When Westfield State University freshman Susan Cody would watch dramatic TV shows like “Law & Order SVU” and “Sons of Anarchy,” she was conscious of the amount of violence against women depicted in these programs.
Even a show like “The Walking Dead,” which features zombies, had its share of violence by the human males against the human female characters.
It made her wonder if there was a connection between violence on TV and physical and sexual abuse of women in the real world. Her curiosity led her to research the topic and write a paper about it for her Honors Mass Communication class with Communication Professor Sinuk Kang, Ph.D.
The Communication major’s efforts led to an opportunity to present her findings at the 21st Annual Undergraduate Research Conference in April at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“I am always interested in seeing how the
media affects the real world because we are so surrounded by it. Domestic violence is a big issue in society,” she said. “And with all the violence on TV I thought there must be a connection.”
With the support of her faculty sponsor, Professor Glen Brewster, Ph.D., director of the Honors Program, Cody, 19, concluded that there is a correlation. “The perception that men have of violence on women and other sexual crimes towards women is strongly influenced by what they see on television shows,” she wrote in her abstract submitted to the Undergraduate Conference.
As a freshman, Cody was pleasantly surprised that she would have an opportunity to conduct research and present her work at a conference so early on in her academic career.
“I want to go into public relations so this is one way I can refine my public speaking skills. Even my parents were shocked I got to do this so soon,” she said.
Brewster is a big supporter of undergraduates getting these chances, noting that students begin to see themselves differently after those experiences.
“When they go off campus, whether to Amherst or across the country, they see that their work is part of a nationwide network. They get to meet people from all over and talk about similar interests,” he said. “The best part is they get to see themselves as scholars and as people who can do sophisticated, higher level work, and can participate in national scholarly conversations.”
Susan Cody ’18
Susan Cody attended a high school in Springfield with a graduating class of just 72 students. So when she decided to attend Westfield State University, she found not only an affordable option for college, but an intimate setting where she could easily connect with classmates and professors.
“Westfield is just the perfect size and everyone is so friendly. Even as a commuter I have managed to make a ton of great friends early on,” said the freshman Communication major. “Everyone is really welcoming.”
Cody was also attracted to the Communication program, which she hopes one day will help her find her dream job in public relations.
PROFESSOR, ENGLISH DEPARTMENT
At Westfield State University, Professor Glen Brewster, Ph.D., is admittedly “all over the place” on campus. That’s because when he is not teaching literary theory or romantic literature, he is leading students in film classes.
He has taught everything from Introduction to Shakespeare to Development of a Novel. Brewster is currently director of Westfield State’s Honors Program and served as chair of the Department of English from 2003–2010. He is also an advisor to a number of student organizations, including the Academic Pursuits Club.
Off campus, Brewster is busy collaborating with colleagues in the National Collegiate Honors Council for which he gave a presentation on the Massachusetts Commonwealth Honors programs last year at its national conference.
“I really like seeing these highly motivated students who are interested in lots of different things be able to get to next level,” he said.