Communication capstones vary from interpersonal to media-related topics

May 01, 2012

Three Communication majors looked towards personal inspiration to fuel their capstone projects, exploring the varied topics of military relationships, business marketing and celebrity worship.

Sarah McGuirk’s paper was especially intimate, stemming from her fiancé, Jeff Sabol, joining the Marine Corps in the beginning of 2011.

“Since then, every project that I have had, I tried to relate it back to the military and those relationships that are formed through it,” said McGuirk, a Communication-Sociology dual major from Port Orange, Fla. While researching, she noticed that much focus was placed on the effects of joining and deployment on spouses and children.

“This made me think about how my fiancé’s parents were affected when he first left for boot camp,” said McGuirk. She interviewed 10 mothers and 10 fathers of Marines who left for boot camp on Jan. 3, 2011, the same day as her fiancé. Titled “Unity Among Strangers: Military Parents,” she focused on three aspects: the initial enlistment, time spent at boot camp and post-graduation.

McGuirk learned that for parents, the fear associated with having a child join the military never goes away. She also researched the effectiveness of support groups, and in particular found that informal groups, like the ones on Facebook, are more helpful than formal support. Some of the benefits of having a child join the military, she found, are that their patriotism is at an all-time high and they had increased knowledge of foreign issues.

In other Communication capstones, Caroline Schippereit utilized her Business Administration minor to delve into the world of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  The Cockeysville, Md. native knew that this was becoming a widely popular and debated topic because of increased social awareness and consumer savvy.

“Businesses face pressure from shareholders to maintain and grow profits, while also facing external societal pressures to behave in a socially responsible manner,” she said, adding that this prompts companies to use “cause-related” marketing initiatives.

From that knowledge, Schippereit explored the potential effects of this marketing strategy on a company’s product and its impact on consumers’ purchasing behavior, examining any personality or demographic variables that might influence this.

For example, if consumers are willing to purchase their favorite brand of snack food despite a price increase due to the company’s support of a national charity, then the consumers are exhibiting Socially Responsible Consumer Behavior (SRCB).

Schippereit found that females are more likely to switch to another brand than males, and the greater the altruism, the greater their SRCB tendency. Schippereit hopes to use this research in her future career in marketing.

Jenna Little of Westminster, Md., first became interested in celebrity worship after taking the Introduction to Communication: Media course.

“I’ve always found it intriguing that celebrity culture has become so overwhelming to the point where much of the mainstream news includes celebrity scandals and news,” she said. Little set out to examine how this obsession can affect a person’s individual life and behaviors.

She quickly realized this topic is a fairly new and becomingly increasingly popular with researchers in the communication field. She discovered the Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS) and decided to focus on two things: styles of attachment, including secure, avoidant, anxious, ambivalent, etc., and how media consumption affects satisfaction with life.

The results were unexpected. The most surprising result she uncovered was that the more TV a person views and happier the person will be, and vice versa. This goes against her prior assumption that large amounts of media consumption would create low satisfaction with life.

Other Communication capstone papers include:

Laura Abbasi of Middle River, Md.
Their image of me: A phenomenological study of the professional dress choice of female professors.

Bryannia Bongiorni of LaPlata, Md.
You’re going where?!: How studying abroad effects romantic relationships.

Kendal Ford of Baltimore
What’s Unity got to do with it? A qualitative study of the existence of unity within ethnic organizations at a small predominantly white college.

Kristen Houpt of Sudbury, Mass.
Domestic violence in the romance novel.

Ivon Martinez of Silver Spring, Md.
From one of a kind to one of many: the suppression of a sorority’s identity.

Kwei Maduot-Parek of Lanham, Md.
Student perceptions of diversity through exposure.

Evan Roberts of Bel Air, Md.
A study on the efficiency in communication of corporate policies: specifically core values.

Karla Saravia of Silver Spring, Md.
Romantic films and love styles.

Nicholas Sicuranza of Seven Valleys, Pa.
A qualitative look into the professional relationship between doctors and reps.

Scott Welkos of Westminster, Md.
Learning to unlearn: the shared cultural experience of jam music festival patrons.