Those familiar tales captivated Jennifer Boucher ‘14 as a youngster. She describes herself as a hopeless romantic growing up, thinking “that’ll be me some day.” But she realized during her high school years that the end of the story didn’t mean that life’s circumstances have ended.
Those questions led her to take a closer look at the perceptions of marriage for her “Qualitative Research Methods” course. Her project, “Hyperreality of Marriage Throughout Womanhood: How Perceptions of Marriage Change,” also became an entry in Loyola Marymount University’s sixth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.
“I loved the class but it was one of the hardest ever,” said Boucher, who earned her B.A. in communication studies, with a minor in theatre arts. She also earned a certificate in journalism. “There was so much work. I stayed motivated by interacting with people and enjoying the research.”
For the project, Boucher interviewed two focus groups: one of middle-aged married or divorced women; the other of single, college-aged women. The two groups were asked about perceptions, motives, and realities of marriage and dating to see if there was a relationship between their perceptions of and experiences in marriage and dating.
“When Jennifer first shared her idea for this project, I thought it was wonderfully clever and important,” said Craig Rich, assistant professor of communication studies and faculty adviser on Boucher’s marriage perceptions project. “The beauty of Jennifer’s project is that she brought both of these perspectives together: the wide-eyed and naive with the seasoned experts who have experienced married life.”
Her findings were that hyper-realities – perceptions formed from media, fairy tales and families – have a serious influence on perceptions of marriage and motivate women to get married. Also, the overemphasizing of the positive aspects of marriage, and ignoring any negative aspects, is a disadvantage when women get married because faulty perceptions of marriage create high expectations that are frequently disappointed.
Boucher was inspired to enter the Undergraduate Research Symposium by a flier she saw on her dorm bulletin board. The symposium provides a forum for serious undergraduate projects from across the university. Nearly 400 students gave presentations, held panel discussions and poster sessions at the 2013-14 symposium for members of the LMU community. This was also the first year that arts scholarship and performance were incorporated into the event. The formal presentations, as well as exhibits of print making, photography, ceramics, drawing and set design, were on view in the Burns Fine Arts Center.