Supporting Graduate Research Key to CAS Experience

Posted on: February 18, 2014

Kami SilkGuest blog by Kami Silk, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, Director of Master's for Health and Risk Communication and Professor, Department of Communication

Enough of the snow already? Great, because I want to share with you how our college is increasing funding opportunities for graduate research.

As any graduate student who aspires to be a successful researcher will tell you, it's challenging to identify a topic that excites and motivates them, will add significant new knowledge to their field, and that others will want to financially support. The growing competition for research dollars can be intimidating for graduate students who are still honing their skills and have yet to establish a solid track record. And yet, they can only establish themselves as a scholar if they have successfully conducted, presented and published a substantial body of research.

The College of Communication Arts and Sciences was one of the first institutions of its kind to formally develop a major communication research emphasis and continues to be recognized internationally for the outstanding research conducted by our faculty, as well as our graduates.

This past November alone, more than 70 faculty and graduate students were selected to present at the National Communication Association 99th Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. That's an impressive number and reflects how our college invests in both our faculty and graduate students.

We place a high priority on making sure our graduates have the opportunity to be mentored by and work with some of the most preeminent communication researchers in the world. We also strive to provide opportunities for research experience early on and help graduate students build a strong network with peers and accomplished scholars so they will be well positioned upon earning their degree(s).

Exemplifying this commitment, I am pleased to announce the recipients of our newest research fellowships, which are generously funded through the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation Research Fund for Health and Risk Communication. This fund provides resources for graduate students to engage in hands-on research, apply theoretical constructs to real-world health practices, and share results and impacts from their projects with their community partners. Priority is placed on projects to be implemented in Michigan, and in mid-Michigan specifically. The Strosacker Foundation funded a $500,000 endowment that will support five $5,000 fellowships awards annually.

Please join me in congratulating our first Strosacker fellowship recipients:


  • Tom Day, a second-year Media and Information Studies master's student with a concentration in human computer interaction in the Media and Informationdepartment, completed the Serious Games Certification in his first year as a graduate student. Day also has a dual bachelor's degree in telecommunications and psychology from MSU. He is conducting a longitudinal study of how individuals interact in competitive and cooperative settings while being fully immersed in a video game.
  • Guanxiong Huang and Kang Li are both Media and Information Studies Ph.D. students in the Advertising + Public Relations department. Huang is a fourth-year doctoral student with a master's degree in communication and a bachelor's degree in journalism. Li is a third-year doctoral student with a master's degree in digital art. For her bachelor's degree, her major was in animation. Their research project focuses on how to communicate the potential risks of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a natural gas drilling practice, as a threat to the Great Lakes. Their study is aimed at mobilizing Michigan residents to participate in an online petition. Specifically, their study will look at how gain-loss message frames and social identity influence people's risk perceptions and hence affect their collective action.
  • Ali Hussain, a first-year Media and Information Studies doctoral student in the School of Journalism, also has a master's degree in Health and Risk Communication from CAS. He is studying the development and testing of nostalgic appeals for smoking prevention. The project will result in the production of anti-smoking PSAs based on a nostalgic theme.
  • Sarah Sheff, a first-year master's degree student in Health and Risk Communication completed her B.A. in Communication last year in the Department of Communication. Her research project is identifying existing barriers to physical activity, such as access and cost, as a first step towards preventing Type 2 diabetes in rural mid-Michigan.
  • Daniel Totzkay, a first-year master's student in Health and Risk Communication completed his B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies, is studying the use of motivational messages to increase physical activity through ballroom and Latin dance classes among a sedentary workforce.

We are very grateful to the Strosacker Foundation for recognizing the important role communication research plays in better understanding and improving human health and the environment, and the need to cultivate an up-and-coming corps of researchers committed to meeting the growing need for health and risk communication research.

Another way CAS encourages graduate-level research is through our Summer Research Excellence Fellowships. We are now in the process of accepting applications for this summer with a due date of March 17. These competitive fellowships will be awarded to CAS graduate students who have demonstrated potential for research and creative excellence in their academic field. Doctoral students can receive awards up to $6,000 and master's level students can receive up to $3,500, dependent upon the pool of funds available.

Additionally, Michigan State University offers University Distinguished Fellowships and Enrichment Fellowships to outstanding students who plan to enroll in a doctoral or master of fine arts program. The goal of these fellowships is to foster an intellectually vital and diverse educational community that will prepare graduate students to assume their professional roles in a diverse society.

If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and would like to know more about these fellowship opportunities, I encourage you to explore "Graduate Programs" on the CAS website and contact me if you have questions.

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