~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

Research by Cara Peracchi Douglas, a recent master’s graduate from the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism, has been selected as the winner of the 2017 Alice L. Beeman Award for Outstanding Research in Communications and Marketing for Educational Advancement from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Her research will be published in both national and international publications and she will be featured in the November/December issue of Currents Magazine.

Peracchi Douglas’ research project is titled “Brand Architecture Models in Higher Education Institutions in the United States.” In addition to publication of her findings, the award offers the opportunity for a white paper, the presentation of research outcomes at upcoming CASE conferences, as well as a monetary award.

The Beeman Award recognizes the work of researchers and scholars exploring advancement trends in communications and marketing in the areas of public relations, government relations, marketing, issues management and institutional image enhancement. The award is named in honor of the late Alice L. Beeman, CASE’s first president, and recognizes excellence in writing about educational advancement.

Peracchi Douglas overcame a personal obstacle to complete her master’s degree in MCJ earlier this year.

“Cara completed all of her classes and just had her master’s project left when her husband died suddenly of a heart attack,” said Dr. Tamyra Pierce, who was Peracchi Douglas’ advisor and the graduate coordinator. “She had to move out of the area to take a job to support her family. When she returned to Fresno, she asked about finishing her degree. I advised her on her project and we were able to get it done and she graduated this past semester with top honors.”

Peracchi Douglas said losing her husband suddenly was the most difficult thing she could ever imagine. She was not prepared to manage her young family alone and handle the tidal waves of grief, let alone hold on to the hope of finishing her degree.

“Jeff was just a young man, and overnight I became a single mother of three young children and a huge stack of bills. I was beyond terrified. I couldn’t breathe for a long time. And finally, when I did allow myself to think about continuing my education, it was, ‘How can I possibly keep going?'”

But she did. She completed all of her coursework in the year following her husband’s passing, taking night courses and often “closing down the library”:

“My children supported me. They looked to me to lead our family now, and to not give up. They believed I could do it. So I just had to keep going. It’s hard to explain and very painful to relive it, but it was an incredible sacrifice for them. We all hoped that if I could just finish, it might mean we would be okay somehow. It made us push through our grief so that I could do something important for our family that might lift us up. Although it took a lot longer than expected, it was worth it. The miracle for me is in return, my children worked extremely hard too. I am so humbled by their grace.”

She interrupted the process temporarily to take a job in the Bay Area, launching a new brand for the City of San Jose. But ultimately she returned.

Taking a position at Fresno State as the director of development for the Craig School of Business was “serendipitous,” Peracchi Douglas said:

“I met Dean [Saúl] Jiménez-Sandoval. He would put me on a path to finish my thesis and earn my degree. I am humbled and grateful to him and his amazing team.”

Peracchi Douglas was a College of Arts and Humanities Student of Distinction for the graduate student division, receiving honorable mention as the Dean’s Medalist. Peracchi Douglas finished with a 4.0-grade point average.

“Cara is truly remarkable and I admire her determination and drive,” Pierce said. “Although she has faced many challenges in the past few years, she stood strong and never lost sight of her goals. Receiving this esteemed CASE Research Award is well-deserved. She makes us all proud in the MCJ department.”