Research Takes Student, Professor to Northern Ireland for U2 Conference
Three years ago Nebraska Wesleyan University student Georgia Straka selected “The Music and Meaning of U2” as her Archway Seminar, her very first college course.
“I didn’t really know who U2 was prior to the class,” Straka admitted. “But I ended up learning so much and really appreciating the band.”
Her professor and long-time U2 fan, David Whitt, designed the Archway Seminar that would trace the band’s musical journey, examine U2’s diverse musical catalogue, and their social impact. Every first-year student enrolls in an Archway Seminar that is designed around a single topic and helps students transition to college and increase their academic skills.
“I had been thinking about teaching a U2 class for several years," said Whitt, a communication studies professor who credits U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” video from 1983 for igniting his fascination with the Irish band.
However, Whitt was fully aware that his students may not share the same obsession for the group, but he was eager to ignite their interest too.
And Whitt was successful.
Straka, a senior psychology major, recalled an assignment asking her to research a particular cause that U2 supports.
“Researching for my project as well as hearing other students’ reports really opened my eyes to how involved and active U2 is,” she said.
Last fall, Whitt and Straka submitted a proposal to attend the annual U2 Conference in Belfast. The conference brings together students, scholars, fans, critics, artists, authors and historians for furthering critical appreciation of the music, work, and influence of U2. Whitt and Straka proposed the idea of sharing the professor/student perspective on developing and executing a college course on U2.
Their proposal was accepted and in June, Whitt and Strake found themselves at Queens University thanks to funding provided through NWU’s Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant.
“This was a great learning experience for me,” said Straka. “It was such a friendly environment and the conference attendees were very welcoming and intrigued in what I wanted to share.”
And Straka was just as intrigued in what other speakers had to say, noting presentations on The Troubles that opened her eyes to the tragic conflict.
Now Whitt and Straka look ahead to igniting that same interest with NWU’s newest students. Whitt will again offer his “Music and Meaning of U2” Archway Seminar while Straka will serve as his student assistant.
“I’m excited to be his student assistant so I can share my experience with students and help them learn more about U2,” said Straka. “The majority of the students will already love U2’s music, but I hope they will love more than their music by the end of the course.”
Straka also hopes to lead by example.
“I want them to know that you can’t predict what opportunities will arise,” she said. “It’s important to have good relationships with your professors and look into the possibility of doing research with them.”
— Story by Quinn Hullett, public relations intern