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June 13, 2019
Life At Witt

Kathryn Nydegger ’19

Power of Faculty-Student Relationships Shine As Recent Grad Tackled Research Project on Campus

Pictured above are Dr. Kelly Dillon (left) and Kathryn Nydegger ’19.

It all started during fall semester of my junior year, while completing Dr. Kelly Dillon’s Social Scientific Research Methods course, otherwise known as COMM300Z.

At the start, I was extremely nervous and worried about the amount of work that would be assigned over the course of a 16-week period (three papers, about 15 pages apiece, and lots of research and reading later). Entering Dr. Dillon’s course, I never imagined that (1) my professor actually would enjoy and be pleased with my project idea, and (2) encourage, lead, and support me in completing a yearlong, two-part independent research study. I’m still in awe of the amount of writing, research, and sweat that was put into this project over the course of three semesters, which I know I could not have done without the dedication, encouragement, and support of Dr. Dillon.

My independent research project developed through my interest and love for running, along with my vast involvement in physical activities. I was interested in learning why people pursue such extraordinary milestones and opportunities so as to improve and encourage greater involvement in their physical activities (running, weightlifting, yoga, triathlons, etc.).

Leveraging my own passion for physical fitness and opportunities to maintain and involve oneself in such experiences, my research project focused on three main aspects in discovering these unknowns: 1) What kind of social support do individuals want to receive when wanting to maintain their physical activity or become more involved in doing so? 2) What kind of physical-healthful behaviors do people want to get and remain involved with? and 3) Who are the preferred individuals they want to hear and receive social support from (family, friends, coach, trainer, teammates, strangers, etc.)?

Throughout this research study, I prepared, attended, and engaged in regular, weekly team meetings to facilitate the completion of the quantitative research study. The two-part study involved more than 400 participants, and results indicated that uninvolved senders (friends, significant others, parents), who provided socially supportive messages to individuals involved in physical activities and seeking social support, had more of an impact on their subjective norms (social pressure to perform or not perform a particular behavior). Involved senders (coach, trainer, activity partner), however, had more of an impact on their perceived behavioral control (the perception of ease or difficulty of performing a particular behavior).

Overall, the research supports the notion that if you want to give social support to someone (whether on the sideline during your friend’s lacrosse game, your father’s triathlon races, or with your mother’s participation in her weekly water aerobics classes), just do it!

Prior to and after the conclusion of my two-part independent research study, I was awarded the opportunity to present my research at the 2018 Celebration of Learning and 2018 Ohio Communication Association (OCA), receiving Top Undergraduate Poster award for my work and presentation.

I have furthered my work through my submission of and acceptance to present my research at the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) in Brighton, England, and Ottawa, Canada, this summer. I am now interested in pursuing higher education to further develop my interests in public health and health communication-related fields in the near future.

Kathryn Nydegger ’19
Major: Communication and Entrepreneurship
Minor: Music
Hometown: Hilliard, Ohio

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Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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