At Luther College, learning happens everywhere, and sometimes in unconventional ways. In Andy Hageman's classroom, learning includes a journey into a galaxy far, far away that brings international and domestic students closer together.
Hageman, associate professor of English at Luther College, teaches a science fiction film course that allows students to explore specific areas of film and cultivate visual media knowledge. During the course, students analyze and compare two Star Wars films: "Star Wars: A New Hope" (1977) and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016).
"The combination of different exposures to Star Wars makes it a vibrant topic for discussion and it introduces some surprising perspectives," said Hageman. "In particular, international students connect the films to their own experiences of journeying far, far from home and navigating new cultures, relationships and values. Often they see Star Wars as a socially-shared story with immense power to connect and communicate."
These observations were recently featured in the article titled "Great Expectations" in Star Wars Insider.
One student, for whom English was her second language, noted the multilingual abilities of various characters, while another student, Tam Ta, from Vietnam, found the lack of language barriers between characters to be especially significant.
"It was really exciting to be able to offer my feelings and interpretations of Star Wars," said Ta. "I never thought deeply about my experience coming to the U.S. as it relates to the movies so it was nice to unfold my own thoughts, assumptions and expectations."
The personal experiences of international students sparked further conversation and connections between students. Many shared the common experience of engaging with popular media such as Star Wars as a way to prepare for American life. Chi Pham, also from Vietnam, said "as a person of color, and an international student, it has always been my interest to understand U.S. culture and how films such as Star Wars sparked discussion about culture and political movements. I felt honored and grateful to have my voice included in this project."
Others made historical connections and observed unique sociological dynamics. In the article, Warsan Yusuf '20 from Somalia also noted the significance of the relationships between droids and humans, prompting discussion surrounding the history of slavery and racism.
These observations and more can be found in the March 15 issue of Star Wars Insider, the official Star Wars magazine.
"When international students share expectations and experiences like this with American students, Star Wars helps build bridges," said Hageman. "Ultimately, this suggests that Star Wars is not a story about conflict but about drawing people together."
About Luther College
Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu.