Instructor Spotlight: Eden Simko and Meagan Matt

The ExCollege caught up with Eden Simko and Meagan Matt, the Peer Teachers behind EXP-0055: Telenovelas: Identity, Culture, and Media
Eden Simko and Meagan Matt

Tell us about yourselves and what inspired you to teach this course

We always wanted to watch a telenovela together, and we had both been separately thinking about applying to teach in the ExCollege. When we talked about our ideas, telenovelas came up as a subject that we were both excited to learn more about. Teaching about them in the ExCollege seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn more ourselves and to invite others to learn with us!

What has the experience of teaching and designing this course taught you?

The process of turning an idea into a syllabus, a syllabus into lesson plans, and lesson plans into a successful classroom session requires a lot of patience, creativity and adaptability. We both have a renewed appreciation for the work our professors do. This process also continually reminds us of how much we don’t know and how much there is still to learn, which is so exciting! There’s always room for new voices that change the way we see things, both inside and outside of the classroom.

You chose 3 telenovelas to watch this semester. Which shows did you choose and why?

This semester, we are watching La ley secreta (Undercover Law), Nuevo Rico, Nuevo Pobre (Newly Rich, Newly Poor), and Jane the Virgin. A major factor in our choice actually ended up being issues around media access and copywriting, so our search ended up being limited to shows available on Netflix. This also helped us make the class more accessible due to the availability of English subtitles. From there, we chose shows that showcased different subgenres, tropes, and patterns within the broader category of telenovelas. There are so many more shows we still wish we had room for!

What influence of telenovelas do you see in popular culture and current TV trends? How has culture influenced telenovelas in the past decade?

Telenovelas have an astounding reach and influence. Not only do they directly impact everyday life in many countries in Latin America, but we are seeing their influence spread to nations like Ghana and Russia as our world becomes increasingly interconnected.

We are also seeing that culture and media are changing together.  In the last ten to fifteen years, the face of telenovelas is changing with an increased push for representation.

What do you hope that students will take away from your course?

Our central goal is that students will leave the course with an appreciation for the genre and with a nuanced perspective on the ways telenovelas influence culture, both positively and negatively. Some students in the class have never seen a telenovela, others grew up watching them; we hope that no matter a person’s prior familiarity, they enjoy the shows we’ve chosen and leave the class bringing a more critical eye to the media they consume.

Eden Simko is a senior majoring in International Literary and Visual Studies (ILVS) and Environmental Studies. Meagan Matt is a senior majoring in International Relations and Spanish.