Benjamin Smith


Research Interests

My primary areas of research are public opinion, mass communication, media effects, and perceptions of terrorism. Under the direction of Michael Stohl, I lead a rotating team of undergraduate research assistants in investigating media constructions of terrorism - specifically looking at the framing of terrorist organizations (such as al Qaeda and Daesh).

Mentoring Experiences

I've always taken the view that if I'm going to have undergraduates earn academic credits by working with me on research, then they deserve the right to be an integral part of the process. I take the time to teach them the theory behind what we're doing as well as the history of the terrorist actors we're
studying, and I try to allow them room to explore and make mistakes in their investigation. My role is simply to moderate, to steer the conversations and the research, and to otherwise step back and let their creativity thrive. The biggest challenge I face working with undergraduates is simply that they graduate! However, the fresh and unique insights gained from having such a diversity of perspectives, and the opportunity to watch them grow and thrive as researchers, more than makes up for any delays created by the unfortunate and inevitable churn.

What the Award Means to Him

Winning the award is a huge honor, and a huge shock. I feel that the work I do with undergraduates isn't anything special; I know many others who have the same philosophy when it comes to undergraduate research as I do and who work just as hard. I have to give a huge thank-you to Robert Kovacs and Samantha Chan for writing wonderful letters of support for my application, and to my advisor/boss, Dr. Michael Stohl, for offering to nominate me and for giving me the guidance and flexibility necessary to do this type of work.