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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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At Comic-Con Special Edition, 2021, Ajani Brown, course designer of Super Black - The Politics of Representation in Comics, takes a selfie with panelists Pam Jackson, and Beth Pollard. At Comic-Con Special Edition, 2021, Ajani Brown, course designer of Super Black - The Politics of Representation in Comics, takes a selfie with panelists Pam Jackson, and Beth Pollard.

Center for Comics Studies Promotes Scholarship Through Graphic Media

Supported by major grants, the new unit will unite educators and librarians across the world.
By Leslie L.J. Reilly

San Diego State University has created a permanent home for academic excellence and research in the study of comics. 

The Center for Comics Studies was co-founded by the scholars who developed the Comics Working Group, a group of cross-disciplinary faculty interested in teaching through comics, and later the Comics@SDSU initiative in 2019. 

Beth Pollard, professor of history, and Pamela Jackson, pop culture librarian and comic arts curator, co-lead the center. The University Library will serve as a founding partner, and the center will be housed in the College of Arts and Letters.

The center aligns with SDSU’s strategic plan goal of becoming a premier public research university: a new kind of Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).  

"The new center will provide an opportunity to shine a well-deserved spotlight on the innovative work faculty and students at SDSU are already doing with comics —  and to take that work to the next level,” Pollard said.

Jackson said the buzz surrounding comics on campus has been growing for years. “One of our overarching goals will be to empower students to envision a better world through dynamic curriculum, research, and creative opportunities with comics,” she said.

Pollard and Jackson’s work to expand the study of comics at SDSU includes the receipt of nearly $300,000 in grant funding to date from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

IMLS funding has been provided to bring together comics studies faculty, librarians, and other stakeholders to explore the development of a network of research libraries using comics to promote innovations in learning, scholarship, and community engagement, and to explore opportunities to promote the teaching of social justice issues through comics.

“IMLS National Leadership Grants promote new models of library service and support powerful partnerships across cultural heritage organizations,” said Scott Walter, SDSU Library dean. 

“Working together, libraries, archives, and museums have an enormous impact on community-centered teaching, learning, and scholarship,” Walter said. ”The connections our Comics@SDSU faculty have made across the educator, creator, and fan communities make San Diego and SDSU the perfect place for a Center for Comics Studies that will set the stage for national and international discussions of the role of comics, graphic novels, and other works in lifelong learning and scholarship in this fast-growing field.”

NEH funding assists in the development of ten new courses to deepen and expand the comics curriculum, courses that will populate a proposed certificate in comics studies, and supports new workshops that bring scholars to campus.

With the grassroots Comics Working Group and Comics@SDSU, Pollard and Jackson have already expanded outreach beyond SDSU, mentored student researchers, and helped establish a student club.

“Having a Center for Comics Studies at SDSU has been a long-time dream,” said Jackson. “Now a reality, this helps formalize SDSU's commitment to the study of comics and gives Comics@SDSU a home base.” 

“It has been a career highlight to see our students' passion for the graphic medium grow as we offer more opportunities for student engagement and increase the number of classes that teach comics,” Jackson added. “I envision opportunities for faculty, students, comics creators, publishers and fans to come together to build community around the study of comics.” 

College of Arts and Letters Dean Monica J. Casper calls the center “an obvious next step in the evolution of SDSU's collaborative engagement with comics – from a world-class collection to faculty shared interests through Comics@SDSU to the Big Ideas.” 

“Elizabeth Pollard and Pam Jackson have been exceptional stewards of this work, as well as thoughtful, generous, and visionary collaborators,” Casper said. “I am grateful for Dean Walter's partnership, and I look forward to mutually ensuring a very bright future for comics studies at SDSU."