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Western NY University to Teach Course in Taylor Swift


Just how has Taylor Swift and pop culture impacted public policy and its overall role in the media landscape? Students at one Western New York university will get an opportunity to find out the answers to those questions through a new course being offered this upcoming semester.

Dr. Richard Lee, a professor at St. Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication designed the course and will teach it. According to the university, Lee views the class as an opportunity to integrate the elements from his career in journalism, government, and academia.

“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. Lee.

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 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.

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