More than 15 students within the College of Communication and the Arts' Communication, Museum Professions and Public Relations programs presented their Master's Project and thesis proposals to peers and faculty on Saturday, December 7, 2019. The presentations signified the midway point of their year-long academic research projects on various topics including museum ethics, communication strategies, and best practices within the field of public relations.
This year marked the first in an endeavor to bring all three graduate programs together as one cohort for the capstone presentations. Through this year-long, two-part course, students pursue their research interests and demonstrate their ability to contribute primary research to their respective fields.
The cohort was tasked with identifying and framing a problem statement supported by current literature and theory, develop research questions, and select a research method to guide the project through completion. After completing the first three chapters which include the statement of the problem, literature review and method, students proposed their projects to the Graduate Studies faculty and fellow students. Each student was then given feedback and next steps on how to proceed as they continue their projects the following semester.
Nikki Malupa, a Public Relations student with a background in media production, is studying internet memes as a potential framework for public relations social media campaigns. Malupa expressed that it is challenging to discuss a topic that has yet to be explored in her field but having a supportive faculty adviser and cohort is helpful.
"The goal of Master's Project is to come up with original research that contributes toward a gap in the field and the advisers are supportive of unique ideas," Malupa said. "I am thankful for the opportunity to explore this topic in an academic setting and I look forward to further pursuing this project in the Spring."
Blaine Spencer, a student in the Communication program, is exploring the communication conventions of leadership in sports, and emphasized the importance of work ethic when pursuing a Master's Project. "We must all continue working hard on this project for us to be successful," Spencer said. He also enjoyed hearing the variety of topics being explored. "It was great to see everyone else's unique and interesting projects, especially the Museum Professions students' projects which are new to us communication-oriented students."
For Emily Stupfel, a Museum Professions student from Boise, Idaho, the proposal experience was enlightening. "The presentations were a wonderful chance to connect with peers in the program and see what they have been working on," she said.
Stupfel is examining how to best provide meaningful museum programming for teens that serve family and multigenerational audiences."As a working museum professional, I am constantly conducting research and developing surveys but rarely get the time to dive deep into a topic," said Stupfel. "I am very excited to get the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and contribute something meaningful to the field while also expanding my skill set."
Renee Robinson, Ph.D, faculty adviser to several of the Master's Project students and newly appointed department chair in the College, noted that watching each student's personal and academic growth has always been the most fulfilling aspect of facilitating this project course. "It's amazing to watch how each student begins to realize their power as a researcher and contributing member of the field through this process," Robinson said.
"This semester is the first time all three programs have been integrated into the same research course and so it has been a learning process for us as advisers and for the students," Robinson continued. Discussing the development of Graduate Studies within the College, Robinson noted "These programs are evolving—as they should be—and with that constant evolution comes an opportunity to further improve. Ruth Tsuria, Ph.D, Gregory Stevens, M.A.T. and I look forward to implementing more ways to support this new model in the Spring."
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered. A Ph.D. program is currently under development.