Storytelling graduate student Donna Paulsen wins ETSU’s 3MT® competition

Published 8:21 am Thursday, December 26, 2019

JOHNSON CITY – Graduate student Donna Paulsen won East Tennessee State University’s recent 2019 3 Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition with a presentation on “Women’s Experiences with Infertility Within Faith Communities.”

This competition, created at the University of Queensland, Australia, provides graduate students the opportunity to develop professional presentation and research communication skills. Participants distill lengthy, complex projects into engaging, three-minute presentations designed for a general audience using just one slide. Audience members learn what students in master’s and doctoral programs are studying and gain insight into the future of research, design and innovation in a variety of disciplines.

Paulsen is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master of arts degree in communication and storytelling studies. The Johnson City resident is the founder and director of Soul Hope Ministries, which “seeks to connect people to the Word of God” through scripture presentations, women’s ministry speaking engagements, scripture memory workshops and videos. She is also a vocal artist at Spiritual Sleep Therapy.

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For her thesis, Paulsen is studying “the nature of infertile women’s experience within communities of faith whose religious ideology places a high value on children and families.”

“In addition to navigating the emotional and physical toll brought about by infertility,” she says, “infertile women of faith must also navigate the stigma attached to remaining childless.”

Paulsen is collecting and studying these women’s stories to learn how some faith communities might marginalize infertile women. In addition to writing her thesis, she plans to share the women’s stories on stage through storytelling.

“My hope is to stimulate conversations within the religious community regarding the ways that we think and talk about infertility,” she said.

By winning top honors in ETSU’s 3MT® event, Paulsen will represent ETSU at the Southern Regional Competition, which will be held in March 2020 in Birmingham, Alabama, hosted by the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools.

Paulsen says that while it was “a little stressful,” she found participating in 3MT® at the university level to be both enjoyable and beneficial.

“Trying to condense my thesis into less than a three-minute speech wasn’t easy, but it was an interesting exercise in finding the real heartbeat of what my project is all about,” she said. “I wanted to participate in 3MT® because the opportunity to present my research to a broader audience, outside my department, was something I couldn’t pass up. I wanted others to know what I was doing.

“I would definitely encourage everyone who is writing a thesis or dissertation to give it a try!”

Paulsen’s thesis committee is chaired by Dr. Amber Kinser, professor and chair of the ETSU Department of Communication and Performance.

The judges for ETSU’s 3MT® competition were Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, Dr. Wilsie Bishop, ETSU senior vice president for academics and interim provost, and Jeff Dugan, founder and vice president of research at Fiber Innovation Technology in Johnson City.