An Introduction to Me and My Research: Getting to know Sarah Moore and the Semantics of Nice and Kind

1. This summer I am excited to be conducting research entitled, A Call to Positivity: Understanding the Difference Between Nice and Kind and Implications for Building Inclusive Campus Environments, which will explore the semantic nuances between the words nice and kind and their influence over our actions. My research will investigate how college students define and understand the differences between nice and kind.

I became interested in this topic through my work in the Linguistic class, Cross Cultural Communication, taught by my current research mentor Dr. Abdesalam Soudi. During my investigation of the topic, I found research consistently revealed that college students are experiencing deteriorating mental health, including increases in both negative emotions and antisocial behaviors. This decline has been heightened by isolating learning environments and socialization restrictions brought about by the pandemic. Society’s solution to this troubling trend in college students’ mental health is that we should be “kind” to each other and the emergence of positive media. Unfortunately, this is an over-simplification of the semantics of kindness.

Researchers suggest that kindness is erroneously used interchangeably with niceness. Being kind to one another is more complex than being nice and requires the use of empathy and compassion. The act of being kind, and not simply nice, is what researchers find bolsters happiness and optimism. Additionally, having a student body practicing the act of being kind can lead to a more safe, healthy, happy, and inclusive environment on campus. During my study, I will collect data about how college students make the distinction between what is considered nice versus what is kind and data from my project will contribute to the growing discourse on the call for kindness, while also exploring the linguistic intricacies of the terms nice and kind in the college student population. A goal of my project is to reveal ways to create more positive learning and living environments for students and improve their overall satisfaction with the college experience. Putting the words kind and nice under the microscope of conversation analysis underscores the importance of being mindful of the daily linguistic choices we make with each other.

2. My current academic goals include pursuing graduate school for a masters degree in Hispanic Linguistics which is a perfect blend of my current interests as I major in Linguistics and minor in Portuguese. As I plan for my academic future, the Brackenridge Fellowship will help me to determine whether or not I want to pursue a career in research as it will be my first experience conducting my own research with human participants. Not only will the fellowship help me to understand better the career path I want to take, but it will also give me valuable experience in a cross-disciplinary setting and offer me vast networking opportunities with peers and researchers outside of my field.

3. I am a rising senior majoring in Linguistics and minoring in Portuguese and English Literature. I usually have two go-to fun facts and they are that I have been learning to play the harp for the past three years, and that I have hiked the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage through northern Portugal and Spain.

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