Graduate student studies communication and leadership in Crimean annexation

David “Bondy” Kaye, graduate student in mass communcations, works on a computer in the basement of Dickins Hall on April 22, 2015. Balancing work, studying, and heading the Take Flight club at K-State, Kaye keeps his weeks busy. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

It is a Saturday afternoon, and while most students are enjoying a break from classes, one of the longest days of David Kaye’s educational career is just beginning.

David Kaye is a graduate student working towards his master’s degree in mass communications. This means that, for the sake of research, he spends hours sitting in front of his computer screen.

Curtis Matthews, assistant professor for journalism and mass communications, is involved with graduate theory and research methods classes with an emphasis on strategic communication, said graduate school is a time to focus on exploration.

“You should expect to have, on your computer by the end of the year, about 1,000 articles,” Matthews said. “You’re going to have to read a lot, but you’re also going to find that many of those articles are ones that you chase down on your own, without them being assigned.”

Graduate students are also given the freedom to chase down their own topic of study.

For a crisis communication class, Kaye is currently working on a case study of the annexation of Crimea that occurred in March of 2014 by the Russian confederation.

“It was interesting to me, a topic I didn’t know very much about but had heard a lot about in the news,” Kaye said.

His goal is to see whether or not the communication and leadership style of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, at the time, conformed to a theory called discourse of renewal.

“This theory basically says you should be really optimistic during a crisis,” Kaye said. “Leaders should be talking about the future instead of worrying about the past.”

As Kaye illustrates through his case study, this frame of mind can be misinterpreted and abused by leaders to ultimately bring about more harm than good.

“A lack of ethical communication can result in the subjugation of the whole people,” Kaye said. “Part of the benefits of this research is that this theory, that was proposed eight months ago, would be refined to not advise crisis managers to be dictators.”

With a case study, utilizing what people have already published or studied to formulate your own hypothesis is key. According to one student, K-State library databases make it easy for researchers to actively seek out the information they need.

“Some articles have a lot of stuff in them, and for some articles you just need one or two things that corroborate the point that you’re making,” Moritz Cleve, graduate student in mass communications, said.