Student’s research focuses on workplace email

By AUTUMN TOENNIS/Montana State News

When people hear the words “spring break” and “Las Vegas” together, they generally conjure images that bring to mind the city’s most famous phrase of “What happens in Vegas…”

Not so for Emily Schwaller.

A sophomore at Montana State University, Schwaller is presenting at the Conference on College Composition and Communications in Nevada over a three-day period this spring break. The conference is the largest gathering of rhetoricians and composition researchers in the world, and this year is the first time that they are allowing undergraduate research participation.

Schwaller’s research project is titled, “Emailing and Its Effects on Construction of Professional Identity in Workplace Communication.” The idea for the project occurred to her while working as an editorial assistant to the “Montana Professor,” a statewide scholarly journal.

“It inspired me because of all the work I did through email and the interesting responses I received based on the fact that I was a student, as well as female,” said Schwaller. “Without certain social cues, it’s interesting to see how responses construct personalities in a professional way, especially in terms of authority.”

At the beginning of the year, Doug Downs, an MSU English professor, asked her if she wanted to do a research project due to some questions she had in one of her writing classes. Schwaller will be attending the conference with Downs and another student.

After the presentation, Schwaller will join 11 other Montana college students to present at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Wisconsin this April. After their work is published, all 12 students will return to present to MSU President Waded Cruzado at the end of the year.

“I’m interested to see what colleges with larger rhetoric and comp programs are focusing on,” said Schwaller. “I’m excited to be surrounded by people interested in that too, and know that in a small way, I contributed to the field.”

– Edited by John Kirk Vincent

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