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2017 Best Honors Thesis

Hey everyone – Halli Krzyzaniak received the 2017 Best Honors Thesis award yesterday! Her thesis title is: A Comprehensive Study of Female Hockey Players’ Use of Social Media to Attract Fans and Endorsements.

Halli worked with her Honors thesis committee chair, Dr. Soojung Kim, an assistant professor in Communication, to produce the award-winning Honors thesis. Halli chose Dr. Kim for her expertise in social media. Halli started with an observation about the differences between the ways male and female hockey players are treated, and Dr. Kim helped her refine the idea by helping her connect with current theories on communication and social media and research methods to make sure her data and results were valid and reliable.

Along with being an Honors student with a Communication minor, she was also the captain of the UND women’s hockey team. It is clear that her academic and athletic careers have created an innovative outlet for her research.

Congratulations, Halli!

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American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Yesterday, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences announced their 228 newly elected members. According to the press release, “Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing—and opportunities available to—the nation and the world. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies in science, engineering, and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts, and education; and American institutions and the public good” ( This prestigious group includes accomplished artists, writers, scientists and many others working toward a better tomorrow by engaging with the nation and the world.

Among the 228 new members, our very own Mark Trahant is now apart of this distinguished group. Don Randel, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors, said, “Their talents and expertise will enrich the life of the Academy and strengthen our capacity to spread knowledge and understanding in service to the nation” ( We are excited to see Mark join the Academy, and know he will continue to enhance the research in academia.

Congratulations, Mark!

Follow this link to read the entire press release: Press Release

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New Article

Recently, one of our faculty members, Sarah Cavanah, along with coauthors Piotr Bobkowski and Patrick Miller at University of Kansas, published a new article in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator. The article is called “Who are the ‘Journalism Kids?’ Academic Predictors of Journalism Participation in Secondary Schools.”

This article puts to rest one portion of a 30-year issue in scholastic journalism research. We have a lot of studies that show students who participate in high school journalism do better on all sorts of markers, like ACT/SAT scores, writing assessments, and first-year GPA in college. However, all these studies were nagged by the problem that it was impossible to say whether journalism makes kids do better or whether journalism attracts better kids. This stayed a problem because you need a lot of data to really decide. Otherwise you can’t control for different factors like gender, income, etc. and you don’t have enough statistical power to really find effects. In this first study, we use a large longitudinal data set kept by the Department of Education to determine who is choosing to take high school journalism courses and participate in extra-curricular journalism programs. The answer is that it is true that students with “better” markers tend to take journalism courses. They have more confidence in their English skills than other students, higher English GPAs, greater overall involvement in school, have higher socioeconomic status, and tend to me female and White (both of which tend to match with higher academic achievement in high school). So, journalism attracts the kinds of students more likely to succeed on academic measures.

With the answer to whether journalism just attracts better students, the next part of this study uses the same data to measure what the actual effect of journalism course are on academic achievement. Those results should come out in the next couple years.

To read the article, follow this link:

Congratulations, Sarah!

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Graduate Research Achievement Day

Department of Communication graduate students Jessica Sobolik and Haseon Park presented their research yesterday afternoon at the UND Graduate Research Achievement Day. They both did an excellent job with their presentations and posters!


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NDNA Competition Winner

The North Dakota Newspaper Association (NDNA) Executive Committee announced today that UND Communication senior Emily Gibbens has been selected to participate in the National Newspaper Association Foundation Fellows Program this March in Washington, D.C. Gibbens will be the North Dakota representative in the program and will travel with NDNA Executive Director Steve Andrist.

While in D.C., Gibbens will work with other student journalists from across the country as they produce content under the supervision of professional journalists working in the capital. The fellows will also visit D.C. landmarks like the Newseum and Capitol Hill.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Emily, and I’m very grateful NDNA is supporting her,” said Sarah Cavanah, assistant professor of communication at UND. “Emily is a small-town North Dakotan, but she has shown she has the potential to be a leading communicator in the state. I hope she’s just the first UND communication student to be selected for such a meaningful experience.”

Congratulations, Emily!

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The “Take Over”

There’s going to be a little more “gown” in Grand Forks’s “town” communications, and it’s all because of some innovative UND faculty, open government officials, energetic students and one pretty adorable baby.

It will all start with a scheduled “take over” of the Grand Forks Snapchat account by UND students to cover the State of the City address Feb. 15, but reaches much farther, including a lasting relationship for the City and students launching their careers.

The story of the “take over” starts back last academic year when Communication faculty Joonghwa Lee and Soojung Kim were at doctor’s visit preparing for the upcoming birth of their child. Their physician is known for being chatty, and the three talked about their lives, including Lee and Kim’s work with students planning to enter public relations and advertising careers, and the obstetrician’s “other” job, as Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown.

Kim and Lee were interested in offering more experiential learning opportunities for their students, where they could practice concepts and skills in real-world contexts for real clients. Somewhere along the way, both the idea of having UND strategic communication students work for the City and Jaden Jiho Lee were born.

During the Fall 2016 semester both Lee’s Advertising and Public Relations Campaign course and Kim’s Research Methods course went to work on three initiatives the City wanted to tackle: 1) communicating better with UND students; 2) communicating better about events in the City, particularly to young adults; and 3) communicating better with minority populations, particularly Native Americans.

One result is the “take over” for the State of the City Address, but it hardly stops there.

“I have learned more in this class than any other I have taken in my college career in regards to how make plans, set goals, be organized, be professional, interact with teammates and work together to overcome obstacles along the way,” said Abby Smith, a student in both classes. “I have changed and grown as a leader.”

Kim and Lee structured the courses to mimic what students would experience in a strategic communications firm with the City as a client. Students met with city officials to better understand the communication situation, conducted extensive research — including best practices in other cities, and focus groups and surveys of the target audience — and regularly met with city leaders like Community/Government Relations Officer Pete Haga.

Haga said he was more than open to working with the students. The City has successfully used student learning teams from other disciplines on other projects — saving tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees — and the Communication students brought a lot to the table beyond just being an economical choice of consultants for the taxpayer.

“One of the reasons why we would take this opportunity is we wanted some ‘non-industry’ answers to our questions,” Haga said. “Students bring authentic, fresh perspectives that allow us to see our work in different ways.”

The students provided a full report with lots of fresh perspectives at an official presentation Dec. 12. The crowded room heard recommendations on several tactics, including using Snapchat — the current popular social media app for the college-aged set — and restarting the City’s Instagram account with a new handle to indicate it would be more active than in the past. Students also recommended leveraging UND Hockey as an attractive feature to keep graduates in the City, providing growth.

The recommendations weren’t all about just following the hot trends, Lee said.

“As we know, students are very excited about social media,” he said. “I expected them to emphasize social media. The interesting thing is the students tried to find how to use social media strategically rather than randomly.”

Lee said he was happy to see the students thinking critically about social media use and what is and what is not effective in a professional context. The students even recommended that some more traditional techniques would be best for getting the word out about events in the city, particularly print mailers.

Haga said the City was surprised by some of the more novel ideas, but that they were all supported by his further research.

“I had not heard of Snapchat takeovers,” he said. “But we’ve since found that’s on the radar of governments elsewhere. Everything we received from the students has so far been completely validated.”

The City was impressed enough by the student’s work that Kim’s spring course has been “hired” to work on better communicating about city-wide events to the UND student population, particularly the Downtown Street Fair held annually in September. Kim said she hopes to keep that relationship going.

“I may have different clients in the future or keep working with City,” she said. “But overall, I plan to provide my students with this type of client project because this has much more value for this material than just listening to lectures and taking exams. I want my students to become professionals who can contribute to the community.”

The approach worked for Communication student Peter Monsrud, who said he gained more than just skills through the experience.

“I personally found the class empowering as it allowed not just me, but the class as a whole the opportunity to contribute something real and give us real-world experience,” he said. “I’m proud of how I worked and how our entire class worked throughout the semester, and I’m excited to show this plan and the process in future job interviews.”

One of the smaller student teams presents their findings and recommendations on ways the City of Grand Forks could improve communication with diverse groups, particularly Native Americans. The two courses involved broke into specific teams to better tackle the complex issue fully.

One of the smaller student teams presents their findings and recommendations on ways the City of Grand Forks could improve communication with diverse groups, particularly Native Americans. The two courses involved broke into specific teams to better tackle the complex issue fully.

Communications senior Jake Larson wraps up the overall presentation of findings and recommendations during the Dec. 12, 2016 meeting. The students recommended a variety of tactics, which are now being implemented, starting with a Snapchat takeover of Grand Forks social media accounts for the State of the City address.

Communications senior Jake Larson wraps up the overall presentation of findings and recommendations during the Dec. 12, 2016 meeting. The students recommended a variety of tactics, which are now being implemented, starting with a Snapchat takeover of Grand Forks social media accounts for the State of the City address.

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Interview with Sarah Cavanah

Recently one of our faculty members, Sarah Cavanah, did an interview about her dissertation on Along with this interview, Sarah also met with Penny Abernathy, who runs the spotlight projects on, at the Withum Symposium hosted by the North Dakota Newspaper Association this fall.

Here is an excerpt from the interview: “My first “journalism” job was as an assistant everything at the weekly paper in my Missouri hometown, The Marceline Press. I started as a sophomore in high school and worked my way through high school. As a result, I’ve always been interested in how news is consumed in rural communities and what affect it has on decision-making at the very local level.”

To read the interview in full, follow the link to “Four Questions with Sarah Cavanah.”

Congratulations, Sarah!

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