Alfred University News

Alfred University History students make their mark nationally, locally with fresh takes on history,  pop culture

 Alfred University History student Shannon Yocum’s essay “Female Artists that Pushed Gender/Social Norms of Fashion through Music Videos of the 1980’s” recently won the Best Paper award at the Western New York/Central New York Phi Theta Conference held at Le Moyne College earlier this month.

Yocum, who also works as secretary in the Division of Physics and Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, examined how pop music stars Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and Annie Lennox challenged traditional gender and social norms through their clothing and additional semiotic details. Lauper, Madonna, and Lennox also were able to exploit the new MTV medium as a venue that could widely disseminate video recordings of their performances.

There may have been earlier female pop musicians and performers who achieved iconic status; Yocum mentioned Janis Joplin as an example. However, those performers presented themselves publicly within traditional gender roles. Lauper, Madonna, and Lennox arranged their appearances, particularly on MTV videos, to disrupt and push back against those roles.

Following Yocum’s appearance at Le Moyne College, she read her paper last week at the Kanestio Historical Society, joining two other Alfred University History students, Kevin Earley and Will Leuck, who read papers they had written in History Professor Mallory Szymanski’s Pop Culture in U.S. History class.

Earley, an avid hockey player, read his essay focusing on the ages-long hockey rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and the role of Buffalo Sabers hockey players in that rivalry. Leuck read an essay focusing on the musical evolution of rapper Biggie, known also as The Notorious B.I.G. A native of Long Island. Leuck said he grew up enjoying the bounce and sharp edges of rap music. 

The Alfred University History students appeared April 18 at the Kanestio Historical Society, which hosted University History students last year. The students’ April 18 appearance in Canisteo drew a standing-room-only audience at the Historical Society headquarters on Canisteo’s Main Street.