Campus Celebrity: Peter Kuling

Most students who have taken Communications courses at Laurier have had some interaction with Dr. Peter Kuling as a prof or as a TA. Students often describe Kuling as hilarious, engaging, and easily approachable.  Kuling has worked in film production as well as teaching and is also a movie critic. This week we sat down with Peter Kuling to learn more about him and his interests. 

So tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Peter Kuling and I am a part time Communications professor here at Laurier. I have a background in film production and book history and I have my PhD in English and Shakespeare. I’m originally from Saskatchewan and I’ve lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon, Fredericton, and other places across the country.

What do you like about teaching at Laurier?

I find that the student body is really engaged with the material and I’m often surprised at how receptive they are to the application of communication and cultural theories and how to practically assess it. One of the great joys is not just having a background in historical research of things like the printing press but also ways in which that applies to e-books now and having some of that hands on experience with film production that some of my students love to ask me about and get opinions on. I think Laurier is a cool school that has a lot of potential since it’s very focused on undergraduate education, which I think is great.

What is your favourite course to teach?

That’s always a hard question. I would have to say that teaching fourth year seminars is a lot of fun. I taught a piracy seminar all about the history of piracy, copyright and everything from hackers online to other spaces where people are stealing books and other things. However, I still think that anything dealing with visual culture, book making or film and media are all really fun.

Have you ever Googled yourself or found yourself on ‘Rate My Professor?’

I have Googled myself, my dad has the same name as me, so I have occasionally Googled myself and seen how many times my dad comes up and how many times I come up. It’s starting to be more me, which is exciting; it means I have more work out there and more things happening. Oddly enough, I was just talking to my wife’s cousin at dinner on Sunday and she said that she had just read all my ‘Rate My Professor’ reviews and that some people think I’m a little big on myself, which may be a few peoples impressions. However the most important thing that I’ve drawn from them is that none of my comments are predominantly negative. Most of them said be prepared to study but he’s fair and reasonable, which is good.

What are some of your interests outside of teaching?

I really love board games, it sounds so silly but I’ve gotten back into board games. I’m thirty-five and playing them reminds me of when I was in my twenties in university and I would play board games quite a bit. I also absolutely love hot yoga; I can’t get enough of it. I’m not as good at it as I hope I would be, I can’t do headstands or anything but it’s a really great way to relax.

Tell us about your involvement with accessibility at Laurier.

I have been asked to eventually do some speaking for accessibility at Laurier to collapse some of the divides that we have between visible and non-visible disabilities of all kinds; mental and physical. They are looking to have me advocate to staff and faculty a bit more on what it means to carry different kinds of disabilities through our learning process, working process, and school environments. I don’t keep it a secret, I am a type one diabetic, I’ve been diabetic for 25 years, I try to make sure that is not a detriment but a positive. It’s all about life management and we need to take care of that individually as well as collectively we’re a lot better of for it.

So you review movies for The National Post?

I’ve been a movie reviewer for The National Post, usually every month or two months since 2008. I’m on the ‘Popcorn Panel,’ a week or two after a movie comes out, we sit down and discuss what we all really thought and decide if it’s worth going to see in week two. It’s been a lot of fun, we reviewed the Star Trek movie when it came out and we do live web chats. The reason I got asked was because six years ago there was a movie with a professor in it and they wanted someone who was teaching to talk about the professor character and that experience, they really liked me so I’ve been kept on.

What has been the best movie you’ve seen this year?

I think it’s "Birdman." It’s so interestingly shot in one long take. It’s a merger of my love of theater as well as film, two mediums together. Following Michael Keaton’s character putting on a play and his stresses with his colleagues and his life. It’s probably too artistic for it’s own good; we’ll see if it can win an Oscar.

Do you have a favourite movie of all time?

Yes, my favourite movie of all time is "Clue," the one based on the board game. I love board games, as I’ve established, but, "Clue" is a murder mystery and you have all your characters like the game. When it was released in theaters it had three possible endings that were shown at random, so it was as if you were playing it. So when you have it on DVD it will randomly pick one of the three endings for the screening you’re watching and you’ll get your own personalized ending. It’s a silly farce, it’s very theatrical, like a stage play and it has a ton of stars like Tim Curry and Christopher Lloyd. I watch "Clue" every three to four months and I absolutely love it.

If there was a movie about your life, who would play you and why?

I often get told, and I don’t want people on ‘Rate My Professor’ think that this is me building myself up, but people say that I remind them of a young Robert Downey Jr. We joked that if Robert Downey Jr. ever had a biopic maybe I should play one of the younger versions of him, which is often the drugged out crazy version of him from all his problems before he cleaned up. I don’t think we look terribly alike but people say we have a similar kind of delivery and sense of humor, I guess that’s me comparing myself to Tony Stark, Iron Man or something but Robert Downey Jr. for sure.

What TV show is your guilty pleasure?

I have to say that I didn’t really watch Modern Family at first, it’s not so much the show but the character of Phil is my guilty pleasure because he’s just this adorable dorky father that I actually kind of think is awesome and cool. At times it’s still stereotypical but seeing something progressive and showing families that are different is cool. I do think that my even guiltier pleasure is a show called Helix on the SciFi channel, which is a Canadian miniseries about the center for disease control.

What is your go-to piece of advice for students?

Trust yourself. In this era of worrying so much about what you have to achieve and everything else that seems to be going on, trust in yourself that you know what sounds or feels or is right for you. I never recommend trying to pursue something simply for its end goal, the course, the degree, the experience itself should be the goal. You need to spend time just inhabiting the space you’re in, enjoying it and if it doesn’t feel right, change it. Don’t kill time or wait, I would not be where I am today if my father didn’t say to me; “ You don’t have to take science if you don’t really like it,” and I traded it into philosophy, theatre, English literature, history and I haven’t looked back.

Peter Kuling is adorably dorky and an awesome professor. If you get the chance to take one of his classes we highly recommend it!