Learn more about Integrated Scholar Robert Weiner, in this question-and-answer session.
My research objectives consist of demonstrating how popular culture is social history. It's an axe I've continued to grind throughout my whole career. Comics, novels, films, music, video games, social networks, fashion, electronic devices etc. can be just as significant as world events. They tell us about who we are at any given moment in time. For example, the Beatles certainly changed the world in ways that are still being felt. The traditional curriculum remains vitally important to
become educated adults in our modern society. However, it is also imperative that universities offer courses in popular culture such as videogames, film, sequential art and modern fashion. Students want to take these courses and they make money for the university too, which is an added bonus. It helps the university system continue to remain relevant. Now that does not mean that you dumb down the content. You can have a course say about Lady Gaga or Call of Duty and their impact on our culture that is just as rigorous as any other course.
My other research objective is to show that academic librarians and archivists are scholars just like those in other university departments. It's been my goal to be a high profile example of a librarian who is an integrated scholar.
My major areas of study are sequential art, popular music and film.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
I want to inspire students and researchers to follow their research goals no matter what they are. It is possible to be multidisciplinary and integrated within your research. Make your research conform to how you want it to fit within your discipline, but keep the spark for knowledge alive within yourself.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
Lots of service projects and here are a few! For more than 10 years I've taught classes for the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI). This is a great way for faculty to give back to our community and the OLLI members are most grateful for the time and effort provided for them by those who teach with Osher. In addition, I often host movies at the Alamo Drafthouse and have for many years worked with the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts on various film events and with the Flatland Film Festival. I've also worked with RSVP/Seniors are Special on hosting film events for them and do other community service events when I can.
For the last five years I've a been member of the judging committee for the Peter C. Rollins Book Award where we have three categories for best academic volume:
- Film and Television History
- Popular Culture
- Sequential Art/Animation Studies
I serve as an area chair for the Southwest Popular Culture Association.
Like most academics, I also serve on the editorial boards of a number of journals including the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics.
What are you currently working on?
I have a book co-edited with my Texas Tech colleague and friend Dr. Robert Peaslee, "The Joker: A Serious Study of the Clown Prince of Crime," from University of Mississippi Press. It's the first published academic study of this supervillain. Several other projects include a forthcoming book chapter looking at comics and education that I co-authored with University of Illinois Library Science Professor Dr. Carol Tilley for the "Routledge Companion to Comics" and an article on teratological humanity as portrayed in the HBO show "Carnivale
" published in March.
Where do you find your inspiration?
The desire to know and be interested in the world and what it has to offer is my inspiration. I realize that I really know nothing at all each day. Sometimes it is overwhelming to be honest, but the drive to contribute to the body of knowledge, create and make a difference in some way. There is ALWAYS something new to learn in every area -- always some new bit of data that is unique waiting to be discovered.
I also find inspiration from my students. The ability to make a positive difference in their lives is a gratifying experience. I love it.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?
An Integrated Scholar does not have to sacrifice their family and personal life completely, but it is important to work hard. If you have the passion combined with the drive then things should fall into place. Make sure that you leave room for yourself too. The other thing is to have good mentors within your department and university. I would not be here without the great colleagues who encouraged and mentored me here at Texas Tech. It's also useful to find
an academic partner that you work well with. I think good and solid collaboration is a key to a successful academic career. Find someone that you work well with and keep that collaboration. It will serve you both well.
It's important to have a passion for teaching despite difficulties encountered with the pressure to publish and achieve tenure. Students can tell whether someone disdains teaching. The desire for research and contributing to the body of knowledge and finding that balance between one's teaching, research, and service is a difficult thing to do, but it's not impossible.
Rob Weiner is humbled and honored to be the first faculty member from the Texas Tech library to be bestowed with the title Integrated Scholar. In addition to his duties as the library liaison to the College of Visual and Performing Arts and Film Studies, Rob teaches classes related to popular culture for the Honors College. Rob comes from an academic family as both his parents were Texas Tech computer science professors. His father, Leonard, helped found the computer science department. Rob is the author of "Marvel Graphic Novels: An Annotated Guide" and has edited or co-edited more than 10 books and published in wide variety of journals including the International Journal of Comic Art, Journal of Pan African Studies, Shofar and ImageText. He has been in a number of films and documentaries including Lubbock Lights and on A&E's Biography. He also helps rescue and save domesticated prairie dogs.