Connor Kish '15
-story by Kaitlyn Sewell '15
Connor Kish '15 is putting his
communication studies and political science
majors to good use for his Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
project. Randolph-Macon College’s SURF program offers students the unique opportunity
to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under
the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Kish will be surveying friends, family, and R-MC students and faculty through an
online survey program, asking them about their views of current events. With the
help of his mentor, Communication Studies Professor Joan Conners, he is focusing
on the scandals of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Michael Vick and Mitt Romney.
“I have always been interested in public scandals, but with my SURF project, I will
be branching beyond my political science interest,” Kish shares. “The survey is
divided into sections, one for each public figure, and the questions focus on people’s
opinions of these individuals pre-scandal and post-scandal. We also ask questions
related to the participants’ use of social media.”
Kish is hoping to show that social media has an effect on the public’s opinion of
these celebrities, and to therefore prove the growing strength of social media-based
news consumption. He will present his findings in a final paper as well as on Research
“SURF is a real-life application of class work,” says Conners. “It gives students
a new respect for what research is like because they have to go through the process,
from start to finish.” Conners enjoys being a SURF mentor, watching the evolution
of a student’s project, and being witness to what she calls “the moment of discovery.”
Kish chose Conners as his mentor because they have very similar interests.
“Professor Conners is my academic advisor, and I took her Campaigns and Elections
class,” says Kish. “I was thinking about a SURF proposal, and I asked her if she
would be interested in working with me. I chose her because she has done research
in the field of political communications. She is always available when I need help,
and she always has a suggestion if I get stuck.”
Interests and Internships
Kish’s interest in political science goes back several years.
“I remember watching the election results with my dad when I was in middle school,
but I never really understood the process,” he says. “I became so interested in
figuring out how and why people win these races.” The Middletown, Delaware resident
interned during Governor Jack Markell’s campaign in 2012 and enjoyed the experience.
“I helped manage fundraising, made phone calls to donors, and worked on outreaching
to the community,” he says.
Kish is a member of the college’s
Leadership Fellows program, which gave him the opportunity to take part
in Macon a Difference
Day, a campus-wide initiative that pays homage to Earth Day.
“I helped with mulching and with planting flowers around the Ashland Train Station,”
Kish says. The Leadership Fellows program, led by Assistant Dean of Students James
McGhee, gives students a head start on becoming professional, involved members of
Kish is also a Resident Assistant,
a job he considers challenging and rewarding.
“Being an RA has taught me to handle difficult situations and to be open to listening
to other people,” he says. “Christina Cozart, associate director of Residence Life
& Housing, and Monique Sample, coordinator of Student Life, are always available
to help. I was a first-year member of the RA staff last year, and whenever I had
questions or needed advice, Christina’s door was always open. It is nice to have
such a supportive professional staff. Monique always has really good advice, whether
it is about academic or campus life.” Kish will serve as a tour guide for the 2013-2014
year. “I’m looking forward to talking to prospective students and their families
about everything R-MC has to offer,” Kish shares. “I want to share my experiences
with them, because coming to R-MC was definitely one of my best decisions.”
Kish plans to use his SURF experience as a career credential. “Research always looks
good on a resume,” Kish says. After college, he is considering graduate school and
would like to do campaign work.
Yellow Jacket Community
Kish values the R-MC community and its close-knit connections.
“During my freshman year, I was struggling with Spanish, so I met with
Spanish Professor Kimberly Borchard,” he recalls. “She helped me pinpoint
areas where I was making mistakes, and she helped me come up with ways to avoid
them. I would have never earned an A in Spanish without taking the time to meet
with her. My advice to fellow Yellow Jackets? Get to know your professors. They
are extremely willing to help.”
The SURF program was established in 1995 through a generous gift made by Ben '64
and Peggy Schapiro. The Schapiros continue to support this program, which promotes
scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.