Dean's Medalist combined her interests in sports culture, film, gendered communication for honors thesis


April 26, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Undergraduate Sarah Mogytych is the spring 2021 The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and will be graduating with a bachelor's degree in communication and a certificate in sports, cultures and ethics. She is also a New American University Scholar. Sarah Moygtych at a football game Dean's Medalist Sarah Mogytych at an ASU football game. Download Full Image

"I never thought I would do my senior year from my apartment and my tiny laptop, but I did it!" Mogytych said. "To adapt and get through it I owe a lot to my parents for their support as well as my friends that were always a 'FaceTime' away." 

Mogytych, who hails from a suburb of Chicago, is also a member of Barrett, The Honors College. Her thesis adviser, Senior Lecturer Adam Symonds, in the Hugh Downs School, said she is attentive, inquisitive and dedicated to her work. 

"Her thesis project began with her lining up more than a hundred sports films to organically derive her own theories about how gender narratives emerge in film. She generated piles of data and insights before settling on a particular subgenre to study in greater detail. This project has required months of planning and execution and she’s stayed on top of it throughout," Symonds said. 

Mogytych also worked as an academic tutor.

"I primarily tutor student-athletes who need help in the human event, English, communication or other writing-based courses," she said. "Tutoring has been extremely rewarding throughout the last four semesters as every student I work with brings a new perspective to learning. When we switched to online tutoring, I found that regular sessions with students were not just a  way to help them stay organized and on top of their schoolwork, but I also became someone to talk to during the uncertainty of COVID. I love getting to work with students and I hope that I get to continue learning about higher education after I graduate." 

The school caught up with her to ask her about her experience at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: One of my favorite teachers in high school was one of my broadcasting instructors and sometimes she would start class by saying “today's lesson was something I learned in my communication classes in college.” Pretty soon I realized that every time she said that, those were my favorite lessons. She majored in COM at a local state university and her praise of the degree only further encouraged me to seek out the major.

Sarah Moygtych and her honors thesis presentation

Sarah Mogytych the day of her virtual thesis defense. 

Q: You are a member of Barrett, The Honors College. Tell us about your honor’s thesis.

A: My honors thesis is titled "Sports Film and the Female Athlete: An examination of the gendered framing of female protagonists." It examines four female protagonist sport films and analyzes key gendered themes I identified that expose how the genre marginalizes female athleticism. I loved every moment of my project because it combined my interests in sports culture, film, and gendered communication. For the greater part of the fall semester I mostly just watched a bunch of sports movies for my research which was honestly a great way to pass the time given COVID restrictions.

Despite my defense having to be virtual instead of in person, it gave my friends and family in other parts of the country the ability to attend which was really special.

Q:  Why did you choose ASU? 

A: My dad attended ASU back in the ’80s and he spoke very highly of the school and the experience which led me to apply. After spending most of my childhood in the Midwest and after visiting the Tempe campus when it was 90 degrees here and 30 degrees at home, it was a no-brainer. ASU was beautiful and full of so many opportunities it was hard to resist.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Take as many opportunities as you possibly can. Some of the best experiences I have had here have been from challenging myself to do things I wasn’t sure I could do and pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.  You never know when a pandemic might come around and take some things away.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?  

A: Most of my favorite places on campus relate to the food. The Barrett dining hall is an experience all on its own and I dearly miss spending hours in there with friends getting pizza and ice cream. I spent most of my M&G one semester at the Einstein Bagels in Armstrong Hall, which finished construction before my junior year. It was always quiet and very air-conditioned which was a plus.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to spend time with my family and my friends and enjoy as much of the summer as possible.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Climate change!

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