Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Communication

First Advisor

David Boromisza-Habashi

Second Advisor

Cindy White

Abstract

Although research has been conducted on student identity development and various academic majors in higher education, much of this work has focused on student experience of majors in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Very little research has considered how students in non-STEM fields identify with their major or understand the role of their major in society. Communication as a field of study has become an increasingly popular major, and communication skills are often cited as very important for personal and professional success (Schmitt, 2014; Katriel & Philipsen, 1981). However, the communication major has often been criticized in society and treated as a less prestigious major (Carpenter & McEwan, 2013). The current qualitative study sets out to reveal how students majoring in communication performed their academic and personal identities through talk. This project entailed 12 semi-structured interviews with communication majors at a large, public university to investigate how these students make sense of their choice of major and how they communicate a unique sense of identity. The findings suggest that students strategically positioned their identities, expressed strong pride about their major choice and experienced personal growth through achieving better communication. Each theme provides insight into the contradictions students experience around the communication major both in and outside of the academic world, such as being valued in some contexts and criticized in others.

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