When senior Lauren Piampiano registered for the special topics SOC 295 Popular Culture class, she thought she would find the material interesting.
Piampiano discovered that while her initial expectations of the class, offered for the first time last fall and taught by Assistant Porfessor of Sociology Athena Elafros, proved to be true, she learned more than she anticipated.
“I took this class because I wanted to be informed on the functions and critical theories regarding popular culture,” said Piampiano, a sociology major from Webster. “It can be important in a variety of career settings, namely the social service field. This class analyzed and helped me better understanding popular culture, a prominent aspect of our society. It also examined some deep topics that are often thought-provoking and introspective.”
Sophomore Kayla Kuntz agrees.
“I enjoy talking about current events, and popular culture greatly affects my age group,” said Kuntz, an exploratory major from Manlius. “But I wanted to have a deeper understanding of the meanings of these events. What I have learned has been much more in depth and analytic than I expected. This is a good thing.”
And that is exactly what Elafros intended.
“While most of the students in the class are sociology majors and have a solid background in sociological analyses,” she said. “I wanted to teach a class on popular culture to provide students with the analysis and problem-solving skills needed to be critical media consumers. Popular culture acts as a lens that reflects the changing norms and values in society and it also can be used as a tool to shape and promote social change in society.”
According to senior Samantha Yavorek, a psychology and sociology major from Canandaigua, the class focused on “learning about different forms of popular culture and how it is represented in the media, as well as how it shapes our society and the individuals in it. But we also learned about the endless genres of popular culture and how they are relative to society.”
Elafros covered a wide variety of popular culture topics in the class, including Miley Cyrus’ music video for Wrecking Ball; twerking; Riot Grrrl; memes; Bruce Lee films; and World Wrestling Entertainment.
“We also discussed Star Trek; The Walking Dead; bronnies; Fedoras; Pogs; sexism and advertising; women’s magazines; Public Enemy; the Eurythmics; trucker hats; skinny jeans; Ugg boots; Mardi Gras beads; Star Wars; Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines music video; and football, among many other examples.”
Senior Karina Cochran, a sociology major from Cortland, said “popular culture is one of those influences that affects everyone’s life, while going largely unnoticed. I think it is important to learn about factors that contribute to our culture and our sense of self. And, I have absolutely benefited from learning how to conceptualize and better understand popular culture.”
Because of this class, sophomore Thomas Fowler now thinks more about what he sees and reads and questions it.
“I no longer see something in the media and turn a blind eye and say ‘oh whatever’ or ‘no big deal,’” said the sociology and political science and history major from Batavia. “I believe it makes me a better person to question popular culture and try to better understand what I am being shown in the media.”
And Fowler isn’t the only one in the class who now questions what he sees.
“Many of the students have mentioned that this class opened their eyes to the ways in which the mass media manipulate our desires and emotions,” said Elafros. “For example, many of the women in the class have told me they can’t look at women’s magazines without seeing them from a critical perspective. Once you understand the sociological perspective, it fundamentally changes how you view the world around you.”
And for Yavorek and Kuntz, the perceptions of popular culture they had before taking this class have changed.
Yavoerk is now “analytical of every ad I come across,” while Kuntz believes she has “a better understanding of current events and why they have the impact they do.” But Cochran’s perceptions “have not changed drastically, as I have always held somewhat of a feminist and critical outlook toward it.”
After taking this class, Elafros hopes “that students can become critical consumers of popular culture and the media. Given that we are immersed in popular culture on a daily basis, I want students to be actively engaging and critiquing it instead of passively consuming it. This was a special topics course and it is not currently being offered. If there is enough student interest, I would love to be able to teach the course again.”
According to Yavorek, this class was fun to complete work for because it consistently maintained her interest.
“It is one of the classes that I found most directly applied to occurrences in my everyday life for my generation at this time,” she said. “Sociology has done a great job of teaching me how to look at things through a critical lens, and understand as well as analyze how concepts such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and even personality are shaped through social interaction and socialization.”
Should Elafros have the opportunity to teach the class again, she is not sure what material she would cover, because “whatever is current and happening within society will be the subject matter of the course. For example, if I was currently teaching the course, I would definitely focus on the Olympics. So it all depends on when I next get to teach the course and what new trends are happening.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series of Q&As with new, full-time faculty members. Today, meet three of Keuka’s new additions.
Dr. David Pak Leon, assistant professor of political science, teaches International Relations, Political Development in Asia, and Globalization.
Last book read: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.
Favorite quote: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” by George Orwell.
If you could be a fictional character, who would be and why? I can’t really think of a fictional character that I would like to be.
What makes teaching fun? It is always fun and interesting when I see students grow in knowledge throughout a semester. I enjoy lively discussions in and outside the classroom when different perspectives are presented. It is also nice when students tell me what they are learning and reading on their own, or when they bring in relevant outside materials or their own experiences that enrich our collective understanding of different issues. Seeing eager and engaged students makes teaching rewarding.
What do you do for fun? I enjoy listening to music and reading (politics, history, architecture, economics, and finance). I like browsing bookstores and antique shops, and biking.
Sunny Winstead of Burdett, N.Y., assistant professor of occupational therapy, is teaching classes in occupational therapy assessment and intervention for older adults.
Last book read: Other than a textbook? Maybe a Ruth Rendell mystery, but unfortunately it’s been awhile!
Favorite quote: You’ll never be sorry for taking the high road.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why? Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter books. She’s smart, inventive, and brave. Plus, I’d love to have a Time-Turner so I could be in two places at once!
What makes teaching fun? Collaborating with students and seeing their confidence grow as they move toward clinical practice.
What do you do for fun? I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, gardening, and hiking.
Dr. Jason McKinney of Penfield, assistant professor of social work, is teaching a number of classes this year, including Youth Services Delivery, Research Methods, Ethics and Diversity, and Field Practicum.
Last book read: Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, by Scott Jurek.
Favorite quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why?:Cookie Monster. I wish I could eat junk food all day and never gain a pound!
What makes teaching fun? Students make teaching fun! I love the interactive part of teaching, such as class discussion or learning activities designed to connect theory and practice.
What do you do for fun? I play guitar, ukulele, and percussion. I run, garden, lift weights, and study Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Coming Monday: Three more Q&A profiles of new, full-time faculty members.
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members who have joined the Keuka community.
According to Athena Elafros, sociology is most relevant when it engages students’ personal and professional interests in the society around them, and when it develops their analytical tools for criticism.
The assistant professor of sociology says “the opportunity to facilitate students’ engagements with sociology—as they break down sociological concepts and theories and apply them to situations in their daily lives—is one of the most rewarding and intellectually stimulating aspects of academia.”
In fact, teaching is one of the things that excites the Toronto native most as a sociologist. Prior to arriving at Keuka College, Elafros taught courses at McMaster University (Canada) and Alfred University. At Keuka, she teaches Introduction to Sociology and Ethnic Diversity.
“As a first-generation college student born to immigrant parents, I welcome the opportunity to work with, and educate, other first-generation college students,” said Elafros, who received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology from the University of Toronto, master’s degree in sociology from Queen’s University (Canada), and doctoral degree in sociology from McMaster University. “They are a delight to teach and possess a wealth of first-hand knowledge about the social world. The challenge is to teach them how to draw on this knowledge in a way that promotes critical thinking in the classroom.”
One way she meets that challenge is by employing a variety of popular cultural examples in the classroom, including YouTube and movie clips, memes, music videos, and documentaries.
For Elafros, the biggest draw to Keuka is its students. But she also “likes the College’s small classroom sizes, the impressive employment rate, the excellent student to faculty ratio, and the College’s commitment to accessibility.”
Elafros is also “deeply impressed” with the experiential education opportunities offered to students.
“I believe that the emphasis on experiential education makes Keuka College unique and I am excited to be part of a college that encourages lifelong learning in and out of the classroom,” said Elafros.
For example, Elafros has taken advantage of the TeamWorks! program.
“I have been in contact with [Assistant Manager of TeamWorks!] Molly McGuigan ’11 and have invited her to come to my classes,” she said. “I look forward to further developing and refining a TeamWorks! program for all of my sociology courses, so that students can develop skills in team building, as well as interpersonal and leadership skills that will benefit them regardless of their career path.”
“I am also drawn to Keuka College because of the quality of life in the region,” said Elafros. “The Finger Lakes region is one of the most beautiful areas in New York state and I welcome the opportunity to be able to live and work here. Additionally, my husband is a historian at Alfred University, so it is wonderful to be able to settle down in the region.”
One thing Elafros wants her students to remember from her classes is how to empathize with others.
“We all have different backgrounds and experiences that shape our personal world views,” said Elafros. “What I teach my students is how to try and connect with others whose perspectives might be quite different from their own. This allows them to effectively communicate with others by understanding their motivations.”
Elafros says this does not mean that you have to agree with those motivations, “but you must be able to see their perspectives so that you can effectively work with them. By empathizing with others, understanding their perspectives, and communicating with them, you will be able to thrive and succeed in a variety of diverse work environments.”
She has published on a variety of subjects, including hip hop culture, popular music magazines, and gay-straight alliances in such publications as Popular Music and Society, Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue Canadienne de Sociologie, and Cultural Sociology.
Her research has also been published in Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music and Culture, and Race/Gender/Class/Media 3.0: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers.
Joyce Richardson’s path to a Keuka College degree began in 1983.
It will end Sunday, when the Stanley resident receives her Bachelor of Science degree in criminology/criminal justice.
And while it took the mother of two and grandmother of four nearly three decades to do what her classmates did in four years, she is the envy of some of her fellow members of the Class of 2012.
“A couple of weeks ago, I was offered a job as an investigator with the Ontario County Public Defender’s Office, where I completed my senior internship,” said Richardson. “That is what makes Keuka so great. Instead of a 20-minute job interview, I had the chance to have a four-month interview. I would not have gotten this job without my senior internship.”
At Keuka College, experiential learning is a core focus and the 140-hour annual Field Period internship is one of the primary arenas where hands-on learning comes into play.
Each year, one freshman and one upperclassman earns Experiential Learner of the Year honors for demonstrating initiative, development of a broad and varied portfolio of work, and personal reflection on the skills learned during the Field Period experience.
The six nominees for 2012 were nominated by academic advisers, created a portfolio of work in essays, photographs and other media, and were honored at a luncheon April 27. During the May 5 Honors Convocation ceremony, the winners were named: freshman Lelia Torres of Stockton and sophomore Sarah Marquart of Auburn.
Torres’s first-time Field Period experience was quite a coup, as she was the first freshman from any college or university to land a Field Period internship with the Chautauqua County Office of Probation (CCOP). (more…)
Richard Martin is keenly aware of the challenges adult students face.
Director of the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) criminal justice program and assistant professor, he is only six years removed from these same challenges himself. Martin received a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice systems from Keuka in 2005.
“When I went back to school for my bachelor’s degree, I began to see the possibility of entering the teaching profession,” said Martin, who served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division as an active duty infantry team leader through Operation Desert Storm. He also served in the Army Reserves (drill sergeant), and National Guard, (transportation platoon sergeant).
Martin began his police career with the Village of Fredonia, moved to the Newark Police Department, where he worked with undercover narcotics and fire investigations, and then joined the Rochester Police Department (RPD).
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members.
Frank Colaprete became familiar with Keuka College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) while serving with the Rochester Police Department (RPD).
In fact, he referred several of his officers to ASAP to complete their undergraduate degrees.
“I am a firm believer in the lifelong learning concept, and have been a student longer than I have been a teacher,” said Colaprete, associate professor of criminal justice in ASAP. “I know what it’s like from both sides of the podium, and I still actively seek opportunities to learn as well as transfer that codified and experiential knowledge to others.”
So, Keuka’s ASAP and model of experiential education was a “perfectly natural extension of that for me,” said Colaprete. “As a trainer for more than 24 years, all of my students were continuing education adult professionals working to advance their knowledge and careers.”
Colaprete sees a reflection of himself in his adult students.
“With a background and terminal degree in adult education, I fully understand the needs of adult learners and the nature of how theory and application can be delivered in the classroom,” said Colaprete, who holds bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Roberts Wesleyan College, and a doctoral degree from Fischler Graduate School of Education at Nova Southeastern University. He is also a Certified Litigation Specialist (CLS) in the law enforcement field.
Colaprete was member of the RPD from 1985-2005 and was assigned to patrol, research, training, administration, internal affairs, background investigations, investigative supervision, and investigative support.
Colaprete joined the ASAP faculty part-time in 2005 and served as a visiting associate professor.
In addition to teaching at Keuka, Colaprete is the owner and lead consultant of Justice Systems Solutions LLC, an independent consulting firm that works with law enforcement and public safety organizations.
Colaprete’s research interests are in police science and operational issues, the criminal and administrative investigation processes, police training techniques, program evaluation methodologies, mentoring, and knowledge management.
Colaprete developed a love for teaching early in his police career and began training other police officers in 1987.
“That passion grew through continuing my education and entering the higher education field,” said Colaprete. “I teach mostly graduate studies in criminal justice research, statistics, leadership, administration, and human resources.”
In addition to Keuka, Colaprete has served as a faculty member, instructor, and consultant for such institutions as Norwich University, New England College, Nova Southeastern University, Walden University, Roger Williams University’s Justice and Training Research Institute, Performance Institute, and the Civic Institute at Mercyhurst College.
He is co-author of Internal Investigations: A Practitioner’s Approach and Mentoring in the Criminal Justice Professions: Conveyance of the Craft. He has published several peer- reviewed and professional journal articles in the areas of criminal and internal investigation, as well as police training techniques.
He earned a Top 10 finalist award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and has been featured in the National League of Cities database for successful municipal programs. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Award for 2009 from Norwich University’s School of Graduate Studies.
Roger Ward is a huge fan of Keuka College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP), so much so that the Waterloo resident has earned three degrees through the program since 2003.
He first completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice systems, then a master’s in management. Then in May, Ward graduated with his second master’s – in criminal justice administration.
Thanks to his first master’s degree, Ward said he gained a full understanding of economics and how supply and demand plays into everything. Studying for his second master’s, Ward learned “the CJ problems aren’t agency-specific. Whether you work for a federal, state or local municipality, everybody has the same problems, predominately budget, staffing, and getting the right people in the right places to do the right work. I found that different people will see things pretty much uniformly, even though from a different agency.” (more…)
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories saluting members of the Class of 2011. We asked division chairs for story ideas and they in turn contacted faculty members for suggestions. We believe they came up with some terrific profiles.
Beth Staehle has big plans after graduation – plans big enough to take her to other countries.
The Canandaigua resident loves American Sign Language (ASL) and can’t imagine her life without it. As the child of two deaf parents, she excels at ASL and can always rely on interpreting to supplement her income. However, after different majors – and colleges – she’s found a new love in political science and history, which is the degree she will receive May 29.
Now the Keuka senior is looking forward to a few months interpreting at the Rochester Institute of Technology to save some money to start what she calls her dream internship next spring – ideally at a museum in London, New York City or Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then Staehle hopes to move into graduate work in museum studies.
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