Curiosity drives Oliver Gladfelter ’18 to ask a lot of questions — a good, and even a profitable habit for the political science major. Asking good questions and finding the answers led to both an internship and a job offer for Gladfelter from the global information and data firm, Nielsen Company.
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Sometimes, good work is rewarded in unexpected ways. It was Gladfelter’s freelance student writing on the Denison-focused onetwentyseven.blog that piqued the interest of the team from Nielsen, which approached him about a prestigious research fellowship. “They read my blogs and had seen my experience with research, which was an important pre-requisite for their fellowship,” he said.
During his interview, Nielsen tested Gladfelter’s ability to think through the methodology of his research — and to communicate the results. His liberal arts education and the knowledge he had acquired led to the internship offer. “This was a really amazing opportunity for one of only two Media Lab Fellowship research positions they offer.”
The fellowships are completely different from other internships at Nielsen, says Gladfelter. Each fellow has the freedom to research their own topic, with the guidance and backing of seasoned lab researchers. “Where students benefit from the educational opportunity, Nielsen benefits from the inflow of new ideas and energy,” he adds.
Gladfelter looked at the “echo chamber effect” of social media sites. Many people display content in their news feeds which only seem to reinforce — rather than challenge — the user’s opinions. While users are occasionally exposed to content they disagree with, their feeds hold much more content they find affirming. “I wanted to see if people are willing to engage with social media content from a political platform different from their own.”
As he set about creating the methodology to test his question, Gladfelter drew heavily on his work in his Analyzing Politics class. “My work with Dr. [Paul] Djupe was really helpful in getting the foundational skills I needed for my internship work,” said Gladfelter. “And my “Intro to Computer Science class gave me the coding knowledge I ended up using heavily throughout the internship.”
“Oliver reflects the best of a Denison education, devoting his deepening skillset to addressing public problems,” said Djupe. “I’m proud of what he has done already, and I can’t wait to see his future contributions.”
Gladfelter traveled across the country for the work, designing his research plan in Nielsen’s Hollywood, California office, managing an in-lab study in Las Vegas, and finalizing his research and analysis in New York City. “Nielsen gave me lots of autonomy to figure out how to do this research, and collect and analyze the data,” he said.
His takeaway? Credibility is key, quality and production value are a significant factor, and he also learned that non-political videos fared best in ratings of agreement and view length. “Even conservatives and liberals were more generous in their ratings of non-political videos than political videos made by their own party.”
Gladfelter had just returned to Denison for RA training in August when he received the job offer from Nielsen — he'll be joining the 2018 class of their Emerging Leaders Program, a very select group of new hires who will rotate through four of Nielsen's operations in several urban locations over the next two years.
He's looking forward to the experiences ahead, including different cities and settings: “I'll graduate from the program after four rotations, and could be placed pretty much anywhere. So, lots of travel and geographical uncertainty in my near future!”