Turner Wins National Award for Master's Thesis Examining Campus Community Resilience

Kaleb Turner
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Kaleb Turner

Kaleb Turner, a 2021 graduate of the Department of Communication's M.A. program, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Top Qualitative Thesis Award from the National Communication Association's Master's Education Section. Turner's thesis, "Investigating the Role of Social Capital and Everyday Communication in Campus Community Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic," was advised by associate professor Matthew Spialek.

The aim of Turner's project was to understand how a university community communicatively constructed resilience during a public health crisis that disrupted the traditional capacities individuals and communities rely on when faced with adversity. Through virtual semi-structured interviews and focus groups with undergraduate students, faculty and staff, Turner explored how individuals crafted a sense of normalcy, harnessed social support and developed positive-focused narratives over the span of the pandemic.

Turner's thesis offered several practical recommendations to help university communities grow from their pandemic experiences. In nominating Turner for the award, Spialek noted, "Aligned with the belief that resilience is about bouncing forward, Kaleb suggested that the contradictory messages students constructed about resilience were missed opportunities to understand themselves, the lessons they learned over the pandemic and their individual capacities to adapt to future challenges. His recommendation for universities to work with students to develop individual and community trauma narratives is not only informed by research but also uniquely positions communication scholars and practitioners at the center of post-pandemic interventions."

Turner's award continues a tradition of excellence for the Department of Communication's M.A. program, with recent students winning top thesis awards from the National Communication Association every year since 2017. The department also received the NCA's Outstanding Master's Degree Program Award in 2017. Ryan Neville-Shepard, the department's graduate director, stated, "We are enormously proud of Kaleb. He worked so hard under some of the most difficult conditions, and his thesis truly represents the best scholarship in the country."

Since graduating, Turner has worked for Fulbright College as an assistant director of communications and serves as an adjunct lecturer for the Department of Communication.

About the National Communication Association: The National Communication Association advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry. The association serves the scholars, teachers and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the National Communication Association promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. For more information, visit natcom.org

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