On November 9, 2013, Jordan Kohn, a senior communication studies major, presented a paper on “Comparing Coverage of Child Labor and National Characteristics: A Cross-National Exploration” at a conference on “Communication and Social Transformation” in Shanghai sponsored by the most prestigious scholarly communication studies organization in the world, the International Communication Association (ICA). Only after her paper, originally written for professor John Pollock’s international communication class, was accepted for the November 8-10 conference did Jordan realize that it was the only conference paper written by an undergraduate.
Jordan’s achievement is consistent with a long standing pattern of superior national presentations and recognition won by students in the TCNJ communication studies department. In 2011, the National Communication Association, the largest scholarly association of communication studies scholars in the US, wrote the department a letter confirming that TCNJ students have long held the national record for winning the annual “Stephen A. Smith Award” for best student paper in the US (five awards), along with the national record for the largest number of students elected to the national presidency of Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication student honor society (nine presidencies). In short, TCNJ communication studies students are widely considered among the best in the US, and their acceptance at leading graduate and professional schools offers further confirmation of a culture of scholarly commitment.
In her paper comparing newspaper coverage of child labor in 21 major newspapers in as many countries worldwide, Jordan found that higher levels of “privilege” (for example, higher GDP/capita, literacy rates, life expectancy) corresponded with coverage de-emphasizing domestic government responsibility for child labor conditions, instead giving greater emphasis to “societal” responsibility (charities, Non-governmental Organizations – NGOs, and other “outside” organizations such as foreign governments – e.g., US Agency for International Development, and the United Nations). In Shanghai, Jordan found herself on the same panel with the chair of the communications studies department at Indiana University and a panel respondent, one of the most distinguished scholars in the world, from the University of Texas. After Jordan learned of her paper’s acceptance, her advisor professor John Pollock added additional analysis and editing to generate a student-faculty co-authored paper. Pollock explained: “It is unheard of for undergraduates to have refereed papers accepted for conferences of the ICA. Jordan’s presentation represents a major breakthrough for undergraduates everywhere. Our department could not be more proud of her accomplishment”. Jordan’s parents accompanied her to Shanghai.
Jordan comments, “I recommend TCNJ to any prospective freshman or transfer student. I still find it unbelievable that this school and Communication Studies Department has made it possible for a transfer student like myself (who had even switched majors) to not only graduate on time, but also to feel accomplished. I don’t believe I would have had the same encouragement and opportunities had I decided to study communication studies anywhere else. “