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Lectures on celebrities like Taylor Swift attract law students

DES MOINES, Iowa — A South Dakota law professor often teaches on dense topics like torts and natural resources. But next semester, she and her fearless students will turn their attention to Taylor Swift and cause a stir.

Sean Kammer wanted his legal writing class to use music and art to help his students rethink legal language and create persuasive arguments. The self-described “Swiftie” felt focusing on the cultural icon was also a way to connect with her students.

Kammer never imagined the attention this announcement would generate; The class quickly filled and even jealous graduates reached out.

“The response from students is exciting,” he said. “If we can have fun exploring some of these complex theoretical problems or topics, I believe students will be inspired to think deeper and push themselves further.”

Swifties at the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law aren’t the only ones having fun. Law professors across the country are increasingly drawing on popular culture and celebrity, sometimes with the help of celebrities, to engage a new generation of students and put complex concepts into real-world contexts.

Courses at Swift, Rick Ross, and Succession complement traditional law school courses with fun, accessible experiences that professors often say they don’t have.

Students at Georgia State University College of Law struggled to get to class every day; Specifically, on Tuesday, they were able to hear directly from Ross for the final day of a course covering the legal intricacies of the rapper, record executive and Wingstop franchise. owner’s life.

Moraima “Mo” Ivory, director of the school’s entertainment, sports and media law program, wants her students to see for themselves what’s in the albums, television shows and movies they enjoy. Each year, She chooses a star and invites guest speakers from their world along with the protagonist to bring legal agreements, defenses and drama to life.

“We talk about critical legal principles, but we follow them as they are and as they are,” he said. “It really turns that light bulb on for law students.”

Ivory said he may have heard a drop in mixtapes featuring guest DJ Drama in a lecture.

“I have never had the experience of walking out of a law school classroom excited about what I learned,” Ivory said.

For third-year law student Luke Padia, the experience made the concepts feel more concrete than reading a textbook or case law, he said.

“Other classes are not disrupted,” said the 26-year-old from Lawrence, Kansas. “I found that my attention was more easily captured when I was sitting in class listening to Steve Sadow talk about how he got Rick Ross out of prison instead of sitting in court doing constitutional law or torts or whatever. ”

Frances Acevedo, a 25-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Florida, in her third year of law school, said she left the class understanding how important a team is to an artist’s success; It’s a message Ross emphasizes.

“I can sit down with multimillionaires and talk money,” Ross told students, faculty and guests gathered for the course finale. “But when it’s time for me to move forward, I sit down with my team.”

Courses about A-list celebrities have fascinated undergraduate and graduate students across the country for years, increasingly turning to courses that analyze race and gender. Kinitra Brooks, an English professor at Michigan State University, said the interest in female artists and artists of color is a sign of growing respect for them and different forms of artistic expression.

Brooks’ course on Beyoncé’s Lemonade album and Black feminism was so popular that she published a reader that other professors could benefit from. Popular culture material offers “instant relatability,” which Brooks thinks makes students more likely to engage, allow their ideas to be challenged, and make them willing to challenge the artist.

Bella Andrade, a junior at Arizona State University, looks forward to her lecture on the psychology of Taylor Swift every week. The self-proclaimed “huge Swiftie” has been listening to her music “for forever and a day,” but there are plenty of fans in the classroom. “There are 10 out of 10 Swifties and people who barely know her music,” she said, “which leads to some really great conversations.”

“I think I developed a much deeper understanding of different topics in social psychology,” Andrade said of Minneapolis. “Taking topics that I already knew or heard about and applying them to something that I was really invested in, in a way… it really solidifies the meaning.”

Cathy Hwang, who co-instructed a corporate law course at the University of Virginia inspired by Succession last year, said courses that include popular culture offer a different context for the basic information students learn in their traditional courses.

The class explored the show’s thorny and often duplicitous legal topics, such as hostile takeovers and securities law. Hwang said he tries to encourage and nurture a love of learning in students who “grew up with different interactions with technology and popular culture than I did.”

“For me, it’s not about my teaching style, it’s about what the students’ learning style is.” Hwang said. “I think it is important to continue to grow as a teacher and try to meet students where they are.”

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Associated Press video reporter Sharon Johnson contributed from Atlanta.

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