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PUC Students Win Top Award at National Communication Convention

Emily Mathe, January 16, 2014
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Arianna Duran poses with Stephen A. Smith, founder of Lambda Pi Eta, after receiving the award for top group-authored paper at the National Communication Association Convention.

In November, Lauren Armstrong, Arianna Duran, and Benjamin Speegle received recognition from the National Communication Association (NCA) at the 99th National Communication Convention in Washington, D.C. This group of PUC communication students had spent two quarters researching various factors influencing interracial mate selection, primarily those within the family; they compiled their research and submitted it to the NCA in March of 2013. At the convention, their paper, one of four papers selected from eighty submissions to the Lambda Pi Eta division, received the Stephen A. Smith Award for Top Group-Authored Undergraduate Research Paper. This is the second year that PUC’s communication students have taken the award for top group-authored paper.

Armstrong, Duran, and Speegle, all now graduates of PUC, conducted their study for a class in Communication Research taught by Tammy McGuire, professor of communication. They aimed to determine how being raised in an interracial household can affect an individual’s relationship decisions. Their findings, compiled in a paper entitled “Familial Influence Over Interracial Mate Selection,” concluded that modern society produces an increasing number of interracial relationships because these connections are more commonly accepted today than they have been in the past. Crucial factors included household makeup, communication strategies, age, and race. Of the tested age groups, the 26-40 age group reported the highest level of agreement with interracial dating, while the 41+ age group reported the smallest. Individuals raised in an interracial household were also more likely to approve and participate in interracial dating, while the opposite was true for those not raised in an interracial household.

Although Speegle was unable to attend the conference, Armstrong and Duran presented their research at the National Communication Convention, where they received the award from Stephen A. Smith, founder of the Lambda Pi Eta communications honor society, himself. “It was a fantastic experience, and a great honor to be presented with this award,” said Armstrong. “It was such an honor to be recognized with that award, among the many other talented researchers who submitted their work.” Armstrong, Duran and Speegle were also asked to send in their paper to a communication journal for future researchers to use as a reference. “We put a lot of work into preparing the paper,” said Speegle. “It is always nice to see that other people find what you did to be worthwhile.”

The National Communications Conference is attended by about 5,000 people and is one of the foremost gatherings of communications scholars and professionals. “It was tough to take three days off of work without paid vacation, but definitely worth it to visit Washington, D.C., interact with other researchers, hear their research, and receive feedback on our own,” said Armstrong, who now works at the communications firm DDDC, Inc. as an assistant editor. “We were so honored!” said Duran of attending the conference and receiving the award. “This experience was one that I will never forget.”

Tammy McGuire made the trip to Washington, D.C., with Armstrong and Duran. “I was extremely proud of the way they represented PUC in general and the Communication Department in particular,” said McGuire. “Ari, Lauren, and Ben’s paper represents the potential of quality undergraduate research when it is done carefully and well. Congratulations to them!”