From You Betcha to Kon'nichiwa
As an international student, Carrie Kuang '16 was prepared to study the culture around her. But what started as a natural consequence of moving from China to Minnesota became, by her senior year, a full-fledged honors project.
A psychology major, Kuang was intrigued by an idea proposed by Kate Briggs: What exactly is Minnesota Nice?
Briggs, an educational program specialist in the Department of Psychology, presented Kuang the project idea of trying to define and quantify the aspects of Minnesotan culture that may differ from other parts of American culture.
"I come from a more collectivist background," Kuang says. "I knew I was coming to an individualistic-dominant country. However, Minnesota surprised me. The behaviors here sometimes resemble behaviors back home or in Japan that are tied to collectivism, so that was very intriguing."
Kuang and two other honors students took on different aspects of the Minnesota Nice research, with Kuang focusing on cultural dimensions and looking at things like "verbal aggression" and "impression-manipulation."
She ultimately won a U of M grant to help fund a nationwide survey taken by over 600 people. The initial results were intriguing enough that she and Briggs will continue to work on the data and eventually, they hope, publish their findings.
"I really pushed myself with this study, going into an area where there was nothing published. I had to recruit people, collaborate with others. I had to learn how to use data-analysis software, and I improved my writing skills," says Kuang.
"Watching her learn how to do this research, how to analyze the data, finding the funding, it's been so rewarding," says Briggs.
It's also been rewarding for Kuang, whose new skills helped her get an exciting job with Hays, an international recruiting firm in Japan, where she now works as a consultant and recruiter.