Editor’s note: The following is a guest post written by senior public relations student Kelsey Karnopp.
One of the most exciting experiences I have had in my four years at UW-Eau Claire was the opportunity to go beyond the textbook and class lectures, and work with a group of my peers to work toward solving a real life problem.
During the fall 2014 semester, I enrolled in CJ 374: Public Relations Campaign Planning, which was a requirement for my mass communication major. At the start of the semester, my professor Evan Perrault, Ph.D., presented an issue for us to research during the semester: the declining student attendance at UW-Eau Claire athletic events.
Our first step was to learn about the current climate on campus before attempting to change it. This was crucial because attempting to affect change blindly is not likely to be successful.
We began our research as a class by creating a survey that we later distributed to more than 600 UW-Eau Claire students.
The survey gave us a clear picture of UW-Eau Claire students’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors surrounding Blugold athletics. That picture acted as our blueprint, guiding us through the problem-solving process.
At this point, professor Perrault formed a research team, recruiting seven students to work outside the classroom on translating our qualitative survey data into areas for the athletic department to work on. Our goal was to present our findings to the UW-Eau Claire athletic department, students, faculty and the community at UW-Eau Claire’s Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA) in April.
Each of us began by reading more than 1,200 written responses to survey questions about basketball and football attendance. We took those responses and categorized them based on what they were about.
After categorizing nearly 4,000 pieces of information, we compiled our findings into a written report for the athletic department, identifying four major areas we considered essential for them to work on in order to increase student attendance at athletic events: (1) increasing student interactions with coaches and athletes; (2) improving communication about game times and locations through preferred channels; (3) increasing school spirit; and (4) increasing entertainment and promotions at athletic events.
The opportunity to work on a student-faculty research team has taught me more than I ever could have learned sitting in a classroom. Throughout the academic year, I have worked with my peers to finds ways to solve a real life problem at UW-Eau Claire. Now, with graduation less than two months away, I feel prepared to tackle the real world.
The research team will display our poster presentation at CERCA 4 to 6 p.m. April 29 and 2 to 4 p.m. April 30 in Davies Center. People are welcome to stop by and ask questions.
What do you think the benefits of student-faculty research are for undergraduate students? Let us know in the comments below!