Graduate students awarded for communication research papers 

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Graduate students awarded for communication research papers 

Marks, left, returned to BJU to study for her master's degree in communication after taking a one-year break. Willis, right, along with Marks, works as a GA teaching Com 101 Fundamentals of Speech. Photo: Nathaniel Hendry

Bob Jones University graduate students Alyssa Marks and Charissa Willis received recognition for their research papers presented during the Carolinas Communication Association Conference held on Sept. 23-24 at the University of South Carolina Aiken.  

Marks received the 2022 Mary E. Jarrard Award for Excellence in Student Scholarship for her paper titled “The Power of Perception in War: Social Judgement Theory and President Zelensky’s Memorable Messaging.” Marks felt accomplished with the award, especially since her paper took her over 40 hours to finish. “It was the first time I’ve gotten an award for doing homework. That felt very nice for sure,” Marks said.  

Marks originally drafted the paper for a course she took last semester, Advanced Organizational Communication, as part of the communication studies graduate program. Marks was asked to examine a current event through the perspective of a communication theory. In her paper, she analyzes President Zelensky’s prestige through the social judgment theory. Marks concludes that Zelensky’s usage of communication “to control perception in the Russo-Ukrainian war” proved that “the power of perception is powerful in convincing individuals to modify their opinions.” 

The education Marks received at BJU during her time as an undergraduate and the teaching she is currently receiving helped her win the award. The freedom she has experienced to explore the topics she is interested in has been very empowering, Marks said. She also thanked her teachers for their guidance. “My teachers were really probably the most influential as far as getting selected to present,” Marks said.  

Charissa Willis was recognized for her paper “I Now Pronounce You: An Exploration of Marital Name Change among Evangelical Women,” which placed in the Conference’s top three papers. Willis felt satisfied to share the research she worked on for an entire semester with people outside the BJU community. “To be able to share that and have, like, a final product that I could present to other people felt really good,” Willis said.  

Willis interviewed six women to analyze whether the reason behind marital name change was tradition or religious belief. “For a lot of them, it was just tradition. It wasn’t necessarily connected to religious belief,” she said. 

Thanks to the instruction she received at BJU, Willis researched this cultural topic successfully. She applies the investigation skills she gained when she was an undergraduate international studies major in her paper. “That program really helped prepare me because pretty much all I did in international studies was write research papers,” Willis said. “And so having that very strong, rigorous research background really set me up for success in grad school.”   

Willis also highlighted how her teachers’ emphasis on presenting a topic well gave her an advantage in the competition. “Because of my communication background that I’ve had here at Bob Jones, I was able to consolidate my research and speak only for like eight to 10 minutes about what I had learned and present it in a way that was really interesting,” Willis said.  

As an opportunity opened for both undergraduate and graduate students, Alyssa Marks and Charissa Willis encouraged students to submit their papers to the different conferences promoted on campus. Willis recommended asking professors for guidance: “Just take that paper to a faculty member,” Willis said.  

Marks’ advice was to research a topic that captivates your attention. She said, “Starting with something that you are interested in is the best place to start.”