Interview with Dr. Bey-Ling Sha on The Research Process

By Raquel Diaz, Natalie Urrutia, Stephanie Parra, and Sophia Bravo

As students attending CSUF, we got the chance to interview Dr. Bey-Ling Sha on the Research Process and specifically on her 2005 study on “Future professionals’ perceptions of work, life, and gender issues in public relations.” In this blog, we will discuss what we found and the incredible insight of Dr. Bey-Ling Sha.

Stephanie Parra:

I opened up by asking Dr. Bey-Ling Sha about her creation of media programs to enhance student and faculty diversity, alongside the idea of the “diversity pipeline” for US media professions, and if minority leaders are important when it comes to the diversity pipeline. She stated that “Each of us in our daily lives can behave in ways that influence other people. Leadership is defined as influencing other people. I do think that having people in leadership that represent different groups of people are important. If you can’t see it then you can’t be it, having someone of a minority group in a leadership position has the power to encourage people into the pipeline”. 

Next, I asked Dr. Bey-Ling Sha what she would say is the idea of someone’s “identity” and what drove her research and funneled new ideas when conducting research methods. She went on to say, “When you grow up as an immigrant child in the US you grow up with “American culture”. Thus, when you’re a child in a family of immigrants, oftentimes children partake in cultural interpretation for their parents, and have to explain language and “normal” American culture to their parents.

Then I decided to ask Dr. Bey-Ling Sha about her work in the U.S. Census Bureau. I asked how the experience of the census changing and letting people identify as more than one thing in their paperwork, established the connection between herself and her research on new generations of students being able to choose more than one identity. She said, “The 2000 Census was the first time people could identify under more than one group, and it was important for our country because we used to put people of various diversity into one box and when you give people the opportunity to pick more than one box, it gives them more to choose from that represents them. This showed that people belong to many different groups

Sophia Bravo:

“What finding in your research has shocked you the most?”

Professor Sha mentioned in our interview that she had quite a few things come up in the research that shocked her the most. She mentioned a stand out being that “after fourth to fifty years of research women in public relations women are still paid less.” This shocked her the most out of all of her notable research in all of her years, hoping that by now women would have more equality in both treatment and pay. She wishes that she could say that now women are looked at as equal to men in both the workforce and public relations, but infuriated her that unfortunately there has not been much growth in that area, and may even have taken some steps in going back in time. 

“What was the biggest obstacle you faced when completing this study?”

Issues that she had noticed with her survey was that students were not checking their emails so they didn’t know they were being emailed. Also, some of the students that were being reached out to had already graduated; therefore were not checking their old school email, and was just overall hard to get student engagement.

“What would you do differently if you had to do this research experiment again?”

What the professor found that she would do differently in an updated version of her survey was to make it more condensed, and easier for the students to complete it. In our interview, she mentioned that the original copy was too long for them to finish. Almost two decades had passed since she condu

Raquel Diaz:

I had initially asked Dr. Sha about the method they had used for the research considering it was a low response rate. She discussed how they went with an online questionnaire because of how little the response rate was it was still higher than it would have been if they had gone with the mail-in version of this study. She said that the factored-in costs of the mail and the amount of time it would have taken just were not realistic. To calculate it statistically email came on top for the easiest.

I also asked how she had collaborated with other people doing the study with her to formulate the questionnaire. She stated that the most important thing was to look back at past research to come up with the best-rounded study. This being in 2005 it was a bit hard for her to recall the specifics.

The conclusion of the study was that there should be more focus on work-life balance and how gender issues are critical in improving the field. I asked if she could elaborate more on this statement and if she believed it still holds up to this day. She says that what we are finding now is that PR has found its name eroded over time. She believes that to some degree these problems are still very prevalent and in some cases getting worse in 2022.

Natalie Urrutia:

I began by asking Dr. Sha why she wanted to conduct this study and if a specific incident made her want to do this survey. She discussed that she cared a lot about the future of the Public Relations field. She said that there was not a specific incident, but as an educator, she wanted to know more about how the minds of the future people working in Public Relations. She believes that having insight into these college students’ think would help her how to teach her prospective students.  

Furthermore, I asked her if there were any claims she made in her study that she would disagree with today in 2022. She expressed that she wished she could add more on gender fluidity. Instead of only having girl and boy options on the survey, she would add a third option for people who do not identify as girl or boy. Having the third option would give more data to analyze. 

To end the interview, I wanted to ask her for advice for students in the Public Relations field on managing work-life balance. She explained that this generation has a good grasp of work-life balance. Most students a CSUF are good at working and going to school and still managing to make time for their friends and family. She mentioned that people criticize First-generation students for not knowing particular stuff. Still, she acknowledged that many first-generation know more about managing their work-like compared to what she learned at 20 years old.

Overall, Dr. Bey-Ling Sha was very personable and made this experience 10x more comfortable than we had thought. She has a great understanding of the PR world and it was a pleasure discussing these topics with her. We appreciate her valuing the students here at CSUF and for giving us a bit of her knowledge to help us flourish in the communications industry.