Cassie Cuddihy wears many hats on the Rutgers University-New Brunswick campus. Cuddihy is a Resident Assistant, a Rutgers University Programming Association Director, and a Scarlet Ambassador Captain. Despite her enthusiasm for her multiple responsibilities, she said her most rewarding role has been her involvement in the CommUnity Health Action Lab (CUHAL), an opportunity she discovered as a Communication major and DCIM minor at SC&I.
Below, SC&I speaks with Cuddihy about why she chose to major in Communication, the research opportunities she has had as a result, and the support she has felt from SC&I faculty, advisors, and staff throughout her undergraduate experience.
SC&I: Why did you decide to study Communication?
CC: I chose the Communication major because I had an enjoyable experience in the Introduction to Communication course I took with Professor Emerita of Communication Jenny Mandelbaum during my first semester on campus. I loved learning about the real-world applications that the study of Communication has in our daily lives.
SC&I: What experiences have defined your time at SC&I thus far?
CC: During my sophomore year, I had a wonderful research experience with Associate Professor of Communication Lisa Mikesell. Together we studied communication patterns in telehealth. This past September our work was published in the article “Exploring the Connectivity Paradox: How the Sociophysical Environment of Telehealth Shapes Adolescent Patients’ and Parents’ Perceptions of the Patient-Clinician Relationship.” I assisted with the coding of interview transcripts as well as collaborated during team meetings to discuss recurring themes and patterns in the findings.
My passion for the study of Communication grew because I realized the importance and relevance of the work that was being done.
In the Spring of 2021, I took Interpersonal Communication with Associate Professor of Communication Maria Venetis. While our class was virtual, Venetis provided a synchronous option for our class. This class was the only course, at the time, that provided an opportunity to learn "in real time" and the opportunity to receive live support from a professor and my peers. I truly am grateful to have received such support, care, and a sense of community from a professor during a time filled with uncertainty and barriers due to being completely virtual in my educational experience. Venetis has become a mentor to me, especially after I became part of the CUHAL.
The CommUnity Health Action Lab (CUHAL) is an inter-organizational collaboration between Rutgers and the University of Iowa to understand and provide feasible, workable solutions to healthcare problems through partnerships with affected communities. During my time as a member of CUHAL, I have had the opportunity to conduct thorough research, coding, and analysis with a team.
SC&I: What value do you believe that research opportunities have in your academic and professional career?
CC: My passion for the study of Communication grew because I realized the importance and relevance of the work that was being done. All the research I assisted with has been health-related. Something I have grown to understand is the research being conducted can help improve patient-provider communications, patient experience, or overall treatment of individuals in the healthcare field. I realized that the work we were doing had the power to call attention to ongoing disparities and improve people's lives.
During my time as a member of CUHAL, I have had the opportunity to conduct thorough research, coding, and analysis with a team.
I felt empowered as a student in both experiences because while I spent a lot of time learning and asking questions, I also felt that my input was valued by the teams I was working on - even when I was the only undergraduate student present. When I felt confused or needed a deeper explanation of what was happening, I always felt included in the work that was being done and a valued member of the team.
SC&I: How do you think SC&I supported students throughout the virtual learning experience and now?
CC: The highlight of my SC&I experience has to be feeling supported by the advisors, faculty, and staff. I am grateful to have met so many wonderful people at SC&I who I can go to with any academic as well as personal challenges. While I always feel valued as a student by SC&I, I also feel cared for as a person. The Student Support Services at SC&I are unlike any other and have truly been a highlight of my Rutgers experience!
SC&I: In addition to Venetis, what class experiences have made an impression on you?
CC: Last fall semester, I took two classes that I thoroughly enjoyed: Communication and Social Change taught by Professor Emerita of Communication Vikki Katz, and Media, Marketing, and Communication with Assistant Professor of Professional Practice Mark Beal. Each class applied concepts I learned in introductory classes to real-life situations.
I found Communication and Social Change to be a fascinating class where I learned about how communication impacts social movements and important moments in history.
I found Communication and Social Change to be a fascinating class where I learned about how communication impacts social movements and important moments in history. Specifically, learning about how communication methods impacted HIV awareness was a powerful lesson. Media, Marketing, and Communication was a great class to take because I felt I was truly able to learn about how the study of communication lent itself to involvement in the media, marketing, and communication industry as a whole. Each week, Beal invited a guest speaker to the class who spoke about their experience in the field - ranging from those employed by Amazon, Lipton, and Clorox.
SC&I: What advice would you give to students?
CC: I urge my peers to continue to keep an open mind as it could expand the number of opportunities you are afforded during your time spent on campus!