Research Spotlight: C&IS Professors Collaborate with Alumnus on Beach Happiness Research

Mar 25, 2022

Planning a beach vacation is the perfect way to welcome the warm spring and summer weather, and according to the research of C&IS faculty, it will improve your overall happiness too.

Associate professor Dr. Jameson Hayes and instructor Jay Waters recently completed a research study in collaboration with The 30A Company, a beach media and lifestyle brand in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. The study will be featured in the Spring edition of 30A’s Beach Happy magazine and showcases the importance of travel to a person’s overall happiness.

Hayes, who is the director of The University of Alabama’s Public Opinion Lab, conducts research with several corporate and governmental partners. After seeing the real-world impact this study could have on people’s happiness and quality of life, he was especially eager to collaborate with 30A.

“The Public Opinion Lab regularly works with industry partners on projects, and when Mike Ragsdale and the 30A team approached us about this project, it was a no-brainer,” Hayes said. “It was a fun, positive topic with a great goal of helping us understand the link between travel, the beach lifestyle and happiness.”

As a C&IS alumnus and former student researcher in the College’s Institute for Communication and Information Research (ICIR), 30A founder and CEO Mike Ragsdale shares the professors’ passion for research and the value it can bring to his community and beyond. Ragsdale’s desire to use this research to better understand his customers made the study even more significant for the C&IS professors.

“I think anytime we can work with real clients and bring them information that can help them understand their customers better, it’s rewarding. It’s doubly so when you have a company like 30A that seeks out the information and sees the value in it,” Waters said.

The study’s feature in Beach Happy magazine not only provided C&IS and the Public Opinion Lab the opportunity to conduct industry research, but it helped the 30A company to visualize the benefits of travel for a person’s quality of life, and it helped to put this information into numbers. The data gathered by Hayes and Waters suggests that looking forward to a future vacation makes people happier and is essential to mental well-being.

“Travel makes us better people and happier people. And it is easy to do. I hope that people will look at this information, decide to make travel a priority, and see travel not as an expense but as an investment in their quality of life,” Waters said.

This collaboration also gave both Hayes and Waters opportunities to work with C&IS students and put into practice the work they teach students in their advertising and public relations courses.

“Working with industry partners on projects requires a ton of skills that we teach in class every day,” Hayes said.

Through this research study, C&IS faculty and students gained experience in a variety of skills including account management, research design, data analytics and communication design. According to Waters, this study related directly to the topics he teaches in his consumer research course.

“The three primary tools that I tell students they need in research are curiosity, skepticism and humility,” Waters said. “When I do a project like this, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all and that there’s nothing new to learn, but to be effective, you have to bring those three mental tools to every project.”

Hayes explained that in addition to looking at the information in Beach Happy magazine, he hopes people will be encouraged to plan future trips to scenic destinations such as Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A.

“The results have a clear and refreshing message. Looking forward to your next trip to your happy place actually makes you a happier person overall.  So, always have a trip on the horizon; you will be happier for it,” Hayes said.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit