New PSU Laureate Embraces Social Media

On May 6, Robin Becker, a decorated poet and professor of English and women’s studies, was named the 2010-2011 Penn State Laureate. Becker is the third Laureate and the first to represent the College of the Liberal Arts.

According to the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, the Penn State Laureate is a full-time faculty member who is assigned half-time to serve as the University Laureate for one academic year. The Laureate is selected by President Graham Spanier on the recommendation of a review committee. During the year, the individual selected appears regularly at university events at University Park, the Commonwealth Campuses, and throughout the state at other community events. The laureate is meant to bring an enhanced level of social, cultural, artistic, and human perspective and awareness to a broad array of audiences.

Becker brings an impressive resume to her new position, including numerous readings of her seven critically praised books at a plethora of universities and venues. She has also received several awards for her work, such as the 1997 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry for her book of poems entitled “All-American Girl.”

Becker herself had this to say of the position:

As Laureate, I plan to promote literary arts by giving readings and visiting campuses around the state. In meetings with alums,  we’ll talk about the importance of the arts in education. At The Penn State Forum, I hope to illustrate the many ways poetry can enhance daily life.

She also plans to show students the importance of poetry and the arts:

Poetry, like painting and music and dance,  gives vital expression to the human experience. In every culture throughout history, people have needed to make art: today, as in all periods, we need artists to reflect back at us contemporary life and to link us meaningfully to those who came before us. I want students to know that they can write and paint and compose and perform, that the arts belong to them.

Becker will have a much easier time bringing her voice to students thanks to the social media efforts planned by the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies Office. Chris Long, the Associate Dean for Liberal Arts Undergraduate Studies, says the department plans to take advantage of the popularity of new media to help introduce Becker to students. In addition to their blog, LAUS plans to use their podcast (Liberal Arts Voices), YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and two Twitter accounts (@LAUSDeanLong and @LAUSatPSU) both to expand the audience of Becker’s work and give the community a chance to discuss the themes (sexuality, memory, religion and the human relation to nature) her work brings forward.

Becker had her own ideas on using social media techniques:

Technology opens up fresh opportunities to connect with students, faculty, alums and the greater PSU community. During the 2010-2011 academic year, I’ll have a weekly (Monday) video broadcast called The Poet’s Perspective. Each week, I’ll read a poem and say a few words about its composition.

One thing is for sure: Thanks to social media, you’ll finally be able to know the meaning behind those poems you use to impress your girlfriend!

[Photo Credit: Andy Colwell for Penn State Live]

About the Author

John Dempsey

John is a Junior majoring in Journalism from Hazleton, PA. He is so awesome that sharks dedicate a week to him. Likes: Video games, vigilante justice, irony, talking bears, Burt Reynolds, El Chupacabra, coloring books, chainsaws, and Australians. Dislikes: Zombies, clowns, zombie clowns, turtleneck sweaters, Apple, poor mustache grooming, nuclear winter, Roman architecture, guacamole, robots, LCD TVs, the color yellow, Velcro, ceiling fans, sprinklers, tornadoes, Belgians, squat thrusts, and romantic comedies.


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