Honors Research Day 2020: Kaitlyn Esposito


Please introduce yourself.

“My name is Kaitlyn Esposito, and I am a communication major with a concentration in public relations and minors in sustainability management and dance studies.”

What is the title of your project? What is it all about?

“My Honors Thesis Project is titled ‘Meaning from Movement: Contemporary Dance as the Nonverbal Communication Code of Kinesics.’ This thesis project examines how nonverbal communication cues called kinesics can be perceived through choreographic choices and structures, to evaluate if messages can effectively be sent and received through contemporary dance.”

Why did you choose to pursue this research? Why does it matter to you and why should it matter to others?

“I knew I wanted to create a project that combined my field of communication and passion for dance. I have always been interested in how dance can be used for a larger purpose beyond just entertainment. I first explored this concept through Fairleigh Dance Project, where we create pieces about social issues and raise money for local beneficiaries. Through my Honors research, I wanted to measure if the audience is able to identify with the emotions and themes presented in the piece to understand what types of choreographic choices are most effective in communicating messages. This research is important because it takes an experimental approach to understanding the purpose of dance. In mainstream media, dance is commonly seen as an activity for kids, or part of New York City’s entertainment industry of the ballet and Broadway, or for backup dancers to pop singers. While all of this is dance, dance is also a nonverbal tool that can be used to communicate across a wide variety of cultural contexts to be able to ignite change on all levels of society. Arts moves people and touches people, and if utilized in the right way, can truly make an impact.”

What has the experience of completing your thesis been like? 

“For my thesis, I decided to take the route not taken by many: the IRB Approval process. Since I wanted to conduct a live study as opposed to a content analysis, I had to go through FDU’s Institutional Review Board process, which included 10 hours of online coursework, a written proposal, and a set of signed forms. Although at first it seemed like a big task, I am super grateful for the support of Kim Diccianni, the human research compliance manager of FDU, and my mentor Professor Christine Foster for all of their help and guidance along the way. I was able to complete the proposal while in Italy last semester to be ready to set up and run my experiment this semester. After booking the FDU Theater for the live study, I worked with two Fairleigh Dance Project dancers to set the three, two-minute dance works. I very much enjoyed the choreographic process and being in the studio watching my vision come to life. The live study went very well. I am happy to have had twenty audience members attend, and the dancers did a great job after learning the choreography in such a short amount of time. It is common for many students to feel like their thesis is a burden, but I absolutely enjoyed every step of my process and ended up with a final result I am extremely proud of. Yes, it is a lot of work — but if you research and study something you are passionate about — the thesis project becomes an opportunity and not an obligation.”

How do you feel that the Honors program has benefited you during your FDU career, as well as moving forward? Why should new students consider joining the program?

“I have been a huge advocate for the FDU Honors Program since my freshman year. The FDU Honors Program has helped me develop personally and professionally through coursework, research, and networking. The FDU Honors coursework has challenged me to think globally through real world applications and experiences. I have attended United Nations conferences, the NJ Speaker Series with world-renowned keynote speakers, and have taken part in class discussions about prominent issues in today’s society such as climate change and gender inequality. This mindset inspired me to spend my Fall 2019 semester abroad in Bergamo, Italy, where I gained new perspectives on global issues. FDU Honors students also have the opportunity to attend the Northeast Regional Honors Conference (NRHC), which takes place mid-spring semester, connecting hundreds of honors students from the region. This has provided me with a platform to present my past research in sustainability, communication, and dance. This experience of sharing ideas and networking is unmatched; each year I look forward to hearing about other student research and to making friends from universities around the northeast (some of which I still keep in contact with to this day). In the process of completing my Honors Thesis, I have had the constant support of my Honors Program, in being one of the few FDU Honors students who has ever gone through the Institutional Review Board to gain permission to conduct their study. Looking forward, I am interested in eventually pursuing my PhD. Having this thesis experience under my belt makes me feel confident that I would be able to do so.”

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