Junior year was my first full year studying Communication, which meant it was time to do some real work in the major and integrate my personal experience with my academic experience. This year taught me something important: that the academy is not something separate or disjoined from reality, but rather plays an important role in explaining the world around us. My big project over the fall semester was my research project for Interpersonal Communication, one of the key classes for my major. It was also one of my first major forays into actual research and learning through the acquisition of new knowledge rather than simply projecting my confidence and natural ability into a project and hoping for the best.
The literature review helped inform some great questions, and those questions led to insightful conversations with several people on Wheaton’s campus. While limited, as discussed in the report, the research interviews opened new insights for me into the role computer-mediated communication plays in relationship-building.
Rather than working in a group, I decided to do this project solo – it was a good decision that allowed me the flexibility to take the project exactly where I wanted it to go, as well as giving me the experience of an extended in-class presentation. The presentation went well and created a positive learning experience for the class.
“Presentation was nicely done! Clever visuals which tend to limit words and focus on big ideas are an effective strategy for attention and retention. Credibility as speaker was evident in this delivery, but keep energy level high throughout your message. Strong connection with Walther/Ramirez, but integrate these ideas with your own bibliography. Handled questions well. Research limited by small sample, but very relevant to this audience. You provided a strong and positive learning experience, Alex.” -Lynn Cooper
A big part of living in the Shalom Community was our collective agreement going into the year to take an upper-level sociology class together, Racial and Ethnic Relations, over the fall semester.
My final project was a semester-long labor of research, giving me cause to wrestle with the heartbreaking topic of colonial land theft and genocide of Native Americans. The resulting paper exemplifies a radical change in perspective and understanding of racial issues, particularly since my freshman year, and represents a milestone in my journey of personal and academic growth at Wheaton.
Spring semester brought two major research projects in the Communication department, and my research paper on Symbolic Convergence Theory in Communication Theory was definitely influenced by my exploration of issues surrounding race and ethnicity from the preceding semester. It served to confirm from a communication perspective much of what I’d been learning from a sociological perspective, and was definitely a huge project in terms of gaining in-depth understanding in one area of Communication Theory and sharpening my ability to view real life situations through the lens of communication principles.
Standing alongside Communication Theory was my 400-level research class: Sports and Communication, which gave me the Twitter Project – more “heavy lifting” in the Communication department. The class changed the way I view and think about sports, and the Twitter Project – an in-depth, month-long analysis of the Philadelphia Flyers’ Twitter feed – changed the way I use Twitter. Adding experience in the area of quantitative data research and analysis to my toolkit after having already experienced the qualitative side of research in Interpersonal Communication the semester before proved helpful in rounding out my ability to conduct and understand research of all sorts, further solidifying the fact that the the “real world” and the things I was learning in class can not be separated, but rather work together and inform each other.
Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution might be the most practical class I’ve ever had at Wheaton. Taking these course principles and applying them to actual, real-life situations has impacted the way I live my life, and I still use the things I learned in this class today. This paper was a milestone in cementing the connection between school and my own personal life in my mind, much like the Twitter Project did for the way I view Communication in tandem with the expressed world around me.
One of the more fun, informal extracurricular activities of my junior year was actually a blog post that ended up getting quite a bit of attention – it garnered over 1,000 hits online and was published in The Record after being spotted by one of their editors. The article, All By Myself, was a milestone in my own self-realization. It demonstrates the process of growing into my own person and finding my identity outside of the approval and affirmation of other people, specifically romantic partners. Throughout the process of writing this article, it became apparent to me that I was finally processing my freshman year breakup with my ex-girlfriend in a healthier way than haphazardly posting our private correspondence on the Forum Wall; actually working through the emotional trauma of a serious breakup created room for a more meaningful internal dialogue in my own life.
My junior year at Wheaton was very important. I learned that life is incredibly more complicated than it seems, figured out that one must actually be humble in order to grow, and realized the invaluable connection between my studies and my life. All this set up what would be another important summer, one that would be especially key in my professional development and set the stage for my final year at Wheaton.