Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Civic Communication and Media department have done over the years.

Abstract: This project builds upon the interdisciplinary literature of affect to analyze four commercials produced by the Montana Meth Project in 2011. The visual rhetoric and narrative structures used in the commercials, which are notable for their graphic imagery, will be used to explore what affective appeals in persuasive media indicate about public feeling. Focusing on affects of fear and disgust, The Montana Meth Project others drug users and promotes a persuasive, emotional discourse of addiction. The significant barriers for addicts, produced by continued instances of othering and the proliferation of a dominant discourse, will be explained.

Erin Gangstad (2016)

Abstract: The #BlackLivesMatter movement has emerged as a dominant counterculture in the political landscape through the use of Twitter. From this movement’s rapid growth following the killing of Trayvon Martin, the #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter movements have sought to counter this counterpublic. Both #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter contest the claims of racism within the criminal justice system while #BlueLivesMatter counters the narrative by claiming that law enforcement officers are being unfairly attacked. From these distinct narratives, three-thousand individual tweets were collected and the sentiments within were cataloged. Quantitative analysis reveals that all three movements utilize similar emotional patterns to present themselves as countercultures.

Paige Fredenburg & Logan Glass (2019)

Abstract: The Students Organizing for Access to Resources (SOAR) Center is a student-led resource hub at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon that strives to create equitable access to resources for students, as they navigate college and prepare for the professional workplace. It houses the Bearcat Pantry, the Clothing Share, and the First-Generation Book Drive. The SOAR Center foregrounds sustainability and inclusive methods. Presenters provide an overview of the SOAR Center’s evolution, addressing barriers to organizing and how they have either been mitigated or are currently being addressed, and detail goals for the hub’s expansion and collaboration with other university sectors.

Tova Hershman & Michelle Hicks (2019)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Civic Communication and Media department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Palates Cutting Across Borders through Digital Spaces — Yas Arenas 
  • Automobile Environmentalism: How Does it Work? It Doesn't. — Eric Pachowicz 
  • Sustainability Mission or Sustained Emissions?: Delta's Inverted Positioning through Greenwashing and Its Unethical, Unsustainable "Sustainability" Initiatives — Mason Kelliher 
  • Alternative Truths or Flat-out Lies?: The Digital Flat Earth Movement — Eden Wenokur 
  • Racialized Communication: Analysis of the COVID19 Outbreak Narrative — Veris Schmidt 
  • Tackling NFL Community Advocacy Rhetoric — James Willis and Mathew Castaneda 
  • The Venezuela Economic Crisis and Digital Finger Pointers — Alec Stevenson


  • Beyond Intent: How the Russian IRA's Twitter Accounts Warn Us About Trolling - Logan Glass (Independent Research)
  • Sparking Change: Bridging the Sustainability Communication(s) Gap - Claire Pockell-Wilson & Natalie Roadarmel (Independent Research)
  • SOAR-ing to Success: Fostering an Equitable University via a Shared Student Resource Center - Tova Hershman & Michelle Hicks (Independent Research)
  • Emoting Against the Grain: Sentiment Comparison of Twitter Movements and Their Relationships to the Public Sphere - Paige Fredenburg & Logan Glass (Independent Research)
  • Fair Isle Documentary - Benjamin Burton (Colloquium Grant)
  • Reified Social Attitudes Towards Southeast Asian Refugees in Southern California, 1970s-80s - Jonathan Louangrath
  • Monster Mashing Metaphors: An Analysis of Monstrosity in "The Shape of Water" - Ashley Lim
  • The Transgressive Power of the Witch in Elizabeth Gaskell's Lois the Witch and Maryse Cond's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem - Zora Driscoll
  • The BlacKkKlansman —  Amira Cardenas
  • Black Twitter —  Bethel Eyasu
  • Reproductive Health Education —  Nadia Sultan
  • Sexual Assault Prevention —  Claire Pockell-Wilson
  • Sorority T-shirts and Identity —  Katie Bick
  • Sustainability Campaigns —  Sam Phillips
  • Stadiums in Disaster Contexts —  Ben Verhoeven
  • Serial Killer Media Representations — Stephanie Hayes


  • The Weinstein Wave: Hollywood Harassment Exposé Leaves Industry Moguls Shaking - Shelby Webb (Independent Research)
  • A Negative Framing Analysis of Bernie Sanders - Efren Zamudio (Independent Research)
  • Comparative Analysis of the Media Response to Hurricane Maria in the Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Texas - Emma Sharpe (Independent Research)
  • Our Huddled Masses: A Comparative Analysis of Media Framing Surrounding Muslim and Jewish Refugees - Nicole Kates (Independent Research)
  • “Only a Crazy Person Would Do Something Like This”: Framing Analysis of Associations Between Mental Illness and Gun Violence in The Aftermath of the Las Vegas Massacre - Kira-Ann Hayashi (Independent Research)


  • Gender and Identity Conception in Competitive Super Smash Bros Melee - Devon O'Donnell (Thesis)
  • Who Has the Floor? An Analysis of Trends in Interruption Frequency during Hillary Clinton's Debates - Adrian Govela (Thesis)
  • Constructing “Eavesdropping” Audiences: Offshore Podcasts’ Exploration of Colonialism and Whiteness in Hawaii - Carol Li (Thesis)
  • “Iron Man Is Reborn!”: Burke’s Rhetoric of Rebirth in the Iron Man Franchise - Martha Fast (Thesis)
  • Can Theme Parks Be Real? Examining Disneyland’s Brand Authenticity through Aesthetics and Customer Engagement - Madison Montemayor (Thesis)
  • Interactive Art: Challenging Norms and Reflecting Society - Ellery Seither (Thesis)
  • The Rhetorical Act of Interruption as Advocacy in the Black Lives Matter Movement - Alexis DeMartini (Poster)
  • Rhetorical Constructions of Patriotism in the Birth of a Nation (1915) and the Birth of a Nation (2016) - Milan Lay (Poster)
  • Space as Resilience: a Coping Mechanism for People with Marginalized Identities - Melissa Legaria Cisneros (Poster)
  • The Rhetoric of Mass Incarceration: Diving Deeper into Two US Presidents’ Rhetoric and How that Changed Prisons Forever - Kate Steffy (Poster)
  • A Latina Judge’s Voice: A Look at Sonia Sotomayor’s American Dream Racial Narrative - Yasmine Robles (Poster)


  • Not Even Once: Affective Appeals and Public Feeling in The Montana Meth Project - Erin Gangstad (Independent Research)
  • A Worthy Opponent: the Characterization of Spartacus in Plutarch’s Life of Crassus - George Paulson (Independent Research)
  • Feminist Activist Fandom: How Nerds are tackling the Big Issues - Jenna Alcalde (Independent Research)
  • The Feminist Avenger with the Dragon Tattoo: The Power of Violence Against Men in Stieg Larsson’s Novels - Celine Sannes-Pond (Independent Research)
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Civic Communication and Media

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