Thursday, March 8, 2012

Students present and win awards at communication research conference

Two of our communication studies students recently won accolades at the Student Undergraduate Research Forum, a conference that honors research about communication.

Hannah Asher ’12 won first prize in the conference for her research about page layout and font styles in the magazines Cosmopolitan and Maxim. Her paper, titled “Comic Books and To Do Lists,” compared the men’s magazine Maxim to a comic book for its frequent use of cartoon-like images, its cluttered layout and its block text fonts. Meanwhile, Cosmopolitan features more color variations, softer fonts, and more organized layouts—including to-do lists. She argued that these design elements reinforce traditional gender roles that claim women must be more organized and in control of themselves while men can slack.

Julianna Joyce ’13 won second prize with her presentation about race depictions in Disney film. She noted that Disney animations that portray racial minorities perpetuate negative racial stereotypes. Even when minority characters are portrayed as protagonists, they usually have more Anglican features than antagonist minorities in the same movies, according to her research. Joyce conducted some of her research during the Summer Research Program in 2011.

Two other students also participated in the conference. Xavier Suarez ’12 presented his research about ska music and its contribution towards a Latin American cultural identity. He analyzed songs and music videos by Latin American bands Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, La Maldita Vecindad, and Los Rabanes, and discussed how the rhythms, lyrics, and themes of those songs create a hybrid culture from the various countries in that region.

Catherine Godley ’13 also presented research about the magazines Cosmopolitan and Maxim, but, unlike Asher, she focused on the images used in the magazines and what they say about gender roles. While prior research has focused on images in the magazines’ advertisements, she studied the images that editors themselves chose for magazine illustrations. She documented how both magazines (even Cosmopolitan, which is geared toward a female audience) cast women in weaker roles than men.

Randolph College gives students many opportunities to share their work with others, which is a very important part of the academic experience here and in graduate schools. In addition to regional and national conferences, our students participate in the Symposium of Artists and Scholars, which highlights the best academic research and creative work at the College each spring, and the Summer Research Program, which concludes with a mini-conference.