by Emma Jean, Peak Associate
Name: Stacey Copeland
Department affiliation: School of Communication
Hometown: Barrie, Ontario
Occupation: Full-time PhD candidate, supervising podcast producer
Fun fact: Copeland is a huge fan of the Xena Warrior Princess franchise. “So campy, so queer. Lucy Lawless is an absolute icon.” — Stacey Copeland
From working the ins and outs of community radio and podcasting to engaging in the study of sound through her PhD with the School of Communication, Stacey Copeland is no stranger to exploring sound. After co-founding a feminist radio program during her undergrad, diving into sound research, teaching during her master’s, and becoming a podcast producer and sound archivist in her PhD, there’s little ground that Copeland hasn’t covered in her academic career. In this week’s SFYou, we sat down over Zoom to talk about how feminist circles and research connect to her wide-ranging career, how teaching acts as both an education tool and a sounding board, and what all this leads her to next.
How did you get here?
A career in research wasn’t what Copeland pictured for herself when she began her undergraduate degree at Ryerson University, but it soon emerged as a way to pursue a variety of her passions.
“Back then, I wanted to make music videos, record artists, and work in the music industry; that was kind of the focus,” she described from her sunny office in Toronto. “Then, as I got into my later years, I got really interested in radio production and worked in radio production.”
It wasn’t until her master’s degree that she dove into the academic side of her field. “That’s when I started getting really into theory and started deep-diving into reading, fell in love with sound studies and cultural theory and ended up really wanting to do a PhD,” she said. “I saw that this could be a career, to keep doing research, and I could keep making media as part of my research.”
Life as an academic
As a full-time PhD candidate with the School of Communication, Copeland spends most of her time working with sound both academically and professionally. Most of that ends up with her doctoral project on historical lesbian radio stations in Canada.
“Right now, I’m interviewing a bunch of different folks who were part of two different historical lesbian radio stations in Canada: the Lesbian Show on Vancouver co-op radio, which started in the ‘70s and went until the 2010s [ . . . ] and Dykes on Mykes, which was out of Montreal, started in the ‘80s and continued into the 2010s as well. So I’m interested in kind of exploring what lesbian and queerness sounds like through audio media.” Copeland is also interested in contemporary queerness, spending time looking at modern queer and lesbian feminist podcasts.
That interest for how sound can represent a multitude of identities, ideas, and work is also found in the work that Copeland does “for making money outside of being a student.” This is done through her role as a supervisory producer of the SpokenWeb podcast, an audio documentary podcast project spearheaded in part by SFU publishing assistant professor (and fellow podcaster) Hannah McGregor. Copeland describes the work as a collaboration between poetry and literary archivists and sound producers like herself who wish to make it more widely available.
Life on the airwaves
Copeland’s academic focus on feminist community radio doesn’t just exist on paper. She was a co-founder of FemRadio, a feminist radio collective on Ryerson University’s campus radio station CJRU alongside Emily Joveski, whom Copeland made sure to shout out in our correspondence. She noted the goals of the program were to “showcase feminist folks, activists, artists that were making cool work and doing awesome things all over Canada and bring it to the Toronto community.”
“That was really my first taste of making very boldly, unapologetically feminist work, because my undergraduate degree and then working in radio — I worked for Indie 88 which was more of a traditional music station — so FemRadio was the first time I got to really play around with what it meant to make feminist audio work, and that I have definitely brought into my PhD work.” That’s not to mention the SpokenWeb podcast, of which Copeland says its feminist production staff strongly drew her to the project in the first place.
The next step on the media side of Copeland’s work seems to be Amplify, a podcast network aimed at bringing peer-reviewed research in podcast form to the public and of which she is credited as a supervising producer and project manager, but little detail is being revealed just yet.
Life as a teacher
When Copeland took on a production assistant role in Ryserson’s radio and television arts program, her academic career and interests started to shift.
She discovered that she really enjoys working with students to create their own media and said that is what gave her the “teaching bug.” She continued, “That’s why I went into my master’s program, because I thought, ‘well, I could make media and teach media and live that life, which would be great!’”
Copeland brought that teaching bug to SFU, where she has taught classes on popular music studies as well as gender, sexuality, and technology, infusing them with her own research on queer feminism and Black feminism. “I love teaching. It’s really great because not only do I get to talk about things that I’m passionate about myself [ . . . ] but I also get to connect with [ . . . ] undergraduate students who are also interested and passionate about this work.”
Life after SFU
It can often feel inconsiderate to ask someone to make predictions about their future, but Copeland was prepared to take a run at what hers could be. “I have to often think about this,” she smiled wryly. “A couple different scenarios that I’ve thought about would be getting a faculty job teaching in a media or communications program, but one that allows media production work as part of my research because that would be the dream, and teaching students as well. Bringing the duality of making work and researching it together in practice.
“Another option would be doing a postdoc, a smaller project like what I’m doing with Amplify Podcast Network or with SpokenWeb where I get to do really cool podcasts and really cool media work with other media scholars for the next couple years and just write about it. That would also be a really cool thing to do.” No matter what path forms, it seems evident that Copeland will continue to push the barriers for which audio can be utilized.