In academia, research projects are often reserved for graduate students, doctoral students, and university faculty. Undergraduate students with a curiosity for research see few opportunities to learn the process of a scientific inquest for knowledge. However, Jaime Banks, Ph.D., associate professor of advertising & brand strategy, hopes to bridge the gap between undergraduates and research with the new MACRO club.
MACRO stands for Media and Communication Research Organization, which was made possible through the Spark Award from the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE). Upon receiving the Spark Award, Banks began the organization in 2021 and encouraged students from any major to join and learn about the research process.
“Undergrads don't always have a clear pathway to participating in research and getting experience in that,” says Banks. “We wanted to create a space where they could get mentoring and have guidance as far as coming up with their own ideas and moving forward with developing a novel question.”
In only its first year as a club, MACRO has five students who will attend the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) and present their work. Three students come from outside The College of Media & Communication (CoMC).
“The projects that were accepted are evidence that media and communication are relevant to any industry,” says Banks. “These projects are not from media and communication majors, but our challenge to them under the MACRO banner was to find that connection between what they want to do, because media and communication are everywhere.”
Kyle Whitney, MACRO club president and a senior biology pre-med major from Fort Worth, Texas, will present his work entitled, “Examining the Availability Heuristic on Media Presentation of Medical Literature.” In other words, through his work with MACRO, Whitney has observed the tendency of different audiences to interpret the same headline in diverse ways, depending on a psychological process called the availability heuristic.
Likewise, Tristan Brtiz, a senior psychology major from Georgetown, Texas, has found a media and communication niche for his interests in the perceptions of dog breeds based on media portrayals. Both Britz and Whitney will present their topics at the URC.
“The most rewarding part of joining MACRO is working with my faculty member and club members,” says Britz. “I have a better understanding of how society operates through both my own project and the projects of my peers.”
Whitney echoes similar, newfound appreciations for the research process.
“Research promotes new questions and higher levels of understanding,” says Whitney. “While we learn more about ourselves and the world through research, it may lead to more questions that need to be answered.”
Although Banks is the sole club adviser every student is paired with a faculty advisor from CoMC based on the student's research question.
“We want to make sure they are getting specialized and dedicated attention from an expert in our areas,” says Banks. “We coach them along the way, but, at the end of the day, it really is a student-run organization.”
With such promising success in MACRO's first year as a student club, Banks envisions big strides in the future.
“I would love to see us grow, with more and more exciting projects, and definitely getting some of [CoMC's] leaders involved. There's so much to be gained in terms of just developing skill sets and experiences and building your resume.”
See below for a full list of MACRO projects accepted to the URC, which will take place March 29:
- “Structure and Content of Mental Models for Perceived (Non-)Aggressive Dog Breeds,” by Tristan Britz, supervised by Dr. Banks
- “The Panic Towards Women's Sexuality in Music,” by Victoria Garza, supervised by Dr. Bowman
- “Understanding the Connection Between How People Take Care of Their Plants and Their Romantic Relationships,” by Jayden Jackson, supervised by Dr. Narissra Punyanunt-Carter
- “East Meets West: Applying Affective Disposition Theory to Understand Kishōtenketsu,” by Kenzie McKeever, supervised by Dr. Bowman
- “Examining the Availability Heuristic on Media Presentation of Medical Literature,” by Kyle Whitney, supervised by Dr. Bowman