA