A Timely Project: Senior Courtney Schrom studies the impacts of mask-wearing during the pandemic for her senior thesis.

Courtney Schrom is a senior who is prepping for her last couple of weeks on-campus at Eastern. That means she is in the home stretch of her senior thesis, and that is a true light at the end of the tunnel at this point for the senior. Schrom is a Communications major with a Digital/Emerging Media concentration and chances are, you’ve seen her photos of Eastern’s athletic teams as she is a student photographer as well.

There aren’t many more topics that could be timelier as Schrom’s senior thesis is on the impact facemasks have had on people during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, her research focused on the impacts of relationship development, mental health, and communication. Mental health is a topic that is very important to Schrom though not her original idea for a topic. She had a few other proposal ideas before honing in on the impacts of facemasks, but the idea for researching facemasks came after a conversation with a friend. After the conversation, she heard numerous different stances on facemasks which helped give her interest in further research.

Once she got her topic proposal approved, Schrom began her research which was difficult at first. Even if the pandemic has felt like it has gone on for a long time,
there wasn’t a whole lot of published work on it when Schrom began doing her research for the senior thesis. Obviously, it was a relatively new topic at the time, but
by the time last semester was winding down there was a lot more research done and that helped get the ball rolling.

A couple of the interesting findings Schrom shared with me are that masks actually make people less anxious in public settings, and that drug use has gone up since people began wearing them. The first tidbit was especially interesting to me as someone from a family of introverts, and her research showed that the masks provide a sense of “protection” which helps reduce anxiety.

Another important tidbit Schrom gave me applies to any students that have taken COMM 280: Communication Theory and are Communications majors. You may want to keep your textbooks handy from the class as Schrom said that she ended up having to use a couple of those theories from the class into her thesis, so make sure to freshen up on the “Social Penetration Theory” and the “Narrative Paradigm” going into senior seminar.

While Schrom doesn’t have any immediate plans to continue her academic career by going on to getting her Master’s or PhD right after her time at Eastern, she
would be interested in doing further research down the line once the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have settled a little bit more. Her senior thesis was a
qualitative study, which required a lot of second-hand research, but she would also like to do a quantitative study someday that would focus on the socio-economic
impacts the pandemic has had. Schrom also has the hope that her thesis can be a stepping stone for other scholars who will continue studying effects of the pandemic for years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be a subject that is still “too soon” for some, but Schrom took on the tall task of focusing her senior thesis on the current pandemic. While it was a long and very tedious journey that has taken up most of her senior year, the finish line is now truly in sight and it is a rewarding feeling to see it all
coming together. The paper itself should be wrapped up over the next few days, and then it’s on to presenting her thesis for the department before finally being done with her senior thesis.

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