Scholarly Pursuits: A Senior’s Adventures in Academia

Scholarly Pursuits: A Senior's Adventures in Academia
Meagan Racey is a journalism and mass communication major from Whispering Pines.

Would You Toss Out Your Baconator if the Wrapper Showed its Nutrition Content?
posted 11/20/09

megan…Yes, another blog on media effects

Here's what's on the lovely sandwich, per Wendy's Web site: "Six strips of Applewood smoked bacon piled high atop two 1/4 lb. patties of fresh, never frozen, beef. Complete with two slices of American cheese, mayo and ketchup for a mountain of mouth-watering taste. Go on, obsess a little."

Now, I admit I'm a bacon and burger kind of girl.

But if that wrapper screamed 970 calories, 60 grams of fat (more than I should eat in a whole day), 2,260 milligrams of sodium and 235 grams of cholesterol, that first bite might taste more like a chunk of hardened bacon grease.

Sense my interest in health advertising? So, along with three peers in my media effects class, I'm investigating how Carolina students respond to different food advertisements.

For our study, we chose three different foods: a burger, chips and yogurt. We chose foods stereotypical to the college diet and with completely different nutrition values. We also wanted to use both snack and meal foods.

Next we made four different advertisements for each food: one with three nutritional claims (such as "More Protein," "Less Fat," or "Helps Digestion"); one with nutritional claims and a nutrition content chart; one with just the nutrition content chart; and one without claims or the chart.

Then we wrote a survey to accompany the advertisements. The survey questioned students about the advertisement, about their feelings pertaining to the advertisement and the product, as well as questions about their diets, exercise schedules and health.

Each of us administered the advertisement to about 50 students, totaling almost 200 students. Students had unlimited time to look at one of the advertisements, but they could not look at the advertisement once they began the survey.

Once we finished that, each of us entered codes for the material into a data entry template. (Almost 3,000 pieces of information each…luckily I could watch NCIS while doing it.) Our professor, Sri Kalyanaraman, analyzes the information for us and returns it to us for review. (Thank goodness.) We will present our findings to the class in two weeks.

I'm sorry if I disappoint you, but we will not be getting our results until tomorrow. So link back for more tomorrow! In the meantime, think twice about that chicken strip basket.

Does the plate ever get full?
The almighty Honors Thesis

posted 11/3/2009

I've had a problematic reflex since the beginning of high school: always accepting a good opportunity. Some might classify me as an overachiever (though I must admit that senioritis is attacking that impulse).

In high school I filled my time with clubs, sports, bands, academics, work, and leadership roles within those activities. I burst into the Carolina scene determined to double major in English and music. I saw myself as a wannabe Rolling Stone magazine reporter.

Not too far into the semester, after realizing that I did not have the level of high school music theory that my peers did (and after spending day after day in the basement of Hill Hall practicing my trombone), my dream began to morph. Rolling Stone disintegrated and in its place emerged the American newspaper.

But of course, I would not let my time in Hill go to waste. So I decided to double major in English and journalism and minor in music (which will probably serve more as an ice-breaker than any other practical use). I started my first internship that summer and haven't stopped interning since. At times I've had three internships and another job on the side.

As I charted my semesters left at Carolina, making sure I could fit everything in as quickly as possible, I had an exciting revelation. I had just a few classes left to take my senior year. But then my journalism adviser notified me of the change in the journalism curriculum, which would not apply to me (more on that later). But what difference would an editor see between me, UNC Class of 2010, and someone else from the Class of 2013? Just that the slightly younger person was more prepared. I suddenly found – at the end of my junior year – that I had three classes (at least) to add to my senior year.

But there's more. I also received e-mails around the time of spring registration inviting me to the honors program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the English department. Hmm… What a great opportunity. I thought, Why not do both? Well, that notion didn't last long either. Both heads of the honors programs strongly advised I do one. So I spent my summer stuck between the two.

I was faced with making the decision a week into the fall semester of my senior year. Because of my love to read novels and because of my time constraints, I chose English. I also went with two of my favorite authors, both of which were introduced to me in the spring in professor Fred Hobson's "Southern Memoir and Autobiography" class.

I read additional works by both Southern 20th-century authors – Rick Bragg and Harry Crews – and decided to focus on their autobiographical, nonfiction works and the motivations that each had for writing. Both have a magical way of telling it like it is, of vividly capturing the hard, poor farm life while also making me feel left out because I didn't have a similar childhood.

From September to November, I read and analyzed the works, writing very rough outlines for my paper (which will ultimately be about 40-50 pages). I will submit a prospectus at the end of the semester and spend my spring semester in Wilson Library, bent over my laptop, surrounded by candy wrappers and coffee cups, pumping out page after page after page. I will take an oral examination on Bragg, Crews and Southern writers at the end of the semester. IF I am successful (pray for me), I will receive my degree with honors or highest honors in English. Supposedly my grade point average is high enough to where I will graduate with honors in journalism regardless.

I will keep you all updated as I continue on my honors journey. Hopefully in a month I will be able to tell you about my prospectus. Wish me luck!