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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

URC 2003

Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/cmst/news/urc_2003.html

Undergraduate Research Center

April 14-15, 2003

The Department sponsored eleven undergraduate research programs and presentations at the 2003 URC. Three of the presentations were recognized as URC research/presentation winners. A summary of the presentations is highlighted below.

Mythic Rhetoric and the Construction of Paul Wellstone as Sacred Symbol

Student: Cynthia Saba
Mentor: Lisa Perry
Department: Speech Communication

On October 25, 2002 Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash alongside his wife, daughter, three campaign workers, and two pilots. A week later, a nationally televised memorial was held to remember the late Senator. The passionate given by Wellstone friends and family caused some to question whether the event was truly a memorial. In fact, the Associated Press on October 30, 2002 reported the memorial transformed from "tears to foot stomping, cheers, and even booing people from other parties." Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) exemplifies the tone of the memorial service when he states "Paul Wellstone's voice is tragically silenced, but his courage, energy, and daring carries on, compelling us to stand strong for what is right, good, decent, and humane, regardless of consequences." The construction of Paul Wellstone as a mythic figure began in full-force at the Memorial; thus this event bears closer examination. This paper will use Fulmer's article "Southern Clerics and the Passing of Lee: Mythic Rhetoric and the Construction of a Sacred Symbol" published in the Summer 1990 Southern Communication Journal to analyze the impact of the Wellstone Memorial service and answer the question, "How was mythic rhetoric used to construct Paul Wellstone as a sacred symbol for the Democratic party?"

Profanity and You: Exploring the Acceptability of Swearing in Today's Culture

Student: Rebecca Rick
Mentor: Lisa Perry
Department: Speech Communication

In 1972, a list was created; George Carlin's list of "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television". Part of the humor in Carlin's performance arose from the nature of censorship and the shock of obscenity in a public venue. The overall shock value of swearing has depleted as most swear words have become acceptable and commonplace. The Toronto Sun of March 20, 2002 reported: "During four weeks of viewing one prime time hour in 1989, the Parents Television Council counted 108 uses of hell and damn. By 1999 there were 518." This is a minor example of the rise of profanity in one form of communication-the media. Through the use of humor, this research project will look at why swearing has become so acceptable in American society and the repercussions this poses.

Comfort Through Humor: The 9/11 Edition of the Onion

Student: Suzanne V. Loen
* Suzanne's presentation is a 2003 URC research winner
Mentor: Daniel Cronn-Mills
Department: Speech Communication

In September of last year, the satirical newspaper The Onion covered the tragedy of 9/11. According to the Daily Northwestern of May 14, 2002, this issue of The Onion was the first major media outlet to take a humorous look at 9/11. In this study, I shall analyze the September 26, 2001 edition of The Onion, which covered the attacks of 9/11. To analyze The Onion's discourse, I shall utilize a frame of humor analysis established by Kathleen Hurley in her 1996 doctoral dissertation Humor and Technical Communication: The Culture, the Text, and Implications. Hurley's theory is appropriate as the method provides for a comparative reflection of 9/11. To understand The Onion's rhetoric I must ask the following critical question: What rhetorical and social purpose did The Onion's humor serve in framing our understanding of 9/11? To answer the question we must first, detail a rhetorical framework for analyzing the use of humor in a serious situation and second, apply this framework to The Onion. Finally, I will draw implications concerning the rhetorical dimensions of humor.

An Examination of Secret Legal Settlements and Their Obstruction of Justice

Student: Heather Kaiser
Mentor: Daniel Cronn-Mills
Department: Speech Communication

In the summer of 2000, Steve Taerrez's vehicle overturned due to defective tires. Steve survived, but his 3-year-old son did not. At the time, Steve had no idea there was a problem, despite dozens of similar accidents around the country. According to NPR's All Things Considered of Oct. 11, 2002, the earlier accidents were not widely published. A series of secret legal settlements kept the dangers hidden, and led to Nick's death. The Aug. 26, 2002 Gannett News Service stated more than 100 lawsuits were filed against Ford and Firestone for more than 10 years. In almost every case, the suits were settled with secrecy, trying to make sure we would never find out. This poses the question, "if the cases had not been settled secretly, how much money and damage, and how many lives could have been spared?" Secret settlements prevent justice from being served. We should still allow settlements, just not in secret. We must first expose the flaws within the current legal system that allows for secret settlements, and secondly reveal the repercussions of secret settlements. Finally, we need to implement solutions for public safety.

Say Anything: A Content Analysis of YM (Your Magazine) Removing Articles on Weight Loss

Student: Suzanne V. Loen
Mentor: Lisa Perry
Department: Speech Communication

With millions of women under the age of 20 suffering from eating disorders, YM (Your Magazine) has adopted a new editorial policy eliminating all articles on weight loss and including images of plus-size models. Weight loss journalism is a staple of the fashion magazine genre, thus removing weight loss articles requires the focus of the magazine to shift. With this editorial change, the magazine is attempting to create a positive influence on all young women who have body image disorders. Using content analysis, this paper examines the contents of YM before and after this editorial change to answer two questions. First, has the ideal body image promoted by YM changed? Second, has the removal of weight loss articles from YM had an affect on the body image of the reader?

A Humorous Examination of Current Brain Research and its Applications

Student: Chad Kuyper
* Chad's presentation is a 2003 URC research winner
Mentor: Daniel Cronn-Mills
Department: Speech Communication

Research into the inner workings of the mind, into how we construct and control our thoughts and emotions, has skyrocketed. According to Wolfe and Brandt in a 1998 issue of the journal Educational Leadership, we have learned more about the brain in the past ten years than in the past one hundred years put together. Examination of this new research is warranted because it yields benefits in many areas, such as the alleviation of performance anxiety and a better understanding of the people we interact with each day. Educators can also benefit from this new research by applying it in their teaching methods. In this humorous examination of this research, I explore the theories of Howard Gardner and Daniel Goleman, analyze new findings that modify our view of their well-known theories, and then show how we can take this information and apply it in our day-to-day lives.

Unheard Voices of the Abortion Movement

Student: Jaimee Bohning
Mentor: Nanette Johnson-Curiskis
Department: Speech Communication

In the thirty years since Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113), the pro-life and pro-choice movements have developed very distinct platforms. This project examines the women who have not been spoken to or have not been heard in this heated debate. Often times, proponents of either argument ignore the influence issues of class and culture have on women making the abortion choice. Access to information, or lack thereof, is a common factor in making women feel as though they are choosing the pro-life or pro-choice argument against their will. Capitalizing on this factor, the two extreme arguments have ignored a large segment of women. By researching the rhetoric in print ads, media, and public addresses of both the pro-choice and the pro-life movement, I will show how many women have been forced to identify as pro-choice or pro-life for lack of more appropriate options.

The Hair We Wear

Students: Jenny Ellsworth, Jessica Fuhrer
Mentor: Nanette Johnson-Curiskis
Department: Speech Communication

Several aspects of physical appearance can impact the nonverbal messages people send to others, including hair. This study examined how much a person's hair color and hair style affect impressions and perceptions that are formed. Surveys were administered asking people to match personality characteristics with pictures of different hair colors and styles, and the data was analyzed. The main purpose of the study was to determine if people share the same perceptions and impressions based on hair, or if different people form differing perceptions and impressions.

Interpersonal Communication as an Online Course

Student: Darrell Niemeic
Mentor: Nanette Johnson-Curiskis
Department: Speech Communication

Currently, Interpersonal Communication is taught as a traditional course in the Speech Communication Department of Minnesota State University Mankato. In light of heavy student demand, enrollment, and diminishing resources, it is reasonable to assume an online delivery system would be beneficial to the Speech Communication Department and to the University. This study examined the effectiveness of teaching a course which involves interpersonal skills and theories as an online experience. The methodology included a literature review reflecting research and practice related to online IPC courses. Interviews with and surveys of students and faculty who were involved with online courses at other institutions were included. This presentation will highlight a course proposal including a course syllabus, course outcomes and objectives, course materials and resources, assessment procedures, weekly lesson plans, questions for online discussions, and proposals for term projects and papers.

What's So Funny?: A Reader's Theatre Examining the Reasons Why We Laugh

Students: Heather Kaiser, Chad Kuyper, Mitch Batty, Rebecca Rick, Cynthia Saba
* Heather, Chad, Mitch, Rebecca, and Cynthia's presentation is a 2003 URC research winner
Mentor: Brian Klosa
Department: Speech Communication

Laughter is an integral part of our lives. We laugh every day. Everybody has an individualistic sense of humor. We know what we find humorous, but why do we laugh at those things? The following reader's theatre will examine theories and research conducted on comedy. The performance will discuss the structural elements contained in comedy. Finally, this performance will utilize various examples from popular culture to illustrate various comedic forms and formulas.

The Formula

Students: Heather Kaiser, Chad Kuyper
Mentor: Daniel Cronn-Mills
Department: Speech Communication

Throughout the history of story telling, the formula for a successful love story has remained the same. The constancy of this formula has spanned chronology and crossed genre boundaries as well. Since so many of these love stories mirror woe, it merits our examination. Through an assortment of plays and movies from old to new, we present the dramatic program, The Formula.