Even academics at Penn aren’t exempt from the frenzy in anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit. A number of professors are integrating pope-themed essays and field trips into their classes.
“Their lives are being disrupted by the pope being here. It lets them analyze something that’s happening in real time,” Communications professor Kathleen Jamieson said. In her “Introduction to Political Communication” course, Jamieson assigned her students an essay examining how news coverage of the pope differs in liberal and conservative news outlets.
“It’s a good assignment because it involves analysis in real time of a potentially consequential event,” she said. “It’s relevant to politics because it sheds light on the differences in the ways that media coverage frames and sets agendas on topics of political significance.”
Jamieson said she expects Pope Francis to talk about abortion, immigration, gay marriage and climate change, and that his words will directly inform voting behavior.
Although Pope Francis has political clout, he is first and foremost a religious figure. Religious Studies professor Annette Reed will also tie his visit into her freshman seminar called “Making Meaning in Local, Global, and Historical Perspectives," which she co-teaches with Religious Studies professor Benjamin Fleming based out of Fisher Hassenfeld.
“Our concept was to try to think about how individuals and communities find meaning,” Reed said. “Studies have shown that often for people, in terms of mental health, what’s more important is not what makes you happy, but what you find meaningful.”
Reed will focus on taking advantage of the exhibits around the city set up for the tourists flocking to see the pope , like the Vatican Splendors exhibit at the Franklin Institute, and Sacred Stories: The World’s Religious Traditions, which is held at the Free Library. Sacred Stories honors the Dalai Lama’s visit as well. Religious studies professor Anthea Butler will also lead Reed’s class on a trip to see relics, which are the remains of a Catholic saint, at St. John’s the Evangelist Church.
“These relics are one of the things the pope himself will go see,” Reed said, adding that they are “a distinctly American set of relics.”
Riepe House Dean and Anthropology professor Marilynne Diggs-Thompson teaches a class where the pope’s visit is even more quintessential. Her class “Culture, Consumption and Production in the Global Marketplace” focuses on global cities as consumer products. It explores how, as cities have started to become “ranked” on a global scale, they compete to host Olympics, Superbowls and other large events.
“Starting with the first Made in America concert, Philly’s kind of been proving itself as a major event-worthy global city,” Diggs said.
Diggs wants her students to analyze how well the city of Philadelphia pulls off the pope’s visit.
“Let’s look at all the different fronts — transportation, security, crowd control and restaurants,” she said. “We’re going to give [Philadelphia] a report card, and score it based on different components.”
She also wants her students to examine what their report cards mean for Philadelphia’s ranking as a global city, and the likelihood it will draw big events in the future.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.