As part of our "Graduate Student Research Week" series, we are spotlighting independent research done by our graduate students. We spoke with PhD candidate Grace Hebert about her recent archival trip to Detroit, Michigan. You can learn more about Mary Grace's research and teaching here.
Grace's research is in the area of political economy of communication, and she focused on issues of economic and political inequality, especially how financialization has furthered income inequality. Her dissertation examines how General Motors (GM) shifted its business model to increasingly rely on financial products, such as mortgages, auto loans, and insurance contracts, through its subsidiary, General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). This shift toward financial income is one aspect of the larger financialization of the economy in the twentieth century, wherein economic growth is more reliant on the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors of the economy. In her dissertation, she "examines GM and GMAC’s advertisements, press releases, and media relations between 1990 and the financial crisis to show how financialization altered GM’s corporate communication."
For her research, Grace was able to travel to Michigan and visit the General Motors Heritage Center for two weeks where she collected digitized materials and also rummaged through binders and boxes to collect various press releases and annual reviews for GM and GMAC. Once she returned she was able to analyze the material she had collected. Through her time with our department, she has regularly been asked to conduct research as part of seminars, although these are usually smaller projects. She has been able to conduct research for Dr. Stole’s class using our campus archive which houses the Ad Council archives.
Outside of her classes, she served as a research assistant for Dr. O’Gorman. As part of a book project, she documented binders full of historical documents pertaining to nuclear test films. She says this was "great preparation for this project because it prepared me to extensively document historical materials for analysis.”
Being able to conduct her own research off-campus was an experience she is so thankful she had. Even though she research by herself, there are so many other people involved in the research process in various ways. The department provided monetary support, which enabled her to spend a lot of time at the archive. The archivist was also extremely helpful. Finally, her advisor provides great support for my research by preparing me for this task and being available as a resource.