Sheila Bock

Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
Expertise: Folklore, Vernacular Health Beliefs


Sheila Bock is an associate professor of interdisciplinary studies in the department of interdisciplinary, gender, and ethnic studies. She is a folklorist, which means she studies traditional, informal culture – the expressive forms that emerge from the ground up and communicate the beliefs and values of individuals and communities.

While folklorists do study what people recognize to be more profound genres, like creation myths and religious rituals, they also take seriously those things that many people write off as trivial, including jokes, contemporary (urban) legends, memes circulating on the Internet, and decorated mortarboards.

Bock’s diverse research interests include the contested domains of illness experience, vernacular health beliefs, material/digital enactments of personal and community identities, and the intersections between folklore and popular culture.


  • Ph.D., Ohio State University, English
  • M.A., Ohio State University, Comparative Studies
  • B.A., University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology

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Sheila Bock In The News

City Cast Las Vegas
As graduation ceremonies occur across the country, you might notice more decorated attire in Nevada. This is the first spring graduation since Nevada passed a law allowing students to decorate their grad caps and robes with religious or cultural regalia. Despite the law, earlier this month at Eldorado High School, a student was told she couldn’t wear a stole honoring her family’s heritage. Ultimately, the student was allowed to wear her stole, but this shows how the practice can be controversial. Today, we revisit a conversation with Dr. Sheila Bock, a folklorist at UNLV. She tells co-host Dayvid Figler how grad garb became so contentious and what happens when students use robes and mortarboards as a form of expression.
New Books Network
Taking mortarboard displays seriously as public performances of the personal, this book highlights the creative, playful, and powerful ways graduates use their caps to fashion their personal engagement with notions of self, community, education, and the unknown future.
City Cast Las Vegas
Graduation season is upon us! We’re starting to see high schoolers and college grads descending on scenic spots around Las Vegas to take portraits — sometimes with elaborate additions to their stoles, gowns, and mortar board graduation caps.
The Good Men Project
For college students across the country, commencement formally marks the transition from student to graduate. Per tradition, most schools feature speakers, give out awards, organize departmental dinners – and, of course, designate caps and gowns for students to wear when they receive their diploma.

Articles Featuring Sheila Bock

photo illustrations representing death across cultures
Campus News | December 9, 2022

From a new-found obsession with true crime podcasts to mourning rituals across cultures, this class examines the ways in which death captivates our attention.

petri dish and beakers containing liquids
Research | December 26, 2018

In 2018, faculty and students collaborated with one another and international colleagues on scientific exploration that sought to help people make sense of themselves and the world around them.

Decorated commencement cap that reads Future Doctor
People | April 26, 2018

The emerging tradition of DIY decorated mortarboards offers professor insight into current day culture.