Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

Follow us on social
  • Repairing the Family
    By Jay Grummel Earlier this month I wrote about fond families, however the holidays are made up of many different types of families. Some will be hostile and dysfunctional or some will be loving and understanding. Whatever your family looks like this season, it’s always nice to read about ones other than your own. So, […]
  • Review of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
    Let’s time-travel to the year 2012 and the world is raving about none other than Katniss Everdeen. I remember being in elementary school, begging my mother to let me dress up as her for my birthday. Now it’s over ten years later and I’m still just as excited for the new movie as I was […]

Pop Culture Unique to BGSU

Ever wonder how people get those really cool jobs? Not the ones where you’re in a cubicle all day but the ones where you get to work for a recording company or design board games? That’s when a degree in popular culture comes in handy.

And where else should you get that degree but from Bowling Green, home to the only university in the nation with a Department of Popular Culture and the only school to offer a master’s program in popular culture.

What makes the study of popular culture so important is it concerns everyday people and their lives, according to Angela Nelson Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Popular Culture.

“The fact that we offer courses every year, every semester that focus on popular culture is important. We offer courses that talk about that subject area of people’s lives, I think that’s what makes us unique,” she said. “I personally believe that everyone has some kind of popular culture that is important to them.”

The study of life and culture around us leads grads to various careers. Grads have pursued careers working for People magazine, working for the Discovery Channel and becoming writers and teachers. In addition there have been graduates hired at museums such as the Museum of TV and Radio in New York, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Liberace Museum. They have also pursued careers in comic books and historical societies, said Nelson.

On average there are eight to ten Bachelor’s degrees awarded in popular culture each year and six to 12 Master’s degrees awarded.

The department averages around 1250 to 1350 students in popular culture classes during spring and fall semesters, and enrolls about 200 students during the summer sessions combined, according to Nelson.

There have been increasing numbers of students majoring and minoring in popular culture throughout the years according to Marilyn Motz Associate Professor in the Department of Popular Culture Motz. The department has been looking recently at issues of gender and popular culture as well.

“Very few people were looking at those areas 20 years ago, now they’ve become important,” she said.

When the department was founded in 1973 by Ray B. Browne, Professor Emeritus in Popular Culture, very few people understood popular culture or wanted a degree for it on campus.

At that time popular culture was divided between folklore and everyday culture, says Browne. The term popular was even looked down upon in the academic realm.

“It was an incendiary word and people on campus here felt threatened by it,” he said.

While this connotation does not exist in the sense that it once did. Some still wonder what popular culture is all about and why people should study it.

“I’ve idealistically always thought college should be a place for opening of the mind rather than transmitting information,” Browne said. “I think the best way to excite curiosity is to study everyday culture.”

“I’ve always thought that its primary purpose is to use everyday culture to transmit culture and teach and to teach how the mind should be used, to use it as a door to open into thinking and education,” Browne said.

Popular culture is more than just the media and our everyday lives, according to Browne. He believes it can bridge culture gaps in society among people.

“It is the primary basis on which a civilization and culture rests and develops and I wanted to demonstrate that,” he said.

The University has the only program that offers a master of arts in popular culture is very unique, says Motz.

“The department is a unique resource for Ohio, it’s known both nationwide and worldwide,” Motz said.

Other schools in the nation offer popular culture degrees and house popular culture studies but the University remain one of the few, and probably the only school with an actual department of popular culture, according to Nelson.

“We have a department, that signifies its established and within the workings of a university,” she said.

While students may not be able to teach in another popular culture department upon graduation, many graduates are qualified to work in various areas of study, Nelson said.

“They’re able to apply what they’ve learned about studying popular culture in those areas,” she said.

One of the important aspects of the study is learning current and new material, Nelson said.

“I would like us to continue offering courses that are cutting edge,” she said.

Many changed have evolved throughout the years. But most recently Nelson noted the expansion to study international and global culture as well as the study of black American culture.

This spring the department will be offering courses on a variety of topics including TV as Popular Culture, Contemporary Popular Literature, Disney Film and Everyday Life, Feminist TV Criticism, Food and Culture and Canadian Popular Culture.

In addition, in the past few years the department has hired some younger faculty and is in the process of approaching studies of youth culture, said Nelson.

“Our faculty continue to do research in areas within popular culture and I think because they’re staying on the cutting edge of that, it allows us to be able to offer these diverse courses with unique topics,” Nelson said.

Another unique part of the Department of Popular Culture is that the faculty are interdisciplinary in that they come from various areas of study, Motz said.

“We can draw those different areas together and work together as a department,” she said. “When you bring all these people together it’s a good situation for creativity and innovation.”

While popular culture has yet to be recognized by everyone, it’s impact on society has been great, says Browne.

“I think it’s safe to say that the popular culture department has a greater international visibility than most of the American studies departments and maybe a greater impact, although it might not always be tangible and visible,” he said.

Leave a Comment
Donate to BG Falcon Media

Your donation will support the student journalists of Bowling Green State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to BG Falcon Media

Comments (0)

All BG Falcon Media Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *