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Microgrants Awarded to Department of Communication Faculty for Innovative Research

The latest cycle of the Arts and Humanities Microgrants has been announced, highlighting the achievement of two faculty members from the Department of Communication. These microgrants are a part of the Pitt Momentum Funds program, as a resource for faculty enabling them to propel their research and creative pursuits forward. The one-year microgrants are designed to expand internal funding opportunities for faculty, providing crucial resources for existing projects, works-in-progress, or the exploration of transformative concepts through smaller, faster decision-making grants. 

 Associate Professor Elfriede Fürsich has been recognized for her project titled “The Business of Media Diversity.” Her research delves into the intersection of media, diversity, and political economy. Fürsich's research sheds light on the intentional inclusion of diverse characters in contemporary media content and its commodification. In an era where diversity representation has gained significant prominence, this project scrutinizes the economic logic behind diversity representation in scripts, journalism, and advertising. Through case studies and interviews with media creatives, Fursich aims to explore the ways in which diversity has become a unique selling point, especially in the context of targeting millennials and younger audiences. 

 Associate Professor and Department Chair Calum Matheson, the other recipient, will utilize the microgrant for his project “Snakes and Psychology in the Archives.” Matheson's project examines the frames through which academics investigated religious outsiders, focusing on studies done on Appalachian churches where believers handle venomous snakes in religious services. Two major studies in the 1960s—one sympathetic to serpent-handlers and another labeling them as pathological—demonstrate attitudes that still exist in academic and popular engagement with this abject religious group, including often sadistic expressions of glee when believers are killed during their rituals. Matheson’s research asks what this sadistic attachment does for those who experience it, and what it might say about scholarly approaches to marginalized communities.