Riley Carroll placed second in the 2022 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Her project was titled “I’ll Cast a Spell for You: A Critical Rhetorical Analysis of Witch’s Resistance on the Public Screen.” Riley earned a Master of Arts in Communication Studies in May 2022 from Ball State.

Her advisor, Dr. Kristen McCauliff, said this about her, “Riley is a fabulous graduate student for so many reasons! First, she is dedicated to writing as a craft. She takes feedback and criticism so well—and always turns in drafts that are a significant improvement of what she had before. Further, she is willing to grapple with the messy arguments and continue to ruminate on the ways her race, class, gender, body and sexuality privilege (or not!) intersect with her work. The intellectual maturity to do these things is beyond her years! Second, Riley’s work is so timely! I’m not embarrassed to say that I learned as much from Riley as she did from me! Her work pushed me to consider tik-tok and other mediums more seriously. And when she pitched the idea for her thesis, I knew that ‘witch tok’ was the type of feminist activism the (academic) world needed to know about! Third, Riley is a great teacher! Her scholarship informs her teaching and vice versa. It was such a joy to see Riley in her prospectus and thesis defense meetings as she was able to explain her thesis is such beautiful and impactful ways. I think these explanation skills were on display in the 3MT competition! Truly, Riley is a dream advisee and I feel so, so lucky to have worked with her on this project.”

Here is a Q and A with Riley

What made you select your research topic?

Coming to Ball State, I never would have imagined that I would be researching Witches. However, my research interests of gender and violence aligned so clearly with the figure of the Witch so I began looking into this as a research topic. When it came time to pick my thesis topic, I had already begun to explore the Witches on TikTok on other work and decided to do a more thorough examination for my thesis.

Please tell us a little about your research:

My research is critical in nature and employs both rhetorical and qualitative methods. Specifically, I am interested in the ways in which discourse shapes our social realities by creating new knowledge and constructing what identities hold value. To do so, I employ my own experiences coupled with (often mediated) cultural artifacts to explore the topics of gender, violence, witches, rituals, and resistance.

How did the 3MT Competition experience benefit you?

I have a history in public speaking as I competed on speech teams for eleven years and currently teach public speaking here at Ball State, but I am used to much longer time limits. The 3 Minute Thesis competition challenged me to only pull out the most salient information from a massive project full of information that I find important and interesting. It challenged me to really think about my audience and what the purpose of my project and, in turn, my research really is.

What would you tell another student to encourage them to sign-up for the next 3MT competition?

Regardless of your interest in public speaking, this competition holds the potential to really make you reflect on your research. In my case, it helped me figure out some important things about my thesis that I used as I finished writing it. While it’s nice to try to win a competition, the long-lasting impact will be on your overall research.

What brought you to Ball State?

Ball State has one of the top speech teams in the country. After competing and coaching at other top schools, I wanted to continue my passion for speech here while also earning my master’s. The  Communication Studies department at Ball State is also nationally recognized, so it felt like a no-brainer to choose Ball State for my education.

What are your future goals/career goals?

At present, I will be taking a bit of time off from school but within the next few years I hope to pursue my doctorate in Communication Studies. This will allow me to continue my research and passion for teaching in the collegiate classroom. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll end up back at Ball State!

Watch the 2022 Ball State University Graduate School’s 3-Minute Thesis Competition: