Two Communication Graduate Students Win Witherspoon Award for Original Research

June 1, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Two graduate students in the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin have won the Patricia Witherspoon Research Award for original research in the areas of public service, government, community service, civic life, citizenship or politics.

Kelly Kaufhold, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in the School of Journalism, will examine how a local news source covers the development of rail transit in Austin. His research, conducted under the direction of Professor Maxwell McCombs, will be titled, "All Aboard for Agenda Setting: An Express Look at Commuter Rail, Need for Orientation and a Local News Source." Rachel Kraft, a dual degree master's student in communication studies and public affairs, won for a research paper titled "Social Networking in the Lone Star State: Can Twitter Rescue Relationships between Politicians and Citizens?"

Given annually by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation, the award is named for Dr. Patricia Witherspoon, chair of the Department of Communication and director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, and provides a $2,000 stipend for graduate students conducting original research.

Both winners will compose a summary of their research to be published online and in the Annette Strauss Institute newsletter. Previous research topics have included Latina women in the immigration rights protest, organizational communications for non-profit organizations and examination of social change to end domestic violence. Past award winners have used the funding to pay for focus groups, survey instruments and other aspects of their research.

For more information on the award, visit the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation.

For more information, contact: Erin Geisler, KUT Radio, College of Communication, (512) 475-8071; Deborah Wise, 512-471-7210, or Chuck Courtney, 512-471-7208.