Friday Faculty Focus: Adam Tyma


February 24th, 2017

Dr. Adam Tyma (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

On this week’s episode of Friday Faculty Focus, KVNO’s Brandon McDermott sat down with Dr. Adam Tyma to discuss teaching media in an ever polarizing political climate.

Brandon: Dr. Adam Tyma, thanks for joining me.

Dr. Tyma: Of Course.

Brandon: How did you approach classes last year, when it came time for students to share their opinions and ideas regarding the presidential election?

Dr. Tyma: It was not easy. In particular this presidential cycle was incredible polarizing. It took what was an already divided electorate and pushed it as far to the walls as it could. My job as a professor is to find a way to construct a space where everybody can talk. Everyone’s opinions are valid in the classroom and they have to be respected as such, but I also have to be able to mediate and moderate.

Brandon: How did you incorporate what was happening and explain the fallout over – and the impact – to students throughout the election process in your classes and also incorporate the curriculum with all that was occurring last semester – daily – it seemed like?

Dr. Tyma: Up until the election, I could we could pick and choose. When the election happened, essentially the prognosticators were proven wrong we had to sit back and reflect on it. That happened on a Tuesday and to be able to walk into class on Thursday and find a way to do this. I would argue I’m not the only one on this campus or campuses across the country that had to wrestle with that. For me it was going back to those exact same things – we had some things to talk about.

Can I punt it? In other words, can I push it down the line – or can we actually address it in class, see or goes and bring in the election into the conversation? Now keep in mind that Wednesday by midday I was already having students I’d never talked to before – had never met before, students I hadn’t seen a couple of years come to my office and they were scared. I’ve never seen students scared from an election before. I saw that actually happening here. So, that’s a lower level of burden to “what do I do in the classroom?” Again I’m not the only faculty member on this campus that this happened to. So we had to collectively catch our breath and go “okay, how do I this? How do I make sense of this? How do I make this work?”

Brandon: How important is your job of getting students to understand their roles – when they’re trying to get into different industries like news or public relations within the current political climate?

Dr. Tyma: I am going to never whitewash or make the industry some pretty – it is not glamorous. I have had brief stints in the industry, whether it be working at a college radio station or helping out on a college newspaper or whatever the case may be. But I have many friends who are in the media industry, whether we’re talking here, up in the Twin Cities and across the country. A good friend of mine from high school is one of the columnists for The Chronicle of Higher Education – tell me that isn’t beat that is going crazy right now.

Everything I’ve learned from them – I flip over and say “okay, if you’re going to go in to this industry – here’s what you do which is what you’re going into.” I want to be honest with them. But I cannot think of a better time for people to get into journalism. I cannot not believe that everyone doesn’t want to be a journalist – right now. Think of the stories think of the narratives that are happening at this moment. So I try to instill that passion, but make people realize this is not easy work. The life of the journalist, the life of the newscaster, the life of the storyteller is rough work. But, if you want to get the news out there – if you think the media’s doing a terrible job, you don’t yell at it, you get involved with it and you change it. That’s what I try to get my students to think about.

Brandon: What are some things that you’re currently focusing on or working on when it comes to your scholarly work?

Dr. Tyma: Well that’s all over the place. None of it is dealing with – overtly – the political climate or the media industry. Because my work is in critical media studies, I do a lot of work with particular texts or ideas. I am looking at the ideas of nostalgia and how nostalgia can be used as almost a co-opting or coercive system, in this case, as a way to get you to want to watch something or listener to something. So I’m analyzing the show Stranger Things from Netflix which sucked me in within two minutes between soundtrack and the opening two sequences and the fact that it was a bunch of middle-schoolers playing Dungeons and Dragons in the mid-to-late 80s in a basement because that was me.

Brandon: Dr. Adam Tyma thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. Tyma: Absolutely. My pleasure.

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