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UW Bothell lecturer, students collaborate with EMP on “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary celebration

University of Washington Bothell - Contributed Art
University of Washington Bothell
— image credit: Contributed Art

When a student decides to attend UW Bothell, chances are they will find there’s a little something for everyone, especially when it comes to opportunities to work side by side with faculty. Often, the opportunity grows out of a class assignment or presentation. Occasionally, the topics seem a bit out of this world like the issues in media studies class titled “The World of Doctor Who,” taught by School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences lecturer Wanda Gregory.

Gregory says the spring 2013 class, designed to honor the 50th anniversary of the popular British science fiction series “Doctor Who”, explored numerous topics, “We looked at various themes, including the show as a reflection on the changing face of television, the Doctor as a mythological figure, concepts of morality and ethics, death and regeneration,” she says. “We also discussed the depiction of gender roles in the classic and reboot of the series, as well as the transmedia elements used to expand the world and engage its ever growing global fan base.”

The class format was rich with lectures, discussions of episodes, readings, and guest speakers including Louise Jameson, the actress who played Leela from the classic series. Gregory was thrilled with students’ analysis and presentations of the various themes and series Doctors.

Simone de Rochefort and Elyssa Grant took the “Doctor Who” class and their work resulted in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with Gregory and Seattle’s Experience Music Project (EMP) on their “Doctor Who” Celebration. The event, complete with more than 1,000 costumed Whovians, a UW Bothell-constructed Tardis photo booth, games, trivia, and classic episode screenings, also features spotlight talks curated by Gregory and fellow Whovian Brooks Peck, EMP’s curator.

Liz Young, audience development programs producer at EMP, says UW Bothell’s participation is key to the event’s success, “I am so grateful to have a Whovian academic curate this event with our team.” She said, “We have been delighted by the amount of enthusiasm and support that UW Bothell has brought to this engagement. This is a testament to the community and creativity over at the UW Bothell campus.”

Although de Rochefort graduated in spring 2013 with a degree in culture, literature and the arts, she jumped at the chance to represent UW Bothell at the celebration by giving a talk on LGBTQ characters in Doctor Who, and the accomplishments that Doctor Who has made in its portrayal of queer characters, “I’m so glad that Wanda thought of me when she was putting together this panel,” she says. “It means a lot to be able to team up with one of my professors to present a topic that I researched extensively for her class. This is the kind of opportunity that really makes college meaningful.”

Grant is a senior majoring in media and communications. She’s taken several of Gregory’s courses and, as part of her independent study, was invited to participate in the initial meeting with EMP. “Working with Wanda and the EMP is a very unusual opportunity for a student,” she explains. “But I think this is one of the many neat aspects to UW Bothell. The university offers a very unique experience to the students as we are given the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and students in a very natural way, partially due to the small class sizes and largely due to the supportive faculty on campus.” Grant says Gregory’s creatively designed courses became some of her highlight experiences at UW Bothell as she gained understanding in how to network, take constructive feedback from professionals, and dissect media, such as “Doctor Who,” in a critical manner.

“It’s exciting to give the students exposure and to have them present to an audience like this,” says Gregory while pondering which costumes to wear at the celebration. “It’s also exciting for this non-traditional audience of fans and curators to see what UW Bothell is all about.

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