Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Recent JMS Master’s Graduate Wins Best Master’s Thesis Award

JMS alumna Corinne Zilnicki wins the 2021 Orangefiery Best Master’s Thesis Award presented by the Institute of Public Relations.

Recent JMS Master’s Graduate Wins Best Master’s Thesis Award

Corinne Zilnicki

by Baylee Akins

September 24, 2021

Social media helps us share our thoughts and experiences with the world, but what happens when false information begins to circulate during a state of emergency? Recent JMS master’s graduate Corinne Zilnicki takes a deep dive into the misinformation propagated on social media during the throes of Hurricane Harvey, earning her the 2021 Orangefiery Best Master’s Thesis Award presented by the Institute of Public Relations. Her thesis is titled, “Lying Through One’s Tweets: How False Rumors Deter Public Compliance During Crises.”

“Corinne’s research into the ways that emergency messages are delivered by officials and interpreted by the public provides new and important layers of public relations theory to the academic canon while also delivering innovative insights that are eminently relevant in the field,” said JMS associate professor Arthur Santana, Ph.D., Zilnicki’s faculty advisor. “This is the kind of impactful research that is critical to both academic researchers and first responders, perhaps now more than ever.”

As an active-duty public affairs specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard, Zilnicki bridges her background with media theory to examine the impact of misinformation.

“I drew directly from my own professional experiences, specifically issues I had encountered while communicating with the public during Hurricane Harvey,” said Zilnicki. “Channeling those experiences made writing my thesis feel oddly personal and emotional. I also found myself tackling research questions that had not only plagued me, but fellow public affairs practitioners in the Coast Guard. Thinking of my colleagues grappling with communication issues motivated me to scrutinize my research and writing more carefully, and to pursue results that could actually help practitioners like me.”

The Orangefiery Best Master’s Thesis Award recognizes and encourages graduate study and scholarship in the public relations field. All entries are judged based on their contribution to the advancement of research-based knowledge in public relations, as well as the relevancy of the research and impact on the profession. Zilnicki will receive a $2,000 grant and her faculty advisor will receive a $1,000 cash grant.

“Winning this award is both emotionally gratifying and humbling. I think back to feeling like an imposter on my first day of grad school, and now I know I was in the right program at the right time. More importantly, I was with the right people.”

For more information about the award and to learn more about Zilnicki’s thesis, click here.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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