Rhetoric & Language (Communication Studies) Pre Intern Reagan Francis

Reagan Francis“I applied for this program with a teacher of mine form a previous semester. My initial goal was to get involved in communication and language research, mainly conversation analysis, but this internship ended up being so much more than that. Over the course of the semester I have learned more about graduate school, research, academia, publishing, and time management than I ever expected.

My mentor and I initially wanted to jump right into collecting data for her research for her dissertation. We were going to record family dinners using a 360 degree camera she purchased and analyze family interaction when smartphones are present. In other words, we mainly wanted to see how kids and their parents being on their devices intermittently during dinnertime affects conversation. Once we figured out how to work the camera, we recorded a couple of dinners, but we had to wait a little while to do so while her request to collect data from human subjects was pending approval. We watched the videos and discussed them, but the focus of the internship soon shifted to preparing for the NCA conference in Dallas in November. I also sat in on a few of her planning meeting for SALSA, which is a symposium promoting language research here at UT Austin.

Katie had submitted a paper of hers to NCA to present at the conference in Dallas. Once it was approved, we began putting together a poster for the poster session. In addition, I read and reread her paper until I felt that I understood it well enough to explain it to her peers with her. This process was very fun and extremely interesting. We practiced by presenting the poster at the grad student research showcase in the PCL; we both enjoyed it and felt confident, so since we received travel grants for the NCA conference, we set our sights on making the presentation a successful one.

We presented the poster a couple of weeks ago and it went very well. I was able to check out a lot of other very interesting research from grad students and professors from around the country. In addition, NCA was kind enough to let me attend some sessions for free as an undergrad, so I was able to sit in on some incredible talks and research presentations regarding conversational analysis (this was definitely one of the highlights of the internship).

I am also supposed to help my mentor teach her CMS 306M class next Tuesday. We have been collaborating with one another about what we should talk about and brainstorming new teaching methods. I am particularly excited to have the opportunity to teach some of my peers about some very interesting topics, including managing one’s professional reputation.

Lastly, one of the most important things I learned from this internship is that grad school is a real possibility for me – something I never thought was possible. I’ve always thought that it was too competitive or too expensive, but Katie showed me all sorts of different ways to lessen the financial burden of attending graduate school. She also put my mind at ease as to how difficult it is to get in. One more thing I was worried about was balancing my time in the future between graduate school and my family, but after hearing some of her strategies for time management with multiple children, a husband, and grad school simultaneously, I am confident that attending graduate school is something that I can actually achieve. I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds in regards to my education. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”