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Communication Students Honored in Cleveland

Published Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Eight students from the Communication Studies program at Wayne State College were honored in Cleveland, Ohio, for their original research.

Eight students from the Communication Studies program at Wayne State College were honored in Cleveland, Ohio, for their original research. They presented their work at the annual Central States Communication Association Conference, held March 28-31, 2012, that primarily featured the research of graduate students and faculty from major colleges and universities around the country.

Wayne State College students were featured in two of only three undergraduate research panels accepted into the conference this year. Only 20% of all the research submissions were accepted to this year’s conference.

Kayla Lucht, Sean Badeer, Nikki Garden, Joe Chebul, Angela Shank, and Abigail Swalla, all communication studies majors, were honored for their work in “The Dark Side of Relationships.” Their research focused on some of the darker elements of relational interactions including stalking, interracial relationships, child abuse, and lying.

Their projects were part of a special topics course titled, “Advanced Research in the Dark Side of Interpersonal Relationships,” under the guidance of Rich Murphy, an instructor in Communication Studies.

“A lot of times students think, 'Let's write a paper and forget about it.’ My group had a chance to see that their work contributes to a larger body of research that can help other people deal with the dark side of relationships,” Murphy said. “What they do in our classes extends well beyond the walls of Wayne State.”

Sara Wilder, a professor of Communication Studies at Luther College, responded quite positively to their research after their presentation.

“I was very impressed with this work,” Wilder said. “This is graduate work being done at the undergraduate level. You all should be very proud of this.”

Rachel Bleeker and Laura Webber, along with Badeer, Lucht, and Garden, also presented their research on emotional labor in high stress contexts. Their research explored coping strategies used by nurses, emergency response members, and parents of autistic children. Their research was the final project in a qualitative research design course taught by Dr. Randa Garden, a Communication Studies professor at WSC.

“I knew when they were developing these projects, these five had some special and important ideas that needed to be shared outside of the classroom,” Dr. Garden said. “They worked incredibly hard and put up with several revisions. But, I think they really experienced the fruits of their hard work and dedication. They really represented our department and Wayne State College well.”

Tim McKenna, a graduate of the Communication Studies program at WSC and a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, also was impressed by their research.

“The level of research you are producing, at an undergraduate level, is remarkable,” McKenna said. “I hope all of you continue to work in this area. Our field needs your fresh young voices.”

Kayla Lucht, a current student in the Communication Studies Department and a presenter at the conference, said the stress level leading up to the conference was high, but the outcome was worth it.

“As we put together these projects, the process was painful,” Lucht said. “It takes a lot of work to put together a project like this. But once we finished and we had a chance to present the work at Central States, it was worth it. It was an honor to see the scholar we based our work on watching us present. This whole process has inspired me.”

Lucht began attending Illinois State University's School of Communication graduate program in fall 2012. She received a tuition-waiving assistantship and began teaching communication, critical inquiry and interpersonal communication while completing her masters of science degree.

Dr. Ron Whitt, the senior faculty member of the WSC Communication Studies program, also attended the conference.

“Our folks here are really the future leaders of our community and our discipline,” Whitt said. “I expect that many of them will move on to graduate school or important positions within their community. They will lead all of us into some exciting fields of study. These folks really exceeded my expectations.”

Another WSC alumnus, Dr. Jeff Childs, now a professor of Communication Studies at Kent State University, attended the conference and commented on the quality of students WSC consistently produces.

“I have such respect for the work coming out of Wayne State College,” Childs said. “They really prepared me for graduate school and, based on what I have seen from the group here at Central States, Wayne is still doing great work. I hope these students consider coming to Kent State for graduate school. I know if we get a student from Wayne, we are getting a well-prepared, top-notch student.”

After presenting their research and attending several other panels featuring the top scholars in communication, the students experienced all Cleveland had to offer, including historic restaurants, shopping, and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. The students were also invited to tour Kent State University, where they visited the sight of the 1970 Kent State protest where four students were shot and killed by the National Guard during a protest against U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

The Department of Communication Arts at WSC offers courses in interpersonal and family relationships, leadership, argumentation, organizational communication, public relations, public address, argumentation, health communication, intergroup communication, and intercultural communication. The department also offers courses in theater, news writing, and electronic media.