Berks student receives Erickson Discovery Grant for autoethnography project

Mike Shott in his home recoding studio.

G. Michael Shott Jr.

Credit: Courtesy of Mike Shott

WYOMISSING, Pa. — For student G. Michael Shott Jr., hip-hop has always been a source of inspiration. When he learned about the Penn State Erickson Discovery Grants, he took a chance and submitted a proposal for a research project titled "Beats, Rhymes and Life: An Autoethnography." He was both surprised and thrilled when he was awarded the grant.

This summer, Shott, a senior communication arts and sciences major with a minor in civic and community engagement, has spent time in his home recording studio working on the autoethnography. Through his research, he is conducting a self-analysis, connecting his experiences and memories to larger cultural topics.

An amateur hip-hop artist born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Shott stated, “Hip-hop saved my life. It gave me a sense of community, and a feeling of acceptance and belonging.”

Shott said that the main reason he chose Penn State Berks is his love for Reading and Berks County. He had planned to come back after college but then realized that he could attend Penn State Berks and stay in the community he loves.

He explained that growing up without positive role models, he turned to hip-hop for spiritual guidance: “There’s a truth in it that resonates with me and a wisdom that has provided a blueprint for life.”

Shott is also an entrepreneur. His business venture, the Reading Hip Hop Collective, is dedicated to artist development and empowerment.

Students studying the history of Hip Hop at Berks.

Shott (far right) was a student in the first section of "Critical Approaches to Hip Hop" in 2019. He listens as Professor Justin De Senso (second from left) discusses the origins of the art form.  

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Theo Anderson

He credits a Penn State Berks hip-hop course — designed and instructed by his grant adviser, Justin De Senso – with inspiring his research. He was a student in the first class, and in an interview in 2019 he stated, “This is one of the most valuable courses in the curriculum; it addresses a topic that is not well-respected in academia. Hip-hop provides a bridge between art and activism. It’s multinational. Hip-hop translates political strife into a language that people can easily understand.”

During his time at Penn State Berks, Shott has thrived. In addition to being elected Student Government Association president for two terms, he is a Penn State Schreyer Honors College Scholar. His thesis is titled “How Hip Hop Saved My Life.”

“Penn State Berks is so welcoming,” said Shott. “The faculty and staff accepted me, supported my ideas, and allowed me to flourish. I never imagined that I would get support to study hip-hop, and it all started with the support I got at Berks, which provided the foundation for everything else I have accomplished.”