The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Swiftology to enter the honors curriculum

A new course analyzing the pop sensation’s music will take Taylor Swift into the UWEC classroom
The poster advertising the Swiftology course preview event from March 11, 2024. During this event, interested students could talk to Jacob Stansberry, who will teach Swiftology as his first classroom course, about the course alongside other provided activities. (Image used with permission from Heather Fielding)

​The University Honors Program at UW-Eau Claire is introducing a new course on Taylor Swift for the Fall 2024 semester.

​Swiftology, a course taught by LTS training consultant and coordinator Jacob Stansberry, will take a philosophical approach to Swift’s music, using its lyrical content as a conversation starter to discuss “some of the biggest questions facing this generation and the struggles we all experience as human beings,” according to the Fall 2024 University Honors Program course catalog.

“The first 11 weeks of the class will be building this list of values or themes that come up from Swift’s music,” Stansberry said. “Then we will shift to ‘if these are her values, if these are her ideas, how do we view her philosophically as a role model or as a person of influence? Does she deserve the place in society that we’ve given her?’”

Stansberry, with his background in philosophy and theology, had initially proposed a philosophy through film class to Heather Fielding, director of the University Honors Program, among others within the program. During a series of meetings between Stansberry and the Honors Program, though, a new vision for the course took shape.

“In our conversation, [Fielding] somewhat jokingly asked how I felt about Taylor Swift, and I told her that I actually am a fan,” Stansberry said. “She explained again that people had been asking [for a Taylor Swift course] and I said, ‘you know, give me the weekend to think about it and put together a proposal of sorts and then I’ll send it to you and we can see what you think.’”

​Stansberry said with how prevalent Taylor Swift has been in both the American and global public conscience, studying Swift and her music is as important now as it has ever been.

​“So, I’m a millennial, obviously our students are Gen Z, I have a child who’s Gen Alpha, and [Swift] has become the voice of not just my generation,” Stansberry said. “I think in a lot of ways she’s the voice of, or she’s the most identifiable character for people in Gen Z, and I think we’re starting to see that being potentially true for Gen Alpha also.”

​Having been a full-time pastor for 15 years, Stansberry used his background in religion and theology to talk about how our society has “worshiped [Taylor Swift] to an extent” and the discussions that should be had about that.

​“I think it’s really important that we ask some of those big questions of ‘is it good for us as everyday people to place anyone on this kind of pedestal?’” Stansberry said. “My hope with this class is to help our students think critically about ‘can I love her music and can I admire her business savvy and can I think that, maybe, it’s not okay to fly private 34 miles away?’”

​Despite that Stansberry said Swiftology is “not a music class,” that hasn’t prevented students from showing interest in the course.

​“Honestly, I heard there was going to be a Taylor Swift course and I got excited,” said Samara Gries, a second-year hydrogeology student and co-president of Honors Student Council. “There tends to be more to her songs the further you dive into them, so that would be really cool to analyze her music like that.”

​Megan Eilers, a second-year biochemistry and molecular biology student and fellow member of Honors Student Council, shared a similar sentiment as to why Swiftology interested her.

​“It’s not a course that’s about music,” Eilers said. “It focuses on the lyrics but also on the symbolism and the cultural impact [of Taylor Swift], and I think that there’s a lot in her music and there’s a lot that you could look at as time changes because she’s been writing for so long.”

​While both Gries and Eilers said they thought Swiftology was a great fit as an Honors course given the course’s goals and the specificity of its subject matter, they also said they would like to see the course branch away from Honors in some capacity.

​“I think it could go along with gender studies or potentially philosophy in the future,” Eilers said. “But I’m not sure how many of the major requirements it would meet. Maybe as, like, an elective.”

​Registration for the Fall 2024 semester opened April 1 for University Honors students.

Coleman can be reached at [email protected].

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