Senior Cole Hansen gains perspective, experience through undergraduate research
School of Business senior Cole Hansen recently co-authored a research paper titled “Meditation as Panacea” exploring the coverage of meditation by college newspapers. Hansen, a business analytics and economics major, worked with associate professor of journalism and mass communications Yvonnes Chen on the paper.
Hansen was introduced to Chen during a freshman year honors seminar she led called “Mindfulness and Meditation in the Modern World.” Hansen began practicing meditation in high school and chose to take the course to supplement his knowledge of the topic.
“Oftentimes I would stay after class to ask questions to guest speakers or ask Dr. Chen about random topics,” he said. “I believe that it was this intellectual curiosity that led her to bring me on for a research project.”
Hansen worked on the paper from March 2019 through March 2021. The research process included lots of communication between Hansen and Chen through emails and weekly meetings. Hansen’s involvement was typically 1–2 hours per week, leaving him time for class and work. He said Chen motivated him to produce quality research but was understanding of his needs as well.
The study found that coverage of meditation in college newspapers has evolved after the last 20 years and tends to lack critical examination, characterizing the practice as a panacea for mental health. Hansen came to the project with an understanding of how mindfulness and meditation were being secularized in modern society but was surprised at the changes in media framing over time.
Hansen’s research experience gave him new appreciation for the scientific process. By working on a paper of his own, he’s gained perspective on how the field of academia operates and a deeper respect for his colleagues.
“Before I had this opportunity, I thought that academia and research papers had this veil of mystery around them, and the language always seemed verbose and overly-technical to me,” he said. “However, working on this project opened my eyes to the struggles and rewards associated with it. I was able to track our progress from start to finish and get a deeper understanding of how science is actually conducted.”
Through the project, Hansen said he was able to improve his analytical skills outside the scope of his business analytics coursework. He also was exposed to new software including KH Coder, a program they used for text mining which made up the bulk of their quantitative results. He also used Excel and various text editors in his research.
Hansen plans to graduate this spring and move to Denver, Colorado, to work for a tech consulting firm. Though his research wasn’t directly applicable to his career interests, the experience has given him a leg up in the job-hunting process.
“It is always handy to have an experience that is interesting to recruiters or will allow you to give a good description for a behavioral interview question,” he said.
Hansen encourages students interested in undergraduate research not to limit themselves to topics that are in line with their degree and instead focus on what they are authentically curious about. He acknowledged this can make it hard to know where to start, but being honest about what you’re interested in researching will make the whole process more rewarding, he said.
In addition to practical skills and experience to talk to recruiters about, Hansen gained an important new perspective through the project that affected his own mindfulness practice.
“I encourage anyone that is interested in the practices of mindfulness and meditation to have respect for the religious traditions they hail from,” he said. “Even as someone who has never been fervently religious, our research uncovered the downside of secularizing centuries-old practices and gave me a newfound appreciation for how world religions can shape a person’s mentality. More openness to learning in this space will only enhance the benefits you are able to achieve through dedication and practice.”
To learn more about undergraduate research opportunities, click here.
By Meaghan Boyd