Honors in Communication Students Present Research at ECA

by Catherine Wright, Ph.D.

Honors in Communication Students Present Research at ECA

On Friday, March 31, three of #MasonCOMM’s brightest stars presented their Honors in Communication Research (COMM 490/491) findings at the annual Eastern Communication Association’s (ECA) 114th conference in Baltimore, MD.  Tashianna Patterson, Mariam Masood, and Amberly Silva-Arriaga each presented their original research study in a 75-minute poster session to students and faculty from around the nation.  Enriching their own research, they took the opportunity to view other projects, asking questions of the participants.  They each came away with a greater understanding of the journey people take to discover new and exciting aspects of Communication.

Mariam Masood’s poster discussed Perceived Repercussions of Online Dating Among Young Adults.  When asked why she chose that topic, she replied, “The attachment and usage of electronic devices have increased significantly among young adults, and now most young adults prefer online dating rather than meeting someone face to face.”  Her study was important because “there currently is not enough information regarding how individuals perceive and interpret the negative repercussions of online dating.”

The most surprising finding, Masood found, was “that men were just as vulnerable as women about the fears they had. They were very honest and detailed about their negative experiences and the emotional impact it had made on them.”  Masood went on to say, “I think as a society we categorize men to be unemotional, but they are more sensitive than we realize and my study gave them an outlet to express those emotions.”  Her biggest takeaway from the conference was “seeing how many people in different age groups were interested in my study.” 

Masood was also pleased to get some “more insight about the various directions that she could potentially pursue to expand her research.”  She continued, “overall, the conference allowed me to realize the importance of my research and the relevancy of the topic.”

Tashianna Patterson agreed with Masood, saying her biggest takeaway is “is that research can be a really rewarding, collaborative, and enjoyable experience.  Being able to talk to and learn from people who are already doing some of the things that I hope to do in the future was an invaluable opportunity.”  Patterson spent eight months writing and researching her topic, Traditional Vs Nontraditional News Outlets: A Study on The News Consumption Tendencies of Young Adults . 

Patterson mentioned that her biggest challenge with her topic, which she had not expected, was “creating a survey that wasn't too time-consuming but also allowed me to get the data that I was looking for.”  Conversely, she said that the easiest thing about doing her research over the past seven months was “creating the poster for the conference.  The outline I was given was very helpful and set me up for success.”   

Patterson has some advice for first-time presenters.  She noted that “going into a conference as a first-time attendee is very nerve-racking so if you can, lean on your professors for guidance and be confident.”   

Amberly Silva-Arriaga studied Empathy and Teen Pop Music.  Prior to this conference, she had the most experience presenting, as she had done presentations in high school.  She said at that time she tried to memorize everything “which would only make me more nervous, anxious, and nauseous when presenting.”  Thanks to those experiences, Silva-Arriaga’s “confidence and communication skills” strengthened.

When asked how ECA compared to what she had done before, she said “ECA consists of professionals that have a passion for communication and research.  ECA organized the presentations in an engaging conversation format that made it easier for me to talk about my research. Furthermore, ECA allowed me to network with other students about their work, and gain new friends, and memories.” 

Silva-Arriaga said that her biggest takeaway from the conference was “the opportunity to conduct and present my own personal research because this experience is going to be the foundation for my future research/work as I attend graduate school.”  Silva-Arriaga, a student in the Communication BAM program, said that Dr. Zhao and #MasonCOMM’s support was greatly appreciated throughout this experience 

Each year a faculty member from #MasonCOMM teaches the Honors in Communication Research.  This year, Xiaoquan Zhao, Ph.D., guided eight students to fulfill the requirements for the Honors in Communication designation.  Of those eight, six will present at conferences.  Zhao said his greatest joy about teaching 490/491 is “the opportunity to engage with young and brilliant minds.  The students in the class are eager to learn and motivated to excel.”  Zhao had the opportunity to get to know the students well and said, “They have come a long way in this year-long program and have acquired important research skills that will make them productive contributors in whatever profession they may choose to pursue in the future.”

Supported by the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR), six #MasonCOMM students are partially funded so they can present their research.  The remaining three will present their research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Wisconsin next weekend. 

For more information about the Honors in Communication Research sequence (COMM 490/491), please contact the Honors coordinator, Dr. Xiaomei Cai, xcai@gmu.edu