Two Austin Peay State University graduate students recently swept the graduate paper awards at the Kentucky Communication Association and Tennessee Communication Association State Conference at Lake Barkley, Kentucky.
And their mentor, Austin Peay assistant professor Tracy Nichols, won the outstanding graduate student mentor award at the same conference.
“I am overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude,” said Rebecca Rider, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in communication arts with a concentration in marketing communication and who won first place in the competition. “Truthfully, the last award I received was over 13 years ago, and it feels amazing to be recognized for something I’ve been trying to master since I could pick up a pencil.”
Hailey Perry, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in communication arts with a concentration in general communication and finished second, echoed the thought.
“Seeing other people react positively to my research was the most rewarding part of this experience,” she said. “Both of my papers were pieces that I had worked tirelessly on, so the validation I received helped motivate me through this semester when I found myself doubting my abilities.”
Rider’s paper: An exploration of identity’s role in health decisions
Rider’s paper explored the correlation between the communication theory of identity and health-and-wellness-related decisions.
“Do the personas we identify within advertisements have an impact on whether we decide to take action, such as joining a gym, quitting smoking, seeing your primary care provider?” she said.
Rider credited the passion she has for health and wellness for realizing the impact such decisions have on our everyday lives. She has worked in health care marketing for four years, and her husband is a doctor resident.
“My paper was written to speak to marketing communications professionals like myself who may need guidance in communicating the confusing and ever-changing world of health care-wellness effectively,” she said. “With vaping and lung injury illnesses sweeping the headlines, it’s more important now than ever to focus on what is being advertised to adolescents and how these ads are causing people to make decisions that could have a fatal impact.”
The title of Rider’s paper was “The Communication Theory of Identity: Exploring the Correlation to Health and Wellness.”
Perry’s paper: An analysis of the importance of grief communication
Before joining Austin Peay’s graduate program, Perry knew she wanted to research grief communication.
“I feel strongly about this topic, and it is an area that needs further expanding,” she said. “Since being in the program, I’ve utilized many opportunities to take different approaches into the realm of communication surrounding loss and death.”
As with Rider and health care-wellness, Perry thinks her passion for grief communication – ultimately a difficult topic to cover – helped her paper succeed.
“I continue to look for new ways to explore this area of communication,” she said. “Dr. Nichols and [department of communication chair] Dr. Robert Baron gave great advice during the writing process, and I think that their attention made a huge impact on the quality of my work.”
The title of Perry’s paper was “How Sequencing Theory Predicts Limitations in Conversations on Grief.”
‘Faculty members who care deeply about student achievement’
The awards speak to Austin Peay’s focus on student success, Rider and Perry said.
“I think it says a lot about the dedication of our students and the faculty,” Rider said. “Over the last two years, every single one of my professors has made it a point to personally invest in my success. I think that’s something many students at Austin Peay experience, and something we should be proud of.”
Perry also cherishes her Austin Peay experience.
“When we swept the category, I was honestly thinking about how fortunate I am that I chose to pursue my degree at APSU,” she said. “Looking around our table, I saw numerous faculty members and a department chair who care deeply about student achievement.”
Nichols exemplifies that, they said.
“Dr. Nichols loves seeing students succeed, and it is apparent by the smile that comes across her face when a student makes connections with course material,” Perry said. “She believes in giving her students amazing opportunities because of her teaching motto of ‘live it, learn it,” and that is exactly where I found myself at the KCA-TCA conference.”
For more about the department of communication, visit apsu.edu/communication.
For more about the college of graduate studies, visit apsu.edu/grad-studies.