4/24/2014 4:42:34 AM

Siena Success: Miguel Franco '13

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

By Sarah Vistocco '13

Newly minted Siena College graduate Miguel Franco ’13 thought outside the box when deciding what to research for his Honors Thesis. As a student in the J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Honors Program, Franco produced an in-depth scholarly research paper on a topic that, to the casual observer, may seem a little off beat. The religious studies major, multicultural studies minor and hip-hop music fan spent the past three semesters combining two personal areas of interest in his paper titled, “Rap’s Religious Sensibilities: A Window into the Soul of the Oppressed.”

“His work has the potential to open up new scholarly conversations regarding religious rhetoric in hip-hop music, a subject that is often overlooked by hip-hop scholars and historians,” said Todd Snyder, Ph.D., assistant professor of English.

Snyder had a profound impact on Franco’s work. Franco took Snyder’s Rhetoric(s) of Hip-Hop Culture class and it became a conduit for the academic content he needed to support his thesis. “A lot of what I wrote for this class ended up in my thesis,” said Franco. His work demonstrates how the worlds of rap and religion are not as separate as one might think.

Franco’s research focused on the historical foundations of the African-American community and its influence on the art created in the rap community from a religious perspective. “I want to show how the historical context and socioeconomic context help shape those type of stories you cling to,” said Franco.

“Miguel has a remarkably synthetic intelligence. He sees exciting, important connections among seemingly disparate ideas and practices,” said Professor of Religious Studies Tom Dickens, Ph.D., who served as Franco’s mentor throughout the writing process.

In April, Franco presented his work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The conference allowed students to share their research with peers and professionals from all fields. Four other Siena College students also attended the conference. Their trips were funded through Siena’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity.

At the conference, Franco played a segment of Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” music video to connect the content of his paper to the music he studied. “I played the video (and) then I showed them how I dissect … how he’s using religious rhetoric to push a religious agenda or talk about the divine through his understanding of it,” said Franco.

“One of the very basic reasons scholars and students do research in the first place is to share what they find and see what others think,” said Director of the Standish Honors Program Lois Daly Ph.D. “Miguel’s work brings together two very valuable aspects of human life: religion and music, and he does this in a way that most people will not have thought about.”

Snyder believes that Franco’s work has the ability to create a dialogue in a growing field of study. “Anyone who reads Miguel’s work will soon find that hip-hop is a subject worthy of scholarly attention,” Snyder said.

Click here to see more about Franco’s research and the Standish Honors Program.


Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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