°IJʿ

Students

Grad Students Represent °IJʿ, Bring Home Awards at New York State Communications Association Conference

By
Amanda Delfino
Posted
November 8, 2023

Last spring, five student groups from the Communications Research course, part of the , completed timely, thoughtful research studies with topics ranging from the impact of communication on romantic relationships to how social media influencers impact consumer decisions. This fall, all five groups were accepted to present their work at the , and two received awards for first- and second-place graduate papers.

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°IJʿ's Communications and Digital Communications program students present research at the New York State Communication Association Conference

“The research students have done in my class was quite demanding and it was far from easy going through all the stages of it: from selecting a topic, to identifying an appropriate method of research, to obtaining an institutional review board (IRB) approval, collecting survey data, to analyzing the data,” said Associate Professor of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts Mirjana Pantic, PhD, who teaches the course. “It was fulfilling to see how our students' accomplishments stood out among other prominent schools in New York State.”

Three students who attended the conference to present their groups’ work shared their experiences.

Erin Flynn ’23, MA Communications and Digital Media

Research Project: Social Media Influencers: Impact on Consumer Purchasing Decisions (First Place Graduate Paper)

How did your group decide on this topic?

A vital point to keep in mind when developing a research topic is looking for a gap within existing research so you’re contributing something constructive. The value of authenticity among social media influencers can be difficult to gauge, so being able to explain consumers’ motivations and quantify such interactions, like making purchases, is unbelievably beneficial to the marketing industry. I work within the social media landscape as a digital content producer, so I’ve become fascinated by what causes engagement behaviors within an online audience.

What do you hope attendees at the conference take away from your research?

Our research has demonstrated how a message, packaged by a social media influencer in an entertaining and informative way, has the capability to powerfully impact a wide spectrum of people (all of whom are potential consumers) but when it comes down to it, the majority desire an authentic, human connection to inform their decisions.

How has this graduate program and/or this research project impacted your goals for the future?

A major goal of mine is to produce larger scale media projects with a focus on effective storytelling. During my time within the Communications and Digital Media graduate program, I’ve gained indispensable insight that I’ve been able to instantly apply to real-world situations, thus taking theory and transforming it into practice. Now that I’ve added more essential skills to my repertoire, I look forward to developing exciting projects that offer new awareness for untold narratives to amplify under-represented voices.

Brianna Civitano ’23, MA Communications and Digital Media

Research Project: Motivations and Consumption of Streaming Services: Millennials and Generation Z (Second Place Graduate Paper)

What do you hope attendees at the conference took away from your research?

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°IJʿ's Communications and Digital Communications program students present research at the New York State Communication Association Conference

I hope the attendees learn more about the younger generations and why we do some of the things we do. I briefly touched on some generational characteristics found in the literature review we studied, but the biggest takeaway is that we now live in a fast-paced world where accessibility and convenience play a major role in everything we do. This is why the younger generations prefer to use streaming services. We can choose what we want to be entertained by whenever we want. It molds perfectly into our lifestyle.

How has this graduate program and this research project impacted your goals for the future?

This program is my future. I joined it because I had a change in career path after undergrad, and since the start of the program, so many opportunities have come my way. I never expected to complete a research study let alone submit it to a conference and have the paper win second overall for graduate papers in the state. Presenting it in front of a group of professionals and networking with them was just the icing on the cake because this is only the beginning for me. I plan to take everything I have learned and use it in the work field post-graduation. I actually see myself using bits of it every day; it’s really coming full circle.

What was your experience like at the conference?

The older I get, the more I want to expand my comfort zone and this experience did just that. Old me would’ve thought of every excuse to get out of presenting, but I couldn’t be more grateful for following through with attending and presenting in front of so many successful people. I was able to speak with like-minded individuals and have very educational and informative conversations that I normally wouldn’t have. Not only was this conference an educational success, but it was also a personal growth success as well.

Samuel Aikins ’23, MA Communications and Digital Media

Research Project: America's Trust in the Electoral System: How Party Affiliation and Media Consumption Affect Electoral Trust

What was the most surprising or interesting thing you learned in your research?

Learning about the role that the media played in determining how American citizens view their elections was one of the more interesting parts of our research. The results of our research showed that social media had the largest presence [in terms of where people get their news] but had the least amount of people trusting in the elections. I found that interesting considering how much social media is a strong part of our society these days, but at the same time, there's a lot of misinformation that is spread on social media. So, in some ways, it makes sense why people who use social media to gain news may not always be trusting of what they see or hear.

What do you hope attendees at the conference take away from your research?

My hope is that attendees understand why it's important for us to trust our elections and our institutions. Despite some of the results of our research, I do believe that it's important to trust our elections and our institutions for the sake of democracy. Right now, we are in uncharted territories when it comes to election trust. As we've seen, more and more people believe that elections are not faithful or that elections such as the 2020 elections were false and stolen. There are people in power who have and will use their power to undermine our democracy, and that's very concerning. As someone who cares about our country and our freedoms, it worries me the direction that we're going as a country, where civil rights are under threat, where women's reproductive rights are under threat, where our voting rights and our right to our freedom are under threat. I hope that our research can start a conversation and get people to believe in our elections and our institutions once again.

How has this graduate program and/or this research project impacted your goals for the future?

This graduate program has really taught me a lot about communications and production. I graduated with my bachelor's in political science and a minor in English from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell in 2019. My original goal was to work in immigration law, but once I started working at WGBH, which is my local PBS station in Boston, that's when my love for communications and production started. I started getting training from one of our associate producers, and from there, I made the decision to go back to school and pursue my master’s in communications and digital media so that I can take that next step in my career and really begin my career in communications and production.

Dyson Digital Digest: Fall 2023

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