MaryClaire Schulz ’17 presents honors thesis at International Public Relations Conference

The strategic communications major and Associate Professor Barbara Miller Gaither both led research discussions at the March conference in Orlando, Florida.

Senior MaryClaire Schulz was “one of only a handful of undergraduates" to present at the 2017 International Public Relations Conference, held March 8-12 in Orlando, Florida. Photos courtesy of Lucinda Austin
MaryClaire Schulz ’17, a strategic communications major, recently presented her honors thesis at the 2017 International Public Relations Conference, billed as one of the top venues for new public relations research. The four-day conference, held March 8-12 in Orlando, Florida, attracted scholars, professionals and current students interested public relations research and innovation.

Schulz’s thesis titled “Corporate Social Responsibility and Female Entrepreneurship: The Case of Coca-Cola’s 5by20 Initiative” focuses on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative developed by the world’s largest beverage company to empower five million women by 2020. The case study analysis examines the 5by20 initiative’s communications efforts to determine how Coca-Cola engages with different stakeholder groups on a global scale.

“She was incredible and one of only a handful of undergraduates to present at this professional conference,” said Lucinda Austin, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Austin, formerly an assistant professor at Elon, also attended the conference.

With former Elon assistant professor Lucinda Austin looking on, Schulz (left) discusses her research on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative developed by Coca-Cola.
​In addition to serving as branding director at Live Oak Communications, Elon’s student-run strategic communications agency, Schulz is currently working as a strategy and insights intern at Pace Communications in Greensboro.

​Austin and Barbara Miller Gaither, an associate professor at Elon University, also co-presented at the conference, leading a research discussion titled “Perceived Motivations for Corporate CSR in Socially Stigmatized Industries.” The professors’ study explores how company-cause relationships and acknowledgement of benefit impacts perceived motivations and skepticism.

The International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) is held annually in March. The 2017 event marked the conference’s 20th year.