It All Started at Flagler: Alum Pursues Her Ph.D. and Passions in Scotland

February 10, 2022
In 2012, Flagler alum Stephanie Garrison was a history major studying abroad in the UK. She traveled around England, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland with her peers for two weeks, taking in the rich history across the pond. Of all the places they visited, Stephanie instantly fell in love with Scotland and knew she had to return.

This trip would inspire her to move to Scotland and begin her work exploring Scottish culture.

She studied Scottish History abroad for her senior year at the University of Stirling, where she later achieved her MSc in Environment, Heritage, and Policy in 2015. Stephanie then earned a scholarship to earn her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen in 2017.

Stephanie’s curiosity surrounding how the past manifested in popular culture in Scotland led her to focus her doctoral thesis on Outlander fan groups and 21st-century pop-culture media fandoms.

“From the research, I did with Outlander fans, these fans learned new skills, confronted fears, learned to grieve, became activists, and formed communities that were inspired by their passion for this particular media. That was an incredible thing to explore,” Stephanie said.

Her thesis inspired her Ph.D. academic supervisor to investigate media tourism in Scotland further. This work resulted in a partnership between Scotland and the EU Horizon funded project SPOT, which examines various forms of cultural tourism across Europe. As a result, Stephanie was asked to expand the research she began while pursuing her doctoral degree.

As a researcher for SPOT, Stephanie has been able to continue her investigation into the ways media can impact tourism and communities on a personal level.

Stephanie said, “I was interested in the project because it was partly a continuation of my Ph.D. project, and I was able to pick up the threads of storytelling, fandom, and travel and explore it further.”

Her work on SPOT has also allowed her to develop a deeper connection to Scottish culture and further discover her passion for history.

“I like working with people, and this project allows me to build connections to communities, to people, who have been directly impacted by some form of popular culture and see how they benefit (or not!) from these connections to places where they live,” Stephanie added.

Although Stephanie graduated in 2014, she credits Flagler for her appreciation and understanding of history.

Stephanie said, “There is no doubt in my mind that Flagler prepared me for subsequent studies. The courses I took in pursuit of my history degree shaped my interest in the subjects that would make up my Ph.D. research - one of those was media. I remember vividly one of the courses I took with Dr. Butler - the ‘History of Rock and Roll.’ This course helped me understand how transformational media was and continues to be, from being a source of activism, a way to share a collective history, a form of storytelling, and a source of inspiration for people.”

She continued, “My time at Flagler ingrained in me a passion for history, provided me with an understanding of how history is shaped and molded, and instilled a respect for the power of what is essentially storytelling.”

Stephanie will continue her work on SPOT through the end of December 2022.