Valpo professor named VAF president

Gretchen Buggeln, Ph.D, has recently been elected president of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. She has been involved with the organization throughout most of her career.

Gretchen Buggeln, Ph.D, and Arts and Humanities professor, has been elected president of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Buggeln will serve a two-year term as president.

The Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) is the premier organization in North America dedicated to the appreciation and study of ordinary buildings and landscapes.

“I came to know the VAF over two decades ago when I attended one of its fantastic conferences as a graduate student,” Buggeln said. “[The VAF] has been a mainstay of my professional life and I am honored to serve as president.”

The VAF is made up of people from many different fields who study and investigate the structure of landscapes and buildings to hopefully better understand the human beings who lived and worked there.

Buggeln said that there is a focus on overlooked or marginalized people, such as servants and slaves, the ordinary working class and women.

“We are interested, for example, in Jefferson’s Monticello, but just as interested, if not more so, in the landscapes of enslaved labor on his estate,” Buggeln said.

Each VAF conference is preceded by years of research on particular venues, usually “little known or little understood landscapes.”

“Some conference venues are urban, some rural, but most center on the experience of the working and middle classes rather than elites,” Buggeln said. “Through our conferences, I’ve gained a deep understanding and appreciation for life in these places, from the world of the Butte miner to that of a Central Valley fruit farmer.

“This knowledge I happily bring back to my students at Valpo.”

According to the press release, “Buggeln serves Valpo as associate professor of art history and humanities, chair of the American Studies department and advisor to the Christ College,”

It said that “she writes and teaches about the intersection of Christian belief and the material world, and her primary research interest is American sacred space, material culture and museums.”

Buggeln teaches an American Home Seminar and many of her students appreciate looking into individual houses and buildings in the Valpo area.

Grace Nelson, a junior art history and museum studies double major, said that the project she got to work on was “unique and engaging.”

“Throughout this course [American Home], Professor Buggeln convinced us that there is beauty and rich history in the seemingly ordinary or trivial,” Nelson said. “There are lives and histories that often go unnoticed, and [Buggeln] opened our eyes to these throughout the class.”

Regan Weber, a junior art major, agreed that Buggeln introduced her to new ideas.

Although Weber was already interested in architecture, the American Home seminar allowed her to view it in a different way.

“Professor Buggeln expanded my knowledge and love of the field, giving me a new direction within it to pursue historical preservation in the future,” Weber said.

Buggeln’s experiences and accomplishments at Valpo helped her to be elected to the VAF’s two-term presidency.

“As president, I will oversee the operation of the board and our programs, direct a strategic planning process, and lead the organization as we move towards a more international presence in the next decade,” Buggeln said.

Contact Sarah Geekie at

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