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St. Bonaventure University

St. Bonaventure students will explore pop culture and media in new course

Jan 05, 2024

Students in a special topics course at St. Bonaventure University will explore pop culture’s role in the media landscape and its impact on public policy.

Taylor Swift“From the protest music of the 1960s to the phenomena of Taylor Swift, pop culture has been a part of daily life in America,” said Dr. Richard Lee, a professor in the university’s Jandoli School of Communication.

Lee designed the course and will teach it during the spring 2024 semester. He views the class as an opportunity to integrate the elements from his career in journalism, government and academia.

Among the topics that will be covered in the course are:

  • How celebrities influence public policy;
  • The ability of politicians to avoid the scrutiny of mainstream media by appearing on entertainment television programs;
  • The impact of protest music during the Vietnam era;
  • The phenomenon of Taylor Swift, who was named Time magazine’s 2023 Person of the Year, and
  • Volodymyr Zelensky, who played the president of Ukraine on a sitcom before he actually became the country’s president.

“The lines between entertainment and politics have always been blurry, but the distinction is even less clear today,” Lee said. “The class will help us understand how we arrived at where we are today, as well as where we are headed tomorrow.”

The genesis of the course lies in research Lee conducted while earning his doctorate. He wrote a book chapter in which he showed that protest songs during the Vietnam War era provided the public with information that the mainstream media was not reporting.

As a professor, he includes units on entertainment in his Media and Democracy and Campaigns, Candidates and Current Elections seminar classes. He also has spoken about the relationship between music and public policy at numerous academic conferences, including seminars devoted to the work of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

During his professional career, Lee covered rock’n’roll, as well as government and politics. He later served in several government communication positions, including deputy director of communication for two New Jersey governors. He was a founding member of the Hall Institute for Public Policy — New Jersey, and he is executive director of the Jandoli Institute, a public policy center he established at St. Bonaventure in 2019.

“I am thankful Dr. Lee will bring his diverse and extensive experiences to this timely course,” Jandoli School Dean Aaron Chimbel said. “I have no doubt students will get a lot out of this class.”