McNair Scholar Studies the Intersection of Music and Culture

Ruben Flores is a Music and International Studies major, and also a McNair Scholar who conducts research on music and culture. I had the opportunity to chat with him about his research and the role TRIO and the McNair Scholars Program has played for him.


The TRIO programs assist undergraduates from low income or traditionally underrepresented backgrounds by providing opportunities such as tutoring, counseling and study strategy courses.

Additionally, the McNair Scholars Program is designed to help those students who have plans of pursuing a Ph.D. The program assists students by putting them in contact with faculty members to work with, and even assisting with things such as graduate school visits.

“I get to work with Julia Kowalski, whose research focuses on cultural anthropology. She is helping me to develop a methodology for the research I am pursuing, which is the intergenerational transmission of identity through music,” Flores said.

Flores has already conducted research on the consumption of music by Latinos in the Red River Valley, and is pursuing his topic as an extension of his previous research.

“It all comes down to a cool subfield that we call ethnomusicology,” Flores said, “which is basically studying people through the music they create. I’m not going to lie, I’m really enamored by it. It allows me to mix two worlds that I didn’t think I could talk about academically — I didn’t know I could talk about cultural studies and cultural issues through the framework of music.”

Flores’ goal is to pursue ethnomusicology and seek a Ph.D, with the aim of conducting research dealing with the intersection of culture and music.


“My research is quite interdisciplinary, so hopefully I could work within both anthropology and music departments,” Flores noted.

In addition to facilitating collaboration with faculty, McNair assists students with graduate school visits.

“I will be going to Brown at the end of the month to talk with Joshua Tucker, who is the Director of Graduate Studies for the music department and actually studies Latin American music, so that’s a pretty great opportunity,” Flores said.

“I’m so lucky to be a part of this program and I’m indebted to them for what they have done for me,” Flores said, “because of McNair, I’ve been able to invest in myself, present research at the University of Indiana South Bend and make connections with people I never would have met otherwise.”

Any students interested in TRIO or the McNair Scholars Program are encouraged to contact Anna Sheppard, the director of the programs.

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