Ewing, NJ: Five TCNJ Communication Studies students were the only undergraduates in the world invited to present refereed papers at the biannual DC Health Communication Conference sponsored by George Mason University held April 27-29, 2017, in Fairfax, Virginia. TCNJ students have been the only undergraduates to present papers at all four DC Health Communication conferences since the first one was held in 2011.
Along with professors and graduate students from eleven different countries, TCNJ students presented papers on nationwide coverage of rape and rape culture on college campuses, solitary confinement, rape PTS, gun safety; and cross-national coverage of women’s reproductive rights 2011-2015. Each of the papers was written in classes on research methods or international communication taught by Dr. John Pollock, all testing his community structure theory exploring the impact of community characteristics (city or national demographics) on critical health and human rights issues.
TCNJ students presenting papers included Joanne Kim ’17, Amit Patel (biology major) ’17, Keelin Moran ’18, Melissa Morgan ’18, and Brielle Richardella ’18. Dr. Pollock accompanied them. Among their key findings were the following, several surprising:
- The higher a community’s interest in health (measured by physicians/100,000 or hospital beds/100,000 or both), the more media support for government responsibility for rape and rape culture on campuses. Although that same government responsibility media emphasis was also associated with women stakeholders (higher percent women in the workforce) and public safety (crime rate), it is striking that campus rape and rape culture are so strongly linked to public health concerns.
- The higher a community’s interest in public health, the more media opposition to solitary confinement, associated with a wide range of mental health issues. It is striking that solitary confinement, linked to criminal activity, is not associated at all with crime rate or other measures of criminality, nor is it associated with any particular ethnic identity, but rather with measures of public health interest.
- The higher a community’s interest in public health, the more media support for government responsibility for gun safety, while gun safety coverage is not associated with crime rate or other measures of criminal activity.
- The higher the percent voting Democratic (or fewer voting Republican), the more media support for government responsibility for rape PTS. Although clearly a psychological/health issue, rape PTS was associated not with measures of community interest in health, but rather with highly partisan politics.
Reflected in their comments, TCNJ students had excellent experiences at the DCHC conference:
“It was a privilege to be one of the only undergraduates at an international conference and to be provided an opportunity to present my research in the health communications field among graduate students and seasoned professionals from around the world.” – Amit Patel
“From the perspective of one of only a few undergraduates at the international DC Health Communication conference, a wide array of professional opportunities in public health became apparent. Many participants were impressed by our distinct, cohesive health communication findings using methods appropriate for graduate level research.” – Joanne Kim
“The D.C. Health Communications Conference was a weekend filled with learning and recognition. It was an honor to be one of the only undergraduates whose paper was accepted for presentation.” – Melissa Morgan
“This weekend was a wonderful opportunity to present research alongside graduate students and professionals in the field of health communication. The conference validated my course of study and my plans for working in public health in the future! “– Keelin Moran
“The D.C conference was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever been part of. It was great to make connections with health communications professionals and to learn more about their research. If I can take away one thing from the conference it would be to: work towards a topic you are so passionate about, set the bar high, and go after what you want. Get the research out there and educate those who are not informed about health issues occurring today. It is so important. Thanks to Dr. Pollock for an amazing experience!” — Brielle Richardella
Student papers like those presented at the 2017 DC Health Communication conference helped the TCNJ Dept. of Communication Studies win the 2013 “Rex Mix Program of Achievement Award” for best undergraduate communication studies department in the nation, presented by the National Communication Association, reinforcing the Dept. of Communication Studies’ reputation as a “national leader in student-faculty engagement”.