A snapshot of this year’s honors theses

Julie Spierer, Special Features Editor

One of the most reputable manifestations of academic merit is the writing of an honors thesis. The extensive and exhausting research process culminates in a final body of work, demonstrating significant findings that the student will use to defend their thesis. While the first due date is April 1, the final copy is due on the last day of final examinations.

This year there were 45 students who defended or will defend an honors thesis on a unique topic matter, with the guidance of a selected faculty member who acted as his or her adviser.

Hannah Rosen

Major(s): Anthropology and political science

Thesis title: The Local Food Movement: Relationships Among Animals, Farmers and Customers on a Family-Owned Meat-Producing Pennsylvania Farm

Thesis topic: The reasons customers want to buy meat from Begonia Farms (the local meat-producing farm I conducted my field research on) and the ways I can apply this to why people are generally drawn to the local food movement.

Response to experience of thesis defense: It was amazing to have the opportunity to share everything I’ve been working so hard on all year with other people. I loved seeing my friends engage with my research by being able to ask me questions about my defense.

Biggest challenge: Perfecting something to the extent to which an honors thesis must be perfected is something I’ve never had to do before. 

. It’s hard to keep going back through sixty pages and make sure you’ve never repeated yourself, there are no typos and that the order of your information makes sense.

Favorite part: Honestly, the defense. Having my friends and peers ask me questions about my thesis in the same way we have all sat in class together asking questions about other authors was a gratifying feeling.  It really made me feel like the research I conducted myself was official and important. Being the “expert” on a topic by conducting your own research is something most undergraduates do not get to feel. And it’s cool.

Jacob Rusnock

Major(s): Interdisciplinary studies in economics and mathematics

Thesis title: Globalization and Immigration: How a Changing Demographic Landscape Influenced the 2016 Presidential Election

Thesis topic: The media proposes that the radically atypical candidacy of Donald Trump motivated pockets of the electorate to support the Republican Party more so than they had in past elections. This research examines some major economic and demographic determinants of the 2012 and 2016 election outcomes with a particular emphasis on the role of globalization and immigration. Further, this research examines how changes in these county level characteristics affected differences in county level support between the two Republican nominees. Ultimately, this paper argues that traditional economic predictors of election outcomes remained significant predictors of county level partisan support. Further, the results suggest that while some of the conventional narratives presented by the media seem to be less influential than often portrayed, white Americans did in fact more heavily supported Trump and educated Americans increasingly disapproved of the Republican nominee.

Response to experience of thesis defense: I defend April 20 at 1 p.m.

Biggest challenge: The biggest challenge of completing an honors thesis was creating a research project completely of my own design, and consistently working towards its completion. I had to do this even in the face of unforeseen results and challenges, without the direction of an organized course schedule.

Favorite part: The satisfaction of completing unique research influenced by coursework spanning all four years of my University education.

Addie DiSilvestro

Major(s) // Minor(s): Environmental studies

Thesis Title: Virunga: Guns, Gorillas, and the Construction of Transnational Natures

Thesis Topic: My usual answer is “it’s hard to explain”, but the short version is: In my thesis I analyzed the ways in which the consumption of discourses about biodiversity conservation work to reinforce ideas of a “nature without people”. I focused in on this one national park in Africa that receives a lot of media attention, called Virunga National Park. So, in my thesis I analyze media about the park, like tourism documents, development organization reports, new articles, and social media. Then, I work to understand way western wilderness discourses are mobilized in such materials. I’ll give the end away and say I ultimately conclude that conservation discourse has the ability to deeply influence how we view “the natural” with consequences for human-nonhuman relationships, and for communities near parks like Virunga.

Response to experience of thesis defense: At first the defense seems really intimidating. You know that you’re likely going to be given critical feedback, and it’s really hard to condense a 100+ page document into a brief presentation. I was a little panicked trying to pull my slides together, but once you start practicing you realize just how much you know about the subject you’re talking about. It’s also really weird because there is a little bit of dynamic switch in that you are the expert on your specific topic, not your professors. They of course know a lot about it and provide conceptual feedback, but you’re truly presenting your own unique work, which is both cool and scary. In the end, even though I was nervous, it was a really satisfying experience.

Biggest challenge faced: Learning how to self-motivate is really hard. Even though your advisor is there to hold you accountable for the most part, an honors thesis is voluntary, which means that you develop your own schedule and your own goals. I’m a big procrastinator and that was something that was not going to fly with my thesis. You can’t fake 160 pages the week before its due.  So, making time to work on it every week while getting done all of the my other work, and still trying to have a social life was really difficult. But, it always seemed to get done in the end, and late nights in the library quickly became something I got very used to, and actually enjoyed (sometimes). Your favorite part of it all: For me my thesis is really an expression of my intellectual development throughout my undergraduate career. In a lot of ways it traces the progression of how I’ve come to think about nature and my relationship to the environment. I don’t think first-year me could have ever imagined that I could confidently write anything like this, and it’s really cool to look at my work and think about how my ideas have changed and how all of my classes and professors here had a part in that. Overall, it’s just really awesome to be able to have this thing that I can point to as culminating experience of my intellectual, and personal, growth at Bucknell. Finally printing it out was pretty cool too though….

Max Kane

Major(s): English – Film and Media Studies Minor(s): Arts Entrepreneurship

Thesis title: “Little Trees”

Thesis topic: I produced a short film for my Creative Honors Thesis. I dedicated the first semester to pre-production (script, storyboard, hiring cast and crew, location scouting, applying for funding) and the film’s production. The second semester was dedicated to editing the footage and writing the paper. My film’s final cut was 17 minutes.

Response to experience of thesis defense: I appreciated having the support of my friends and professors at the defense.

Biggest challenge: The lengthy and tedious editing process.

Favorite part: Completing the defense.

Kerri Harner

Major(s): Economics Minor(s): German

Thesis topic: The Euro Effect on Trade in the EMU Core and Periphery: a Pre and Post Crisis Analysis

Thesis topic: The world financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent European sovereign debt crisis revealed the inherent fragility of the European Monetary Union, and created a clear distinction between a European core and periphery. In light of recent global populist movements, the euro is under unprecedented scrutiny, which calls to question: “Who does the currency benefit?” One of the main benefits of joining a currency union is the anticipated boost in trade with other member countries. I use 25 years of advanced economy trade data to explore how the Euro effect on exports differs for these two groups. My paper also examines how this Euro effect has changed from pre-crisis, to crisis, and post-crisis time periods in the EMU.

Response to experience of thesis defense: I defend on April 23, and I’m so nervous.

Biggest challenge: I would have to say creating and interpreting my econometric models. My advisers were incredibly helpful in this regard, by providing guidance and feedback along the way.

Favorite part: The research process. It’s really like a puzzle. You have an idea of what you’re interested in, but you have to dig deeper to find what’s missing from the literature and how you can contribute to it.

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