Research in Communication + Journalism

Asking questions, finding answers

Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat. Our students are some of the most curious and work tremendously hard to find answers to their questions. Through different research projects throughout the department, we are examining many aspects to our everyday society. From sustainability to the effects of groupthink, our students are doing it all. The best part of research in our department, too, is many times you’ll find it incorporated into your classes.

Take it from me, research is worth your time! Not only is it a great chance to explore an aspect of your major, it’s also an opportunity to be mentored by one of your favorite professors, learn how to work in a group, get comfortable reading research, work on your professional presenting skills, and so much more.

Shannon Carlson | organizational communication

Past years' research topics

We're very fortunate to have the opportunity right on campus to present research at the Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA). As a student, you'll get the chance to research and present your findings to your peers, mentors, and even administration. See what our students presented on last year, as well as on-going research projects.

Am "I" Part of a "We"?: Inclusive Language and Organizational Identification within Student Organizations

Student presenters: Elijah Freeman, Rachel Keenan, Rebecca Mortensen, Cameron Sickler, Dalton Tainter-Paar

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Martha Fay

Throughout college, it is critical to be involved in organizations to define oneself, develop relationships, and build resumes (Holzweiss, Rahn, & Wickline, 2007). To influence students' involvement, organizational leaders need to maximize a sense of community and minimize the factors that cause people to leave organizations (Nepstad, 2004). Studies show that the stronger the organizational identification of coworkers, the more likely they are to stay (Apker, Propp, & Zabava, 2009). Based on Social Identity Theory (Hogg, 1988) and linguistic studies, leadership language impacts members' feelings of organizational identification (Hornsey, Blackwood, & O'Brien, 2005; Mayfield, 2009). This study aims to discover whether the use of inclusive language within one career-focused and one faith-based organization is associated with members' organizational identification, and whether or not the nature of an organization determines the relationship between inclusive language and organizational identification. In addition, the study will analyze the rhetoric used in these organizations' meetings and on their websites to determine the use of inclusive language. It is expected that high levels of inclusive language by the leadership of an organization will be associated with stronger levels of members' organizational identification.

Analyzing Employee-Centric and Culturally Indicative Messages in Corporate Rhetoric

Student presenters: Matthew Wickert, Molli Bichrt, Carissa Vinck, Mary Christensen, Amy Greene

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Martha Fay

Mission statements have been utilized to provide an organization with strategic direction, balance demands of an assortment of stakeholders, and provide motivation to members (Desmidt & Heene, 2007). Research has shown that customers are the most frequently cited stakeholder group, emphasizing the external orientation of mission statements (van Nimwegen, Bollen, Hassink & Thijssens, 2008). However, little research has been conducted to explore the inclusion of employees within company mission statements. According to the stakeholder dependency theory, stakeholders on which an organization is most dependent should be recognized within that organization’s mission statement. Using this theory, the present study examines the public literature of five Fortune 500 organizations for the purpose of quantifying and analyzing employee-centric messages and programs. This study also examines the public rhetoric of these organizations that determines cultural type and its relationship to employee-centric messages.

Effects of Hidden Voice on Perceptions of Leader Communication Competency and Credibility in a Politically Charged Environment

Student presenters: Nicholas Ferch, James Ebben, Jacob Wrasse

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Martha Fay

Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) posits that when people interact with different populations they change their vocal patterns and behaviors to match the group with which they're communicating. Gasoriek (2015) applied CAT to interactions between stakeholders and the powerful, finding an association between the speaker's credibility, communication style, and perceived level of accommodation. This may be extended to the analysis of political negotiations, where observers can often detect 'hidden voice', or communication lapses that indicate a previous private conversation is affecting the conversation at hand (Shenhav, 2007). The politically charged environment that has surrounded the UW System's budget issues has created an urgent need for competent leaders and credible communication, particularly between members of the legislature and leadership representing the UW System, but the confidential nature of much of the utilized rhetoric may have resulted in the employment of hidden voice. This study examines messages of leaders on two levels, state and campus, for the existence of hidden voice and its subsequent impact on the perceptions of the speakers' credibility and communication competency.

Is Intercultural Competency Associated With College Students' Global Awareness and Environmental Efficacy?

Student presenters: Claire Malchow, Katherine Allee, Brooke Meyer, Elizabeth Vouk, Carolyn Wolff

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Martha Fay

Human use of environmental resources cannot continue at the current pace without being irreversibly damaging, and sustainability is more paramount than ever (Burton et al., 2012). One factor that may impact greater awareness of this issue by future generations is exposure to knowledge and ideas which may be gained through study abroad. Because studying abroad has been linked with greater intercultural communication (IC) skills (Williams, 2005) and greater awareness and understanding in general, it is plausible to think greater intercultural competency might be associated with both greater awareness of global and local environmental issues and with behavioral intentions toward environmental issues. However, no studies have linked all of these together. This study examines whether study abroad and intercultural competency are associated with awareness of global and local environmental issues and related behavioral intentions. Based on research that has shown a link between efficacy and environmental action, this study also tests for efficacy as a potential moderator of this relationship. Results of this study may allow environmentalists to identify individuals who will be more likely to have greater knowledge about, and positive attitudes and behaviors toward, the environment (Malkus and Meinhold, 2005), while illuminating another benefit of broader intercultural experiences.

The Link Between Recruitment Messages and Applicant Transformational Leadership Qualities

Student presenters: Cory Long, Benjamin Thompson Isaac, Shannon Carlson

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Martha Fay

Firms are moving toward flattened leadership structures (Wulf, 2012), allowing broader subordinate responsibilities and leadership opportunities (Powell, 2002). This creates a need for organizations to recruit individuals capable of leading at all levels of the organization (TrostenBloom, 2014). While these business models are important, scholarship still focuses on vertical structures, and it is possible that organizations are also lagging behind. Person-Organization fit research suggests that job seekers who desire leadership opportunities will look for evidence that leadership is valued within firms' rhetoric. Considering 70% of organizations use websites for recruitment (Rowh, 2005;Berry 2005), it is likely that applicants will look to websites for information about what the company values in employees. Because transformational leadership (TL) has been linked with employee productivity through motivation (Middleton, 2015), alignment with company values (Piccolo, 2006), goals (Jiang &Men, 2015), and desire to excel (Shamir et al., 1993), TL should be highly valued. However, most TL studies focus on managers, ignoring non-managerial employees with leadership qualities (Wang et. al., 2011). This study analyzes how five flattened firms communicate TL elements through job descriptions on their websites, to understand how firms can best attract transformational applicants through strategic messages. 

Mediation of Professors' Sex in Relation to Students' Ratings of Their Transformational Leadership, Charisma and Emotional Intelligence: A Comprehensive Survey

Student presenters: Katie Buntrock, Zachary Gurholt, James Halverson, Paige Kuepers, Anna Lehman, Mariah Wild

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Martha Fay

Prior research shows a positive correlation between emotional intelligence (EI) and transformational leadership (TL) (Duckett &Macfarlane, 2003) and TL and charisma (Prati, Douglas, Ferris, Ammeter &Buckley, 2003). TL has also been positively correlated with women (Stempel, Rigotti &Mohr, 2015). However, studies have shown that these associations vary based on sex of the rater. Student perceptions of professors of the same sex have been shown to be more favorable, and past research shows same sex alignment between professors and students result in higher student ratings than cross sex relationships (Levine, Muenchen, &Brooks, 2010). Social learning theory (Bandura, 1971) would suggest that people might identify more strongly with leaders of the same sex, however this preference may not hold for people who are perceived higher in TL, EI, and charisma. This study tests previous findings on perceptions based on sex, and examines the role that TL, EI and charisma may play in modifying these perceptions. Results of this study should increase understanding of the role that sex of raters and leaders plays in perceptions of leaders' TL, EI, and charisma.

UWEC [AND] the Selma-Eau Claire Domestic Intercultural Immersion ASB: An Exploration of the Impacts of High-Impact Practices on Blugold Attitudes Surrounding EDI Initiatives & Strategic Guidepost Goals

Student presenter: Jenna Jandrt

Faculty Mentor/Collaborator: Nicole Schultz

As a campus with a current Strategic Guidepost Goal of working toward a student body that includes 20 percent enrollment of students of color, UWEC recognizes potential implicit biases inherent within institutional practices at UWEC that need to be addressed (Schmidt, 2015). This research explores student experiences with the Selma-Eau Claire Exchange Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip, a university-supported Domestic Intercultural Immersion (DII) experience. The primary purpose of this high-impact experience is to expose Blugolds to history, activism, and nation-wide community partnerships to intentionally work to support Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) initiatives on campus. To explore the effectiveness of these efforts, this scholarship employs a mix-method data collection approach, including surveys of participants, field notes of research student ethnographers, and interviews with students and community partners. Results yield conclusions surrounding inherent biases, white privilege, attitudes towards race, and cultural competence. Conclusions and implications exemplify the significance of DII ASB trips in supporting the development, implementation, and embracing of EDI initiatives to impact organizational culture on campus, assessed and contextualized utilizing tenets of Social Judgement Theory (Griffin, 2006).

Finding Ways to Provide a Lifeline to SOS: Student Knowledge and Behaviors Surrounding the Student Office of Sustainability

Student presenters: Brandon Hoege, Olivia Edwards, Angela Knauf, Ella Koch, Brianna Truitt

Faculty Mentors/Collaborators: Evan Perrault, Scott Clark

The UW-Eau Claire Student Office of Sustainability (SOS) has a yearly budget of $200,000, and is funded completely by student segregated fees. The purposes of this research were 1) to determine if students are aware of SOS and knowledgeable about its activities;and, 2) to investigate how SOS can more effectively utilize its funding to provide the greatest return on investment for students. A survey of 779 students found about one-third were unaware that SOS exists. More than 80% did not know they (the students) completely fund this office, and about half thought its annual budget was ? $10,000. Most worrisome, about 57% of students said they have never seen any on-campus messaging about SOS or its activities. Of 11 key SOS-related activities (e.g., bike lease program, free water bottle distribution, e-waste recycling), the average number students were aware of was less than 3 (M=2.68). With the size of their budget and their university-wide support, SOS has an opportunity and a responsibility to more effectively educate students about sustainability. SOS will need to improve its communication efforts to make significant impacts on student awareness of how to live a sustainable life. Recommendations, based on students' message preferences, are provided.

Sustainability Knowledge, Barriers, and Motivations of UW-Eau Claire Students

Student presenters: Brandon Hoege, Olivia Edwards, Angela Knauf, Ella Koch, Brianna Truitt

Faculty Mentors/Collaborators: Evan Perrault, Scott Clark

The UW-Eau Claire Student Office of Sustainability (SOS) has a yearly budget of $200,000, and is funded completely by student segregated fees. The purposes of this research were 1) to determine if students are aware of SOS and knowledgeable about its activities; and, 2) to investigate how SOS can more effectively utilize its funding to provide the greatest return on investment for students. A survey of 779 students found about one-third were unaware that SOS exists. More than 80% did not know they (the students) completely fund this office, and about half thought its annual budget was ? $10,000. Most worrisome, about 57% of students said they have never seen any on-campus messaging about SOS or its activities. Of 11 key SOS-related activities (e.g., bike lease program, free water bottle distribution, e-waste recycling), the average number students were aware of was less than 3 (M=2.68). With the size of their budget and their university-wide support, SOS has an opportunity and a responsibility to more effectively educate students about sustainability. SOS will need to improve its communication efforts to make significant impacts on student awareness of how to live a sustainable life. Recommendations, based on students’ message preferences, are provided. 

See what others are presenting at CERCA

Students and faculty at CERCA event

Celebrating excellence in research

UWEC thinks things like undergraduate research is so important, they are now offering a new scholarship to help more Blugolds have these experiences.

Learn more
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