FIMS students recognized by the Global Undergraduate Awards

Two FIMS undergraduate students have received “Highly Commended” designations for research papers submitted to the Global Undergraduate Awards in 2019. Sophia Belyk and Maya Kelly were recently recognized internationally for their original research, written for class assignments in MIT courses. Submissions to the awards are assessed by a panel of expert academic judges, selected from around the world, and only the top 10% of submissions receive “Highly Commended” status. This year over 4,000 papers were submitted by students from 50 countries.

Sophia Belyk, a School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities (SASAH) student who is also completing a major in the Media, Information & Technoculture (MIT) program at FIMS, submitted a paper titled, “(Un)Filtered Females: Exploring the Changing Representation of Women in Cigarette Advertising, 1920-1940,” which was written for MIT 3325 (Advertising’s Century), taught by Professor Daniel Robinson.

Maya Kelly, a Media & the Public Interest (MPI) honors specialization student in FIMS who graduated in June 2020, submitted a paper titled, “Nike, Colin Kaepernick and the Commercialization of Activism,” which was written for MIT 3901 (Getting the Message Out: Activism and Mainstream Media), taught by Professor Amanda Grzyb.

During a normal year, Belyk and Kelly would have had the opportunity to travel to the UA Global Summit at its home base in Dublin, Ireland, to be formally recognized among their peers. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the students will be unable to make the trip in person. Still, they will attend this year’s summit virtually in November. Both students expressed some disappointment at being unable to make the trip to Ireland but are still looking forward to the virtual summit and having the chance to interact with other young scholars.

“I do get to attend the virtual Global Summit which is both incredibly exciting and a little disappointing, as going to Dublin to meet the other scholars face to face would have been an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Kelly.

“I’m grateful nonetheless to be involved in the summit and look forward to attending it virtually in November. I am also excited about future opportunities that may arise in connection with the UA Alumni network.”

Papers submitted to Global Undergraduate Awards are slotted into one of 25 possible subject categories. Kelly’s paper on Nike and Colin Kaepernick fit under the Social Sciences: Sociology and Social Policy heading. According to Kelly, her paper is an analysis of the commercialization of activism and “marketized” philanthropy.

“It questions whether Nike’s decision to make Kaepernick an ambassador is true activism or simply capitalism,” she explains.

“My essay explores whether or not a neoliberal capitalist society can allow for real activism that challenges the system (capitalism) in any meaningful way.”

Ultimately, Kelly concludes that meaningful activism arising within the market is not possible in neoliberal capitalist societies, where maintaining the status quo of the system is paramount.

Belyk’s investigation into the changing portrayal of women in cigarette advertising between 1920-1940 was placed in the Art History & Theory category. In it, she examines how the portrayal of women in cigarette ads gradually shifted from a male-focused to a female-focused model as the industry sought to capitalize on the shifting social climate of the time, while also encouraging more women to take up smoking.

“I think the most interesting part of the research and writing for me was advertising's two-pronged approach to targeting women, taking advantage of both the women's lib movement and the desire to comply with traditional femininity (through, for example, being thin). It really highlights how advertising will take advantage of just about any desire or insecurity available,” explains Belyk.

Belyk identifies 1920-1940 as the timeframe in which the most significant shifts took place, “during which advertisements adapted their imagery to accommodate smoking as paradoxically both a powerful symbol of liberated femininity and as a means of conforming to the image of the attractive modern woman.”

The UA Global Summit will take place online from November 16-18, 2020. Participants will be recognized for their academic achievements, watch a number of keynote presentations, and gain access to the UA Network – young, talented scholars from around the world who have connected through the Global Undergraduate Awards, going back to 2008.

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