Southern Utah University held its annual Comic Con last Thursday, April 12. Students were invited to play video games, compete in contests, appreciate fan art, cosplay, create crafts and enjoy food. The night was a huge success where students came to experience the world of pop culture.
SUU Librarian Christopher Clark shared his thoughts on why events like Comic Con are so important for students:
“Scholars and professors, both on campus and elsewhere, have noted the importance of studying pop myths, fantasies, and stories to both escape and reconcile reality. An event like SUU Comic Con allows us to talk about these things, dive deeply into their importance, have fun, and, through things like cosplay, empower students by giving them a safe space to embody and enact their favorite heroes and fictional characters.”
SUU is making big strides to incorporate pop culture in academia. Studies have shown that students have better classroom engagement if the curriculum is related to something familiar, like a movie, song, or superhero.
Pop culture is a fairly new concept in the world of higher education. Some are skeptical of mixing concepts like superheros and fictional characters with academic studies. In response to these feelings, SUU English Professor, Joy Sterrantino, states, “More and more often research is tied to interests, so while a student might be taking a class in philosophy, they may tie it to a theme such as superheroes, because it is something they are passionate about. Students shouldn't overlook their own knowledge and experiences when studying a topic; it makes their arguments and ideas more engaging and gives them authority when they have some experience and interest with such topics.”
SUU has multiple professors who combine pop culture with research and studies. Every English 2010 class at SUU has a pop culture theme. Joy Sterrantino teaches a “Writing About Video Games” course as well as a “Conspiracy Theories” course. Michelle Orihel uses Hamilton the Musical to teach history. Kyle Bishop teaches about zombies and monsters. Other professors teach themes using Disney, fairy tales, The Simpsons, and superheroes.
There are other classes that incorporate graphic novels and talk about subjects such as Science Fiction literature. SUU is taking the leap to integrate pop culture and studies to better serve and appeal to student interests.
Professor Sterrantino goes on to say, “The best essays I get from students come from my ‘Writing About Video Games’ classes because students are excited about what they are researching. I get essays related to violence, sexism, and race issues in games. Some are on the positive or negative aspects of games. Some are arguments about a plot point or character in a specific game. Pop culture studies is an international academic field with thousands of people who study it, so it's completely legitimate. I'd love to see even more of it utilized on campus.”
The SUU Library has limitless resources for students who want to be more involved in the concept of pop culture. If students are interested in exploring this untapped world, they can begin with the Library’s website, which links to the catalog as well as all databases. The SUU Library catalog contains many different pop culture books and e-books about superheroes, sci-fi, cinematic and comic book history, fantasy, horror, and more to help get students started.
When in doubt, the librarians are always happy to help. The library staffs the Questions Desk Monday through Friday until 4:30 p.m. to help students with any questions they may have. They can guide you directly to the resources that are most relevant to your interests and research.
For more information about the SUU Library resources, visit https://library.suu.edu and plan to attend the next SUU Comic Con.