June 28, 2007

Doctoral student wins Internet research award

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale doctoral student Robert E. Boostrom Jr. is the first-place winner of the 2007 Carl J. Couch Internet Research Award.

The annual award recognizes excellence in student-authored papers. Boostrom's winning paper is entitled, "The Social Construction of Virtual Reality and the Stigmatized Identity of the Newbie." There were a record number of entries in this year's competition, coming from undergraduates, masters and doctoral candidates in North America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia.

"I am very excited about this," Boostrom said. "I see this as the first step in a larger project to develop an understanding of how virtual reality works in order to frame consumer behavior questions and marketing strategies. To have this paper so well-received is extremely encouraging."

Boostrom credits Jennifer L. Dunn, an associate professor of sociology, and Cheryl L. Nicholas, an assistant professor of speech communication, with teaching him the theories and research techniques that made his work possible. He also praised "the support of the marketing faculty in pursuing new ideas to bring to the field of marketing" and the University community as a whole.

Boostrom, of Murphysboro, is a doctoral candidate in business administration with a specialization in marketing. He earned his bachelor of science in marketing in 1993 at SIUC and a master of arts in sociology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 2004. His career includes a tour in the U.S. Army where he earned two Army Achievement Medals and employment in analyst positions with several major corporations. He earned the Covington Entrepreneurial Award 1991-1992 and has served in leadership positions in student marketing groups.

The top winners earn cash prizes and the opportunity to present the papers at the annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers in Vancouver, B.C., Oct. 17-20.

The Couch Center, a non-profit social and Internet research organization, established the competition in 2002. The center's mission is promoting the scholarship of the late Carl J. Couch and his academic associates. Couch, a longtime sociology professor at the University of Iowa, founded The New Iowa School in sociological and communication inquiry and pioneered information technologies qualitative research. The center (www.ccsir.org) makes available networking opportunities for students and scholars conducting social and Internet research.