Getting To Know Our Faculty: Siyuan Yin

August 22, 2022

Siyuan Yin, assistant professor in the School of Communication, is originally from China. She did her undergraduate at Peking University, where she majored in Journalism and Philosophy. Since then, she has developed a keen interest in media, culture, politics, and social change. Her interest in critical theories and research later drove her to pursue graduate school in the states. During her master's studies at the University of Illinois, she began to explore culture study, media study, and feminist theories. These are the main research areas she continued to pursue in her doctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Dr. Yin's current scholarship engages three main research areas: culture studies, feminist media studies, and political economy of communication. With a focus on media and cultural politics and practices, she studies the well-being of internal and transnational migrant workers and their labour activism, as well as gendered popular discourse and feminist movements.

We sat down with Dr. Yin to get to know her more.

Why did you choose this profession? Did you always know you wanted to be in academia?

I found my passion in academic research back in college when I was first introduced to a broad range of social theories. I am particularly intrigued by critical theories that help us better understand the complex social realities and the embedded power dynamics. Academia has always been appealing to me as a profession of knowledge production.

What is the proudest achievement of your career so far?

Honestly, I do not think I have made any impressive achievements so far. But sometimes I receive emails from colleagues and students, most of whom I do not know personally, saying they have read my work and found it very interesting and inspiring. These are among the most fulfilling moments in my career. It's not really about gaining reputation or fame, rather, it indicates that my work is meaningful and it does speak to some people. These are the moments when I feel most proud and motivated.

Tell us about the courses you're teaching this fall.

In the upcoming fall semester, I am teaching one undergraduate class, CMNS 310: Midernity and Media, and one graduate class, CMNS 840: Political Economy of Communication. CMNS 310 introduces social theories to students to examine media and cultural politics in relation to "modernity" and "postmodernity" in national and transnational contexts. The main goal is to critically assess the development of capitalist modern society, which entwines long-standing unequal power structures, such as patriarchy and heterosexuality.

CMNS 840 is a seminar designed to enable students working at an MA or PhD level to explore critical political economy as a key appraoch to examining media and communication systems, industries, and practices in varied national and transnational contexts.

What is your favourite thing about teaching?

I consider teaching an indispensable channel to communicate with students and equip them with knowledge and skills that can help them better understand and engage the world. My favourite thing about teaching is helping students better grasp the social reality in their everyday life and imagine possible changes that could be made. Learning at college should be one of the most important opportunities for students to develop a habitus of learning, thinking, and imagining.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like traveling and reading novels, especially detective fiction. And during breaks, I enjoy spending time with family and friends.

How have your undergrad and grad courses helped shape your success today?

I would not say I have achieved any "success," but I am very grateful to have met many brilliant professors with whom I took classes and from whom I have learned tremendously during my undergraduate and graduate studies, professors Yang Boxu, Wu Jing, Yang Lihua, and Tong Xin at PKU, professors Kevin Barnhurst, Judith Gardiner, Zizi Papacharissi, and Elaine Yuan at UIC, and professors Martha Fuentes-Bautista, Jonathan Corpus Ong, Lisa Henderson, Claudio Moreira, Sut Jhally, Mari Castañeda, Emily West, Laura Briggs, Ann Ferguson, Kirsten Leng, and Miliann Kang at UMASS, to just name a few. Their rigorous scholarship, caring about students, and inspirational personality have very much shaped my understanding of being a scholar, teacher, and mentor.

What strategies did you use to succeed in grad school?

Again, I do not think I "succeeded" in grad school. Rather, I would say I survived grad school. It is my friends, mentors, and parents who have accompanied me to go through the journey and without them, graduate school would have been almost impossible to complete. I am extremely fortunate to receive unconditional support from my loved ones. Graduate school can be a lonely experience, but the chats, hangouts, laughs, and cries with the people who understand and care about you makes you feel like you aren't alone.

What has been your favourite SFU memory so far?

SFU is a great place with so many amazing people. My colleagues at the School of Communication and other departments are all doing fantastic and important work, and it is a very supportive collegial community. I don't have a specific memory per say, but I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to teach our students who are diligent, smart, lovely, and full of so much potential.

What is the best thing about your profession?

The best thing about academia is being able to dedicate yourself to learning and producing the knowledge you're passionate about. There will always be many difficulties and obstacles, but you can get a sense of autonomy and resilience in the process of doing work that you belive in.

What advice do you have for students, undergrads, and grads?

My advice is to explore your passion. By passion, I mean: find something you really want to devote your liftime to. This requires you to constantly ask yourself some essential questions: What is your expectation of a "good life?" Do you really care about "being successful" in a normative sense? What is your own definition of happiness? Is there something you really want to do regardless of all the failures you may encounter? College and graduate school are invaluable periods when students can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and get prepared for their future endeavors.

What project are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a SSHRC-funded project on the livelihoods of migrant workers in Canada during Covid-19. The project regards the pandemic as a critial moment to explore the possibilities of mobilizing public recognition of and support for migrant workers' rights and equality. I approach Canada as an exemplary case for developed countries where low-income economic sectors heavily rely on temporary migrant workers.

What motivates you every morning when you wake up?

Breakfast or lunch? Haha, kidding. I think it's the work that I am doing, the people I love, and the world I want to explore.


Learn more about Professor Siyuan Yin here.