The thought of a group project can make some students sick to their stomachs. But what if you had a group that worked perfectly together and you had fun – yes, fun – doing the project?
Sounds like a dream right?
Not for one group in Rachelle Kamrath’s fall 2009 Small Group Communication class. They came up with a project they were all passionate about— and one student, senior Carrie Miller, even followed it through to this spring for an independent study research project. “I wanted to continue researching the project that our group did to try to see if it could be an idea that could work out,” Miller said.
Each group member was enthusiastic about improving communication as a topic. “And we actually enjoyed it, quite ironically, because a lot of Americans hate group projects, which is fair to say, because your grade depends on other people,” Miller said.
Miller, an organizational communication major from Doniphan, decided to continue the project after being contacted by Kamrath over winter break.
“I was so impressed with the final paper I recommended that the group transform their idea into a real project. Carrie took the initiative to delve further into the matter in an independent study,” Kamrath said.
The team of Miller, James Jelkin, Abigail Straka, Chelby Anderson, Yena Lee, Miae Kim and Scott Ritterbush decided on the topic by turning inward and finding a problem within the group itself. The members noticed that the Korean exchange students weren’t being included in much of the conversation because of the obvious language barrier.
“We were talking about how we could improve communication in our group, and then it turned into, ‘Well, why don’t we just try to solve this problem?’” Miller said.
Their solution? Help international students integrate into the community by teaming them up with American students for community service projects. “We thought this would give people an opportunity to meet an international student and likewise, for an international student to get to know an American student,” Miller said.
For Miller, it was important for international students to know that they could be different yet accepted. “In America, it’s OK to be different,” Miller said.
The most challenging part, Miller said, was figuring out how to get people motivated for the idea. The group decided that encouraging fraternities, sororities, education classes and other campus organizations would bemost beneficial because these groups often require community service hours.
While Miller pursued the idea for independent study, she knows she may never get to see the plan in action, though she would be thrilled if it happened. “If someone can get the idea implemented on the UNK campus, then that’s another level to experience,” Miller said.
“Carrie has an intrinsic interest in international communication, and it's apparent in her work,” Kamrath said. “I look forward to seeing what she will accomplish in the future.”
Miller will present her project again on April 19 for the Undergraduate Communication Research Conference at Wayne State College. She will join other undergraduate communication scholars from Hastings College,
Nebraska Wesleyan University and Wayne State College.
Wayne State’s conference includes another project that is comparable to Miller’s, which she is very excited about. “It would be really cool to hear their ideas and how they were going to solve the problem and just to kind of bounce ideas off of each other,” Miller said.