Brock’s pop culture MA program turns 10

A lot was happening in the pop culture scene in 2001.

It was the year that Lord of the Rings came to the big screen. At home, we tuned in to the premiere of Amazing Race. At the bookstore, we found the bestseller shelves filled with the most recent titles from John Grisham, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. And the list goes on.

a table of books displaying the work of Brock Popular Culture faculty and graduate students

The tenth anniversary party for the MA in Popular Culture program included a table of books written or edited by Popular Culture faculty and grad students.

Here at Brock, we marked a Canadian first with the launch of the MA in Popular Culture program.

Ten years later, Brock’s graduate program remains the only one of its kind in Canada and only one of two programs in North American with a Popular Culture specialization.

The program held a 10-year anniversary celebration earlier this year with faculty, staff, students and graduates. On display at the event was a collection of about 30 books that have been written or edited by program faculty and graduate students over the past 10 years.

“We have a lot to be proud of when we look back on the last decade,” said Sherryl Vint, professor and graduate program director. “Our graduate faculty and students have a great record of research and scholarship.

“We bring together faculty from a variety of disciplines and fields to work alongside graduate researchers. You can think of our MA in Popular Culture program as something of a pioneer at Brock in its transdisciplinary approach.”

Professor Barry Grant was the founding director of the program.

“The MA in Popular Culture was transdisciplinary before the term became a buzzword,” he said. “It was built on the concept of crossing disciplinary boundaries, like popular culture itself.”

The program welcomes students from academic backgrounds, including Canadian Studies, Communication or Media Studies, English Literature, Film Studies, History, Music, Political Science, Sociology, and Women’s Studies.

Students come into their research “with interests from the world they live in and are negotiating daily,” Vint said.

Current student research projects include topics such as:

  • social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and how it helps build community;
  • the legacy of Jimi Hendrix and what it suggests for our understanding of music, commodity culture and race;
  • the representation of crime on television, such as the popular HBO series Boardwalk Empire, and the impact on larger cultural notions of law and order;
  • young people who interact through texting and what it means to their ability to communicate face-to-face.

“Our MA students are the type of scholars who are prepared to look at things in a complex way,” Vint said. “As a faculty member, my experience is shaped by the popular culture that I know through them and this feeds my research.”

As the program enters its second decade, Grant is proud of the caliber of students attracted to the program, as well as the accomplishments of close to 70 graduates.

“The students have come from an impressive range of academic backgrounds, and many have gone on to work in the cultural industries or to continue their graduate students at the doctoral level,” he said. “They have contributed immeasurably to the cultural life of Brock and the community.”

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