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Honors was a Game-Changer for Amy Griffin

New Ways of Approaching Old Problems

A senior in the Honors Program, Amy Griffin is an accomplished Communications-Journalism Major, with a Minor in Family Life Sciences. When we caught up to her this semester, Amy told us that her Honors experience has been a game-changer for her as she discovered new ways of approaching old problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

She was drawn to the program even before coming to BYU! During her high school years, she heard about the Unexpected Connections courses and the possibility of completing some of her generals twice as quickly by enrolling in the Honors Program. Later, a friend encouraged her to sign up for Late Summer Honors as an incoming freshman. Initially, her only motivation to enroll was to move into her dorm early, but this turned out to be a fantastic decision because she met her husband in that class! After her experience in the Unexpected Connections course on Bio and Letters, she was hooked and knew she had to stay in the Honors Program. Speaking about her Bio/Letters class Amy said, “I was amazed at their approach to evolution through biology/botany and literature. We took a camping trip to Canyonlands, too, and it was really neat to see how the ideas we had been exploring were observable in the natural world. I think the kicker for me was when we used a biological software typically intended to identify how different species are related and instead input data from literature and movies so we could see how stories and story tropes evolved. That blew my mind!”

Ultimately, Amy recognizes multiple ways that the Honors Program influenced her BYU experience for the better. She feels that without the Unexpected Connections courses, she could not have come up with a thesis topic. By taking her generals through a program that teaches thinking in an interdisciplinary manner, she was able to gain the confidence necessary to propose a very interdisciplinary thesis (hers crosses communications, political science, psychology, and women's studies). The Honors Program truly solidified the idea that answers to significant questions are rarely found in one specific discipline, a principle she is applying to her thesis research on “The Streamed Ceiling: the Impact of Female Role Models in Television Media on the Perceived Electability of Women.”

When we asked her about her journey in choosing and developing a thesis project, Amy said,

“Genuinely, I was in the shower. It's cliche, but that's actually where my ideas almost always come--right where I don't have any way to write them down. I'd been streaming the CBS show Madam Secretary on Netflix that day and thought to myself "it would be so neat to be the Secretary of State and solve problems" and of course I immediately took that back--I would never want that job. But it made me think that if the show made even ME briefly consider holding office, maybe it could do the same for women who would actually be interested in running, if they had the right push. It’s no secret that women aren’t extraordinarily well-represented in government, and there are a lot of studies that indicate better gender parity in government on all levels (and in all parties!) has some seriously helpful, prosocial implications. So initially, I wanted to study whether watching shows like Madam Secretary with a positive, competent, kind, intelligent female role model (rather than the typical sexualized or bossy/mean stereotype) encouraged young women to gain the courage and ambition to want to run for office. I started meeting with Dr. Sarah Coyne, my thesis advisor, because I had been in a class of hers and she'd talked about doing research on how viewing certain types of media affected women--usually body image. She helped me kind of refine my initial idea and bring it into the scope of something I could realistically do for an honors thesis. That's where we started looking at the general public instead of just young women, and focused on whether watching those positive female role models made people more likely to elect and support "real" women running for office. I joined Dr. Coyne's research assistant lab and have gotten more comfortable with the process of preparing for research. The process of getting IRB approval really forced me to flesh out my idea and make a plan, which started to make the whole project feel more real.”

Thesis projects can seem daunting at best, and Amy is no stranger to this feeling. To anyone feeling overwhelmed by their project or unsure where to start, she assures,

“Honestly, it was terrifying starting out. I'd never done original research beyond my middle school science projects. I didn't know a thing about the university research world. Dr. Coyne has been the best mentor because she really helped me get comfortable not knowing what I'm doing and just continuing to put in the effort to learn. She remembers what it was like doing research for her honors thesis for the first time, and she's done a lot to help me transition smoothly and also learn how to do each part on my own. My tip would be to find a fantastic mentor like Dr. Coyne. With the right mentor, you'll feel less like an imposter and more like a work in progress. Undergraduate research feels really intimidating, but it doesn't need to be. I started working on finding a mentor months before I started working with Dr. Coyne because I knew it was going to be important to find the right person who both supported me in my goals and had the skills, experience, and willingness to help me get there.”

Amy is from Highland, Utah and is the oldest of three kids. She loves hiking, camping, and paddle boarding. She and her husband recently adopted a dog named Scooter who is quite the busy body. When not with her husband or Scooter, Amy spends most of her time in the throes of thesis research. Her hobbies include signing up for projects that she doesn’t know how to do and floundering until she figures it out. She works for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at the law school as their photographer and videographer. She grew up playing with cameras, so her decision to major in Journalism came naturally. She is planning to pursue graduate school to study media psychology while her husband completes his doctorate of physical therapy.

This year, Amy was recognized as a 2021 Statesmanship and Religious Freedom Fellow at the Museum of the Bible and the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C. She is a Monson scholar at BYU, and she served a mission from Jan 2018-July 2019. In 2017, she was selected as a finalist for the Regional Sterling Scholar Skilled & Technical Sciences Official Documentary Selection to the All-American Film Festival. Additionally, her “Amanda’s Wish” documentary with Make-a-Wish was a Selected Commercial during the 2017 Super Bowl LI. Her Commercial for Zero Fatalities on seatbelt use aired on Western markets in 2017 as well. Amy is a 2017 AXA Achievers Scholar, PMI Scholar & Presenter, Burger King Scholar, and Comcast Scholar.