Students from across the state participated in a professionally modeled panel discussion at the Undergraduate Communication Research Conference Friday in the Anderson Student Center, with junior Samantha Wisneski winning one of the top three paper awards.
Communication and journalism majors and minors, along with students from other departments, submitted their research papers from past classes to present their work to a panel of scholars. Eleven papers were chosen from St. Thomas out of the university’s 49 submitted.
Wisneski placed in the top three for best paper award with her essay “Complicating Notions of South Asian Stereotypes and Racial Identity: the Emergence of the ‘Funny Brown Person’ in American Sitcom.” Wisneski said she was shocked by the win.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting it. I checked my email a couple of times just to make sure it wasn’t forwarded to everyone,” Wisneski said. “I hadn’t intended on submitting it in the first place. I actually submitted it at like the last possible second, so I really should have spent more time advising and editing it.”
The other two wins went to students from Macalester College and Concordia-St. Paul.
While there is no specific scholarship awarded to the winners, Wisneski said it’ll look great on her resume.
“I got a nice plaque to hang up somewhere, but other than that, I’ll include it … on a resume,” Wisneski said.
The papers were “blind” reviewed, meaning that the judges did not know whose paper they were reading.
Bernard Armada, a St. Thomas communication and journalism professor, was one of the conference coordinators.
“It’s competitive,” Armada said. “You have to submit your papers and they’re reviewed by a panel of three faculty, St. Thomas faculty, to accept or to reject them. They have to be at a certain quality. Then, that panel who accepts the papers also can nominate them for one of the three top paper awards.”
Armada said he was excited about Wisneski receiving one of the top paper awards because she was the first student to submit a paper that wasn’t written for a communication and journalism class. Wisneski wrote her paper for her minor, which is in American culture and difference.
“This is the very first time that somebody who’s taking that minor has submitted a piece that was written in a specifically American culture and difference class other than a COJO class,” Armada said. “The three reviewers unanimously voted for her, so I thought that was just so cool.”
Several panels were held throughout the day. Each panel had a different theme that certain papers fell into. Sophomore McKenzie Anderson was one of the 11 students to have her paper selected. Anderson said the experience wasn’t as intimidating as she thought.
“I thought it would be more nerve-wracking, but it actually wasn’t,” Anderson said.
For Anderson, one of the best parts was having the keynote speaker comment on her essay: “Scream Queen 2.0: The Development of the Female Victim from Original to Remake.”
“I was presenting my project and there was one kind of older guy there,” Anderson said. “He was sitting in. He asked a lot of questions, which was fun because I really wanted to talk about my project. Then I went to the lunch reception and it turns out he was the keynote speaker.”
Professor Greg Dickinson of Colorado State University was the keynote speaker for the conference. Armada chose keynote speakers based on personality, among other things.
“I choose somebody who I believe whose feet are on the ground enough,” Armada said. “Who’s a brilliant scholar, well-published, great reputation in the field, but who also, given what I know of them, has the personality and ability to connect with undergraduates.”
Dickinson gave a presentation titled “The Megachurch and the Mall: Building the Suburban Moral Landscape.”
“His speech in specific wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I thought he was so much fun,” Anderson said. “He was just super friendly and enthusiastic. He really made his topic very palpable.”
Sophomore Joe Zangle said the idea of having scholars review the papers is beneficial for students.
“The panels can make additional corrections to the material while offering valuable input to the students,” Zangle said. “Also, the students can receive recognition for their paper that I’m sure they put lot of hard work in.”
Armada said conferences like these represent students who have gone “above and beyond.”
“Presenting at the conference becomes an automatic talking point on a resume,” Armada said. “Saying that you presented at a conference, it shows that you’ve gone above and beyond in the course work that you’ve done and that you’re curious and interested in engaging ideas more so than just completing an assignment for a class.”
Kayla Bengtson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.