Barry McNamara  |  Published April 06, 2023

Student Paper on ‘The Last of Us’

Connecting popular video game to relationships one of Monmouth highlights at regional communication studies conference.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – At a recent academic conference, a Monmouth College student demonstrated the academic benefit of video games, and two Monmouth faculty members won an award.

STUDENT PRESENTER: Karli Strom (right) poses with Monmouth communication studies faculty member S... STUDENT PRESENTER: Karli Strom (right) poses with Monmouth communication studies faculty member Shweta Srivastava at the CSCA conference in St. Louis.At the annual conference of the Central States Communication Association, held last weekend in St. Louis, Karli Strom presented a paper about the popular action-adventure survival game The Last of Us and how she connected it with one of the game’s main characters.

“My paper was about the use of retrospective imaginative involvement (RII) in video games, but I specifically analyzed the use of it in The Last of Us game franchise,” said the junior from Monmouth, whose paper was titled “The Use of Retrospective Imaginative Involvement in Video Games: Analyzing The Last of Us.”

“The use of RII can allow for people to create strong parasocial relationships with characters, which is what happened to me when I played,” she said. “I had a strong parasocial relationship to (the character) Joel because he reminds me of my father and the kind of relationship that we have.”

In addition to Strom, three Monmouth communication studies professors also participated at the regional conference – Trudi Peterson, Shweta Srivastava and Lori Walters-Kramer. In fact, Strom’s paper came out of a paper she wrote in Srivastava’s “Parasocial Relationship” class.

Strom said she appreciated the opportunity to participate in the conference.

“I was able to attend some very insightful presentations and continue to learn more about various communication theories. I definitely left with more ideas about future research and writing that I can do.” Karli Strom


“It was amazing to attend a conference with other undergraduate students who are all so passionate about their research,” she said. “I was able to attend some very insightful presentations and continue to learn more about various communication theories. I definitely left with more ideas about future research and writing that I can do.”

Peterson and Walters-Kramer said they also picked up some new ideas from the conference, where the theme was “Intersections, Transitions & Silenced Voices.”

“Attending CSCA is rejuvenating for me,” said Peterson. “I get to connect with old friends in the discipline, get inspired by new ideas, learn innovative pedagogies to implement in my classes, get feedback on my own ideas for teaching and research, and get excited to conduct and/or revise research projects.”

“These conferences are hugely valuable,” said Walters-Kramer. “I love these opportunities to learn, think, discuss and share with people who are invested in the discipline and in higher education. I always leave with ideas and enthusiasm for future scholarly pursuits and pedagogical improvements, and it is always nice to have your own ideas celebrated, questioned with curiosity, or validated.”

Faculty highlights

At the conference, Walters-Kramer participated in “Discussing Grief Around Mothering to Speak Grief Back into the Public Domain,” which won a top panel award in the Women’s Caucus Division.

Peterson and Walters-Kramer participated on the panel “Making Room for All Voices: Transitioning Communication Classrooms to Welcoming Intersectional Spaces,” which won a top panel award in the Communication Education Interest Group. Their presentation focused on “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Basic Public Speaking Course.”

Srivastava served as the respondent for the Top Papers Inclusive Scholarship Panel and participated on two panels – “Mentoring and Evaluating Adjunct Faculty” and “Dialogue with the Equity & Inclusion Standing Committee.” She also attended business meetings of interest groups of which she is a member – Diversity & Inclusion Standing Committee, Communication Theory Interest Group, CSCA Vice Chair Award Meeting and the Community College Interest Group.

Strom was the latest Monmouth student to present at the regional conference, joining Erin Henkel ’21 and Caroline King ’22 in that achievement. Now a master’s student in communication studies at Illinois State University, King won Top Inclusive Scholarship Paper at the recent conference, for her paper “Lovecraft County, Trauma and Silence: An Analysis of ‘Rewind 1921.’”

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