Over 200 students presented this year at the 29th annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum, or SURF Day. While communications students are not required to do research, one communications major went the extra mile.

Senior strategic communications major Abby Weaver presented for the first time this year and said she decided to do research to fulfill one credit for graduation but she is glad she did it. 

“I think comm students sometimes don’t do those types of projects and I’m glad to be representing and I’m glad to prove to myself that I can do it,” said Weaver. 

After a trip to Costa Rica, Weaver decided to research how social media changed during and after the Costa Rican presidential primary election. Weaver said her parents are both involved in the democratic party, worked under various presidents, and she had attended several marches and rallies while growing up. 

“It’s very common in my family and in my community to not be afraid to share your political beliefs. I know down here and some people think it's controversial, you shouldn’t talk about it at the dinner table, but I have always been very comfortable speaking up about what I think is right,” Weaver said. 

Before the trip, Weaver knew she wanted to research communication messaging in politics, but the social media aspect developed while in Costa Rica. 

“I got to see billboards and different media forms that were out and about and now I get to continue that discovery of information but here in the United States,” she said.

Weaver’s research mentor, Vanessa Bravo, is from Costa Rica and was the leader of the trip. Weaver said Bravo met with her weekly and was able to assist her with language barriers. Weaver said she probably wouldn’t have conducted research without a mentor.

“I would have doubted myself and just been too insecure to do it by myself,” Weaver said. “I am just very grateful that I was able to do research through the independent study specifically where you have to get it credited with a teacher.”

Weaver said her presentation is important because this was the first time in 60 years that Costa Rica had a run-off election. In addition, she said some people, including herself prior to her research, did not know a lot about Costa Rica or the country’s politics. Her hope is that students could learn about Costa Rica and its democracy from her presentation.

“I hope that people will take away that they experience the same things that we do in terms of social media, campaigning, and having these new right-wing ideologies coming to play,” Weaver said. “Honestly, we can look to them to have really stable democracy, because they also still do paper and pen voting and they get the day off to vote, which is like a huge deal.”