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New ‘Students Teaching Students’ Program Brings Kanye To The Classroom

The works of “The College Dropout”-era Kanye West will be taught at Penn State next semester.

Students Teaching Students (STS) is a student-led program founded by junior values-based product design major Michael Miller and sophomore economics and history major Josie Krieger. Inspired by the success of student-initiated course programs at universities such as Maryland, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, STS equips and enables undergraduate students to teach an official Penn State course under the guidance of a faculty member.

“Whether it’s prepping to take the LSAT or exploring hip-hop, we all learn differently in different contexts,” Miller said. “Students Teaching Students leverages that to benefit students.”

The courses offered range from one-to-three credits and focus on peer-to-peer collaboration and fostering student engagement.

“At the heart of a university is the ability to learn from each other’s experiences and knowledge,” Krieger said. “That’s what this program is all about — students teaching students.”

Only two courses — CAS 197c and HHCD 296/496 — have been announced, but classes on subjects such as LSAT test prep, humane economics, and implicit bias in the healthcare industry are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

CAS 197c, titled Criticism of Kanye, will use musical artist Kanye West as the primary case study for an in-depth literary and cultural look into hip-hop music. HHCD 296/496 will focus on digital product design and development.

The instructors of CAS 197c, Bisman “Biz” Deol and Cory Steinle, two life-long hip-hop heads and Kanye stans said they felt inspired to create a space where students like them could partake in analyzing, conceptualizing, and appreciating the culture and music at another level.

Steinle was inspired to create a course about analyzing Kanye’s work after taking several rhetorical and literary theory classes.

“One of the consistent themes is the universality of these theories — some of the implications they have on other artifacts and art forms, like hip-hop music,” Steinle said. “These ideas don’t just apply to books and speeches. And to me, your everyday listener can really learn a lot from literary and rhetorical theory and enrich their appreciation for the artists and the music.”

Deol, who has been an avid Kanye fan since he was very young due to his older sister’s influence, explained that his love and passion for hip-hop stems from an equal passion for the subject matters often utilized in hip-hop.

These themes are often seen with socially conscious rappers such as West and his contemporaries Common, Mos Def, and Lupe Fiasco.

“For me, a lot of my interests and passions lie within critical and philosophical analysis, specifically of racial discourse in America,” Deol said. “You can’t talk about hip-hop without talking about that exact topic.”

Deol and Steinle both agreed that when it came time to choose a hip-hop artist to focus a class on, there was no alternative choice.

“Kanye is this really unique individual that has somehow transcended not only hip hop, but music, art, and culture,” Deol said. “He has existed in almost every major era of hip-hop and continues to be this unstoppable creative who is unapologetically himself. There is no better person to use as a case study when digging into the nuances of hip hop.”

The class will focus on specific projects and cultural moments that define Kanye’s many evolutions as a musical artist. West consistently changes his sound entirely from project to project. Steinle said he hopes that by the end of the course, students will be able to apply the literary and rhetorical tools discussed to three full-length albums.

Students Teaching Students is seeking students interested in designing and teaching their own course for Fall 2020. To become a student instructor, students must draft a syllabus and apply it on the STS website.

Accepted students work alongside their faculty advisors to fully develop their courses, each receiving specialized training in course design and instruction from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence.

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About the Author

Matthew Ogden

Matthew Ogden is a senior double majoring in Marketing and Journalism. He resides in South Jersey and is the cohost of Onward State's podcast, Podward State, and the blog's preeminent expert on Kanye West. Email him your favorite Spotify playlists to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MattOgden98.

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