Comm students, faculty collaborate on SURE research

Three Elon students from the School of Communications and one Elon student working with a faculty member in the school are using the summer break not for relaxation, but for research. The four students are participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program, an eight-week affair during which students and faculty mentors collaborate to produce an extensive research project.

To be eligible, students are required to have completed their freshman year and to have maintained a GPA of at least 3.0. Additionally, the selection committee judges potential SURE scholars on their past academic performance, the project’s suitability and the project’s educational value. This summer, the Undergraduate Research Program Advisory Committee selected and funded 16 student-faculty teams, each of which received a stipend of $2,700.

School of Communications students Conor Britain, Erin Barnett and Alyse Knorr and English major Sarah Cox are currently working on their projects.

Knorr is a rising junior Honors Follow, double majoring in English and Journalism. Her summer research has focused on teen pregnancy in Alamance County, a topic that piqued her interest in her Global Studies class during the fall semester of her freshman year, when she learned that the United States had the highest teen pregnancy rate among developed countries in the world.

The following year, Knorr began tutoring at Cummings High School in Burlington, N.C., where she mentored a young pregnant student.

“It shocked me,” Knorr said of seeing a pregnant teenager. “At that point, I wanted to do something more with teen pregnancy.”

Knorr teamed up with School of Communications faculty member Janna Anderson and began establishing contacts before officially receiving the SURE grant money. Knorr has been interviewing mothers ranging in age from 15 to 21 years old, and her ultimate goal is to produce a piece of long non-fiction that would eventually run in the Burlington Times-News or the Greensboro News & Record. She said she wants the teen mothers to drive her story, not the statistics.

“If people know about the numbers,” Knorr said, “That’s all they know about. They don’t know about the day-to-day struggles. (The women) are stuck in a rut, stuck in a cycle of poverty and drug abuse. It’s really powerful to meet the faces of the numbers.”

Knorr (at right, talking to to a local) also toured Namibiadescription  with Sociology professor Tom Arcaro, Britain and Barnett as a part of a Project Pericles initiative to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. They conducted extensive interviews with AIDS activist Anita Isaacs. Knorr will use the transcripts from the interviews to put together Isaacs's autobiography. Knorr also wrote a two-part series about her trip for the News & Record, which ran July 24-25.

Read the July 24 story by CLICKING HERE

Knorr wrote a sidebar about Project Pericles

Rad the June 25 story by CLICKING HERE

Knorr served as news editor of The Pendulum, Elon’s student newspaper, in the spring of 2007. She will study abroad in Ireland in the fall.

Barnett(at left with Anderson and staff member Bryan Baker) is a rising junior Honors Fellow, who is majoring in Broadcast Communications. Her SURE project, tentatively titled “The Internet: Bridging the Divide,” is a social documentary that studies the worldwide digital divide. Barnett and her faculty mentor, Janna Anderson, traveled to Athens, Greece, in the fall, where they attended the Internet Governance Forum. Barnett, a San Antonio, Texas, native whose only other international travel experience was a jaunt to nearby Mexico, said the trip to Athens gave her a wider world perspective.

“In the Western world, especially,” Barnett said, “we take the Internet for granted. We expect to have it. As the Internet becomes more and more intertwined with our lives, the rest of the world isn’t connected. They’re staying behind. And instead of using the Internet as a tool to help catch up, we’re just sprinting ahead.”

Barnett, who will study abroad in Italy in the fall, said her documentary is best suited as an educational tool to help raise awareness of the digital divide. She also said there has been talk of presenting her video at next year's IGF conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Additionally, Barnett (at right with a Namibian child) alsodescription  toured Namibia with Arcaro, Britain and Knorr. She, too, interviewed Isaacs for a documentary that chronicles AIDS awareness. It will serve as her Honors Thesis, and she expects it to be completed in the spring of 2008. Ultimately, she expressed interest in returning to Namibia to premiere the film.

Barnett works as a segment producer on the show “etc.” and as the host and camera operator on “Road Trip,” both of which air on ESTV. She will study abroad in Italy in the fall.

Britain is a rising junior Communications Fellow, who is majoring in Broadcast Communications. He’s working with anthropology professor Tom Mould on an ethnographic documentary, tentatively titled “The Ethnography of Little League Baseball.” The nascence of Britain’s study arose in the fall semester of his freshman year. His original pitch to Mould involved examining the life of little league baseball umpires. Britain let the idea percolate for a few months before he had an “epiphany,” he said.

“Why focus on umpires,” Britain said, “when the most interesting part of youth sports is the youth itself?”

Shortly thereafter, he had a workable topic, and he began the process of finding a Little League team—comprised of 10-, 11- and 12-year-old baseball players—that he could shadow at practices and games. Initially, he said his research served two primary goals. First, he wanted to discover the children’s perspective on the basic aspects of sport: competition and fair play. Second, he wanted to observe how the players form social networks. Other themes emerged as he delved into the research, though. He monitored the intricate interactions between players, coaches, umpires and parents, and he witnessed the initiation of new players into an already established group dynamic.

“It made for a compelling, important and interesting documentary,” said Britain, who spent about 15 hours a week with his team in addition to the added time expended on reviewing material he had already gathered.

    Britain (at left with Issacs), too, traveled to Namibia with Arcaro, Knorr and Barnett, where he served as a camera operator and a co-director of cinematography for the documentary about AIDS awareness.

Britain works a segment producer on the show “etc.” and as the co-executive producer of “Road Trip,” both of which air on ESTV. He will study abroad in Italy in the fall.

Cox, a rising senior English major and Honors Fellow, is working with Communications faculty member Brooke Barnett to produce a documentary about student activism on college campuses. Cox is using Elon’s Campus Climate Challenge—a group dedicated to encouraging the university to adopt cleaner environmental practices—as a case study for her research.

Her inquest proposes to observe the role of the university in shaping engaged citizens and to ascertain the extent of student apathy on campus.

“It seems like students looking to make systematic changes are really in a vast minority,” Cox said. “It’s not that students at Elon are not educated, it’s just that they’re more apt to volunteer rather than to be engaged in activism. There’s a stigma that activism is only for religious radicals.”

Brooke Barnett and Cox initially met in Barnett’s Literary Journalism course, a class Cox completed her sophomore year. The pair first teamed up to co-write the documentary “Left Ahead.”


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