Inaugural Sandi Smith Research Fellowship to Support Student Research on Norms Messaging and Sexual Assault

A master's student driven to understand how social and cultural dynamics affect health and risk behavior has been selected as the first recipient of a recently established research fellowship through the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences. 

Youjin Jang was named the inaugural beneficiary of the Sandi Smith Research Fellowship for her master's thesis research on the effect of social norms on behaviors and reactions to potential alcohol-related sexual assault. The $1,000 award will help Jang cover costs related to recruiting and compensating the anticipated 150 participants in the study. 

"I am deeply honored to be selected," says Jang. "The award is very special to me because I have been inspired by Professor Smith's academic achievement in health communication."

The Sandi Smith Research Fellowship acknowledges Smith’s dedication to health and risk communication studies. Smith directed the MSU Health and Risk Communication Center from 2005 to 2017, and her work with students earned her the 2008 B. Audrey Fisher Mentorship Award from the International Communication Association. Smith received the University Distinguished Professor award in 2017 and is a prolific scholar and ICA Fellow. 

Jang's adviser, Maria Knight Lapinski, remarks that Jang epitomizes the spirit of the award as a student with a strong research background who continues to broaden her experience. She says Jang's study demonstrates both the practical and scholarly value inherent in health and risk communication research.

"Her thesis addresses the role of bystander intervention in potential sexual assault situations so it has practical relevance for all college campuses," says Lapinski, director of the Health and Risk Communication Center and professor in the Department of Communication and Michigan AgBio Research. "From a communication theory standpoint, she is adding to a body of literature that looks at how social pressure influences our identities and the emotions we experience when we fail to adhere to social pressure."

Jang started her studies at MSU in September 2016 and looks to complete her master's thesis research in May 2018. She will be entering the MSU doctoral program in communication in the fall of 2018.

"My goal is to become a productive scientist who improves continually," says Jang. "I have been able to meet many inspiring scholars and colleagues and to participate in several research projects here at MSU. There are so many opportunities at MSU, and conducting research and working with people helps me make progress toward my goal."

By Ann Kammerer