Independent Minds, Working Together

Students Present Research at Regional, National Communication Conferences

Undergraduates represent The College of Wooster in Washington, D.C. and Kansas City

April 22, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — For six students at The College of Wooster, the opportunity to present their research at regional and national communication conferences was both affirming and energizing, according to Denise Bostdorff, professor of communication at Wooster.

Seniors Brenna Fujimoto and Tyler Sinclair made presentations at the American Popular Culture Association Conference in Washington, D.C. last month, while juniors Hafsa Ishraq and Emily Cherney, along with sophomores Caroline Bybee and Lauren Schoenewald, shared their research at the Central States Communication Association’s undergraduate honors conference in Kansas City earlier this month.

“I think what the students realized by participating in these conferences is that they are doing very substantive work here at Wooster,” said Bostdorff. “They began to understand that their efforts were leading to positive outcomes.”

Fujimoto and Sinclair, both communication studies majors, discussed the results of their Senior Independent Study projects (Wooster’s nationally renowned senior capstone project in which a student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to produce a written, visual, or performance piece). Fujimoto’s work focused on how young people make use of fashion blogs to construct their identities and engage in consumerism. Sinclair’s research dealt with NCAA sports scandals and the resulting public relations strategies by the colleges and universities affected by the scandal. Ahmet Atay, assistant professor of communication at Wooster, accompanied the two students to the conference and said both papers were received well and that both were encouraged by audience members to pursue graduate degrees.

Ishraq, Bybee, and Schoenewald presented papers they wrote for Bostdorff’s class on collective memory and public forgetting. “The focus was on how we construct and reconstruct memories — that is, how messages about events influence the way they are remembered, but also how our messages may, for good or for ill, reassemble those memories to meet our needs,” said Bostdorff.

Ishraq, an economics major who has taken extensive coursework in communication studies, looked at how her depictions of herself on Facebook changed over time based on her maturity and the change in culture from her native Pakistan to the United States. Bybee, a communication studies major, took an autoethnographic look (self-reflection through writing that explores an individual’s personal experience and connects it to a wider cultural, political, and social context) at her life experiences, reflecting on her memories and their subjectivity to the circumstances in which they were created. Schoenewald, also a communication studies major, examined personal relationships in order to understand how communication and memory influence how high school friendships change during the transition to college.

Cherney’s paper came from a course that she took with Atay on autoethnography, A double major in communication studies and religious studies, Cherney reflected through autoethnography on messages and identity in growing up Catholic and how the circumstances in her life shaped her current religious beliefs and opinions on religion in general.

“This was the first communication conference for these four students, and I think they found it very valuable,” said Bostdorff. “It was nice to see them conduct work at that level.”

- Story by Libby Fackler '13