Manship Student Caitlin Burkes

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 in Cover Stories, MEL Notes Blog | 0 comments

Caitie is a senior Political Communication major at the Manship School and the Ogden Honors College from Slidell, LA. This semester, she successfully defended her honors thesis. She conducted a survey through the Media Effects Lab participant pool. Outside of class, she has worked at the Reveille and is an intern at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC).

Caitie discusses her thesis, reflects on her time at Manship, and speculates about where she’s headed.


How did you originally become interested in communication?   

I was always interested in English and writing, and I knew I was never a math or science person. So that kind of helped me narrow my focus. When I was a senior in high school I toured LSU for kick off. I came to Manship and I toured it and I fell in love with it because I thought it was so cool and I loved the concept that the classes were small and you really got to connect with your professors. I felt that they really wanted to help you propel your career, so I knew I wanted to do communications after visiting the Manship school. I zeroed in on political communication because at the time I thought I wanted to go to law school. It turned out that even though I am not really interested in law school anymore I am still really interested in the political process. So it ended up being a really good thing but for a different reason then I originally intended.


Why did you choose to write a thesis as an undergraduate student?

One of the ideas I tossed around but never seriously considered was going to graduate school. I was looking at a lot of different colleges that I am interested in and a lot of their applications require some sort of serious academic work, basically a thesis, and I figured even if I don’t go to graduate school it’s still a sample of academic writing to have in my back pocket. I also wanted to fulfill the different pillars of the honors college. I already did the community service freshman year, study abroad sophomore year, internship junior year and so my senior year I wanted to do the thesis to come full circle with it.


What is your thesis topic?

I wrote about how people view newspapers after the newspaper endorses a political candidate for office. There is a lot of research out there on how newspaper endorsements affect candidates, like how people view the candidate, but there wasn’t any research on how people view the newspaper after. So it’s sort of holding a mirror up to newspapers and saying “hey this is what people think of you” after you endorse this person, not the other way around.


How did you use the Media Effects Lab?

I created a survey that tested Manship students’ reactions. Some students were exposed to an endorsement and then they read a normal news story from the newspaper. Then they answered questions about how they viewed the newspaper after reading the endorsement. And then others weren’t subjected to the endorsement. So I made a survey and Manship students took it through the MEL system and I used the data I got from MEL for my results section.


What was the most challenging part of your thesis?

I didn’t to have this problem before but coming to college I became a big procrastinator. And I would wait until the last minute to do everything. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but the last month was crunch time and I really should have written the bulk of it last semester but I ended up basically writing all of it this semester in a two-month period. And so I wish I spaced it out better.


What was the most rewarding?

When I defended it. Going to my committee and hearing their praise about the paper before I actually started talking about it, they were really interested in it. They liked it so that was really fulfilling to hear these professionals whose opinions I respect saying I did a good job meant a lot.


What are your career aspirations?

I think I am probably going to try to work in industry. Maybe working for a company doing their communications work. I really like what I do right now with the chamber of commerce helping them promote their business interests. I do social media for them it is fun. So something in that realm.


How do you see this process helping you in the future?

I definitely think that in general I am more of a big picture person and I have a harder time with the details. But this forced me to be detail-oriented and to have a microscopic focus and just notice little things like nuances in data and gaps in research. So I think that will be helpful in life but probably specifically my career.


Do you have any advice for undergraduate students who want to do research?

Don’t procrastinate! Try to get as much done as you can in the first semester of your thesis.


What is your best memory at Manship?

I really loved doing student media during most of my Manship career. It was just so much fun because I got really close to a group of people within Manship that did a lot of different things with me outside of student media and outside of the Reveille. And with that, I took the state house reporting class last semester and I got to cover the regular and special legislative sessions, and so just hanging out in the capital all of last semester and even a little bit into the summer was sort of an experience I know I will never get again so it was really cool to seize it then and just pull random politicians aside and talk to them and gossip and live tweet stuff as it was happening. That really culminated my Manship experience and made it all make sense.