MI Diaries Project Sees Seven Team Members Graduate

MI Diaries Project Sees Seven Team Members Graduate

The MI Diaries project, run by MSU’s Sociolinguistics Lab, is providing MSU students with valuable research experience, and many of those students have been with the project from its beginning more than a year ago and just graduated from Michigan State University. 

The MI Diaries project, led by Assistant Professor Betsy Sneller and Associate Professor Suzanne Wagner, has collected recorded speech from Michigan residents since April 2020 in order to track changes to language during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five of the MSU students who worked on the MI Diaries project and who graduated this spring during a Zoom meeting. Pictured are top row left to right: Lindsay Moore and Nate Saed and bottom row left to right: Kelsey Barbato, Lauren Stahl, and Nyla Warren.

“Our graduating seniors have been absolutely integral to the success of MI Diaries and have been an important part of lab meetings, helping come up with creative diary prompt questions to ask each week, ” Sneller said. “We really could not have done this project without them. We’re extremely proud of the work that they’ve done; it’s bittersweet to see them moving on to their next steps!”

The recent graduates who were part of the MI Diaries team include:

  • Kelsey Barbato, Psychology major
  • Natalie Cruz, Human Biology major
  • Lindsay Moore, Linguistics major
  • Jack Rechsteiner, Linguistics major
  • Nate Saed, Linguistics major
  • Lauren Stahl, M.A. Spanish as a Second or Bilingual Language
  • Nyla Warren, Experience Architecture major

“Every week, I get enthusiastic about listening to the diarists – you never know what you’re going to hear, every week it’s something new,” Saed said. “This project has done a lot of good for everyone – diarists and team members.”

Stahl said she has enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the project: No matter what our discipline is, we can still come together and work towards a common goal. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what it’s like to work outside our discipline – but it’s a very valuable thing to remember that other people might have a different frame of reference. This project has been a great way for me to get to know other people and professors and expand on what I already know.”

Our graduating seniors have been absolutely integral to the success of MI Diaries and have been an important part of lab meetings, helping come up with creative diary prompt questions to ask each week. We really could not have done this project without them.

Betsy Sneller, Assistant Professor of Linguistics

Some of the graduating seniors have had specific roles in the project. For the past year, Moore was in charge of the Story Selection Team, which is responsible for listening through every diary entry and selecting a handful of representative stories to put in the archive each week. Warren was the webmaster in charge of regularly updating the website and using her User Experience expertise to improve how participants navigated the website. Rechsteiner was part of the Brand Team, which is responsible for making sure that everything – from visual branding to the community partnerships to pursue – aligns with the project values.

“Working with MI Diaries, it’s been interesting to see how the project brought people together, bonding over the similar experiences and feelings we are all going through with quarantine,” Warren said. “Working with this project has allowed me to improve my communication skills, both written and oral, which will be very beneficial for the next career steps I take.”

Assistant Professor Betsy Sneller (bottom left corner) and Associate Professor Suzanne Wagner (bottom right corner) meet via Zoom with five of the MSU students who worked on the MI Diaries project and who graduated this spring.

Both Moore and Rechsteiner used their work with the MI Diaries project as inspiration for presentations they worked on for the 2021 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF).

Rechsteiner worked on a poster presentation for UURAF with co-presenter Alexis Furkioti, Advertising Management junior, which received first place in the Communication Arts and Sciences category. Their presentation, titled “MI Diaries: The Development of a Research Project as a Brand,” focused on building a brand identity for the MI Diaries project and why that was important to project success.

“As a transfer student, I came into the College of Arts & Letters and the Linguistics Department feeling like a little bit of an outsider. I tried to make connections with colleagues and faculty, but it always felt like I was trying to play ‘catch up’ with the traditional students,” Rechsteiner said. “Being part of the MI Diaries project has given me the opportunity to truly feel like I have a place at MSU and to build relationships with like-minded people in a year where that type of connection has been hard to find.” 

Being part of the MI Diaries project has given me the opportunity to truly feel like I have a place at MSU and to build relationships with like-minded people in a year where that type of connection has been hard to find.

Jack Rechsteiner, Linguistics major

Moore’s oral presentation, titled “Engagement and Retention in a Longitudinal Study During the Pandemic: The MI Diaries Story,” focused on the recruitment, retention, and engagement of project participants.

“It’s been cool to be a part of something that isn’t just a linguistics study. My roommate (who’s not a linguist) is also a team member, and after meetings we’ll talk about the project,” Moore said. “This research project isn’t about just the research, but also the community as a whole, which motivates me to get involved. I think it also helped with my resume and with grad school applications.”

With so many of the team members graduating this spring, the MI Diaries project has many new team members joining the project over the summer.

“We’re planning to keep the project running strong for at least the next year,” Sneller said, “so that we can hear stories from Michiganders about what their ‘year after the pandemic’ is like.”

The MI Diaries Interdisciplinary Team also is still looking for additional team members. If you are interested in learning more about getting involved, contact Sneller at sneller7@msu.edu.