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Projects and Institutes

The Institute on Popular Culture

The Institute on Popular Culture for Education at Syracuse University is an interdisciplinary center engaged in research, educational activities, and community outreach. Members include faculty, graduate students, and research associates from the field of education, the social sciences and the humanities, as well as Syracuse area educators.

The purpose of the Institute is to explore popular culture as a complex and understudied area of education. Grounded in qualitative research methods, members of the Institute are concerned with how individuals and groups come to make sense of their experiences, and make meanings in their popular culture practices. As researchers, academics, teachers, and students, members advocate for an examination of popular culture that both develops critique and articulates pleasure, negotiating the two as a dynamic in the pedagogic relationship.

The Institute locates popular culture in four overlapping spaces: Cultural products (books, movies, magazines), activities (proms, graduations, weddings), sites (fairs, video arcades, malls), and practices (reading National Geographic, cheerleading, and adorning the body). This approach includes, but is not limited to the examination of education that takes place both in and outside of schools; the raced, classed, aged and gendered relationships between the media and its consumers; representations of sexuality, femininity and masculinity; the expressive role of the body; the production and economics of magazines, music, movies and other media; the character of everyday learning; the uses of technology in schools; the recognition of globalization; and the rise of entertainment, media and culture industries.

Through individual and collective work with these sites and activities, The Institute seeks to uncover how power relations are enmeshed in American popular culture in the above issues. The goals of the Institute, therefore, include working with other educators towards a pedagogy of critical literacy through which teachers, students and researchers can engage in analysis of popular culture's representations of lives. The Institute emphasizes:

  • articulating pedagogical spaces where student knowledges around popular culture gain authority
  • exploring how institutions take up popular culture
  • providing youth with additional tools to analyze popular culture tests
  • wrestling popular culture from GOOD/BAD binary
  • connecting everyday practice with global praxis, politics, and policy
  • investigating the construction of social norming practices in popular culture
  • engaging in the relationship between participation and resistance
  • asserting our responsibility to multicultural practices

The founding principals of the Institute rest upon the belief that popular culture is an increasingly significant educational space often excluded from conversations of power and pedagogy. The Institute undertakes the study of popular culture in and around the context of schools with educators and students as part of the dialogue. The Institute works to expand the conversation and to explore popular culture's educative possibilities.

Intergroup Dialogue Program

Intergroup Dialogue Program academic courses were first developed as part of Syracuse University's participation in the Multiversity Intergroup Dialogue Research Project. The project brings together faculty, staff, and graduate students across nine institutions to develop best practices in intergroup dialogue, including the development and implementation of a shared curriculum. At the center of this collaboration is a research study that examines the educational benefits of student learning through intergroup dialogue. This research study is based on a multi-method, longitudinal, design.

The Intergroup Dialogue Program at Syracuse University remains deeply involved in the nexus of theory, research, and practice important for intergroup dialogue. Faculty, teaching, and research staff are familiar with and active in various expressions of social justice education. Collectively and individually, we are committed to research that develops an understanding of critical learning processes and change through education.

Smart Kids - Visual Stories

A Chancellor's Leadership Project
Work to revitalize urban schools is often responding to exernal evaluation or expectations rather than the voices within the community or the school building itself. Attempts to attend more carefully to those voices - particularly the voices of young and prescient students - bring narratives of change to the fore. Smart Kids - Visual Stories will foster partnerships between Syracuse City School District middle school students (Levy Middle School, grades 6-8) and students from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the School of Education to create youth-made digital videos that represent the experience of urban education. Adolescents will be encouraged to express their knowledge and perceptions about school through their own stories and to develop their visual storytelling and narrative skills, which can influence how communities, scholars, and educators envision and transform schools.

Center on Human Policy, Law and Disability Studies

The Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University is internationally recognized as one of the world's leading sites for disability policy research. Steeped in a long tradition extending back to its founder Burton Blatt, the Center on Human Policy continues their groundbreaking work on behalf of and with individuals with disabilities.

There are several foci of the Center. The Center is a research powerhouse that features interdisciplinary work done by professors and graduate students in such fields as law, education, and social work. The Center also greatly contributes to advocacy on a international, national, state, and local scale. Lastly, it serves as a community partner to organizations such as the Central New York Self Advocates.