Worth the effort: Seniors undertake honors thesis projects

 

Senior year can be exciting and stressful for students, and seniors in the honors program are processing these emotions as well as working on their honors theses.

“The thesis project is a culmination of the honors program curriculum,” said Diane Chambers, honors program director. “It’s for students to be able to put together everything they’ve learned at Malone.”

Autumn Berry, senior integrated language arts major, selected a topic that has provided transformation for her as a scholar. (Photo courtesy of Autumn Berry)

Students begin their journey in the honors program before even starting college. Qualified students are given the opportunity to apply and if accepted, they enroll in honors-level general education courses during their freshman and sophomore years. These courses provide the groundwork necessary for completing the honors thesis project.

Specific work on the thesis begins in sophomore seminar.

Chambers said it is a time for students to think about what they are interested in and to conduct a mini-research project.

Thesis preparation continues during junior colloquium. Students are especially encouraged to think about scholarship and its interaction with faith during this time.

“They get to see the intersection of the call to love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength,” Chambers said. “They’re really enriched as a scholar and as a human being.”

Honors students will often begin their thesis project during the spring semester of junior year. During this time, students select a faculty adviser and thesis committee to provide general guidance, but are expected to remain autonomous when it comes to project details.

“It’s an ideal experience to try learning on your own,” Chambers said. “It involves self-discipline, procrastination and setting your own goals. It’s an adventure in learning you may not have had yet.”

Corina Newsome: Potato beetle behavior

Corina Newsome, senior zoo and wildlife biology major, is currently working on her thesis on the egg-laying behaviors of the Colorado potato beetle. [pullquote]“[The thesis] can change in really big ways you’re not expecting, and that’s not something to fear,” Newsome said. “It’s actually a really good thing because you gain clarity. It’s a really interesting process.”[/pullquote]

“That was nowhere near what I had thought about doing for my thesis,” Newsome said. “Then I found out Dr. Collie was opening up a lab on campus for potato beetles.”

The uniqueness and availability of the opportunity piqued Newsome’s interest.

“I jumped right in,” Newsome said.

Newsome hopes her research will be useful in finding a way to lower pesticide use in the extermination of potato beetles.

“The earth is in a state of emergency,” Newsome said. “If you can understand the behavior of a pest, it will add tremendously to your ability to control it naturally.”

Newsome began her research over the summer, but changed her topic during the early stages of the project.

“[The thesis] can change in really big ways you’re not expecting, and that’s not something to fear,” Newsome said. “It’s actually a really good thing because you gain clarity. It’s a really interesting process.”

These projects are not limited to any one area of academia; scientific research is only one slice of the possibilities for a thesis project.

Blaire Thompson: Psychology of creativity 

Blaire Thompson, senior creative writing major, also sought a topic that aligns with her passions.

“I’m writing, which is what I want to do,” Thompson said.

Thompson did not want to pursue traditional research, so she found an alternative.

“I’ve been exploring the idea that you can’t just wait for inspiration [for writing] to strike,” Thompson said. “I did some preliminary reading on the psychology of creativity, and now I’m putting myself through that test.”

Thompson’s thesis requires her to develop creative writing as a discipline. She is writing each day and keeping a blog about the process. The blog serves as a method of accountability for her adviser, and it will be a helpful resource when writing her actual thesis.

“My favorite part is when I just get to sit there and write,” said Thompson.

Autumn Berry: The Malone experiment

Autumn Berry, senior integrated language arts major, selected a topic that has provided transformation for her as a scholar.

“It’s really formed my thought process with analyzing information, figuring out what it’s saying, and how to go from there,” Berry said. “My research tactics have been formed.”

Berry is studying Malone history during the late 1960s and ’70s when Everett Cattell served as president of the college.

Berry said she is analyzing Cattell’s writings in regard to how he handled changes to behavior policy during a time when many schools were becoming more liberal with rules.

“Cattell wanted to be able to be open to both the Christian population and the Canton community,” Berry said. “He began exploring some changes he could make in the rules regarding drinking, smoking and dancing.”

Berry chose to study the “Malone experiment” out of a love for Malone and is finding her studies applicable to the school’s current situation.

“Malone’s ideals have stayed pretty constant,” said Berry. “We’re going through problems right now, but even now, we’re staying true to what we originally put down.”

More than research

When students complete their theses, their final paper—ranging from 35 to 160 pages— is sent out and bound. One copy goes to the student, one to Cattell library and one to the archives.

This year, completed thesis projects will also be published online. The research will be available for anyone with internet access.

Although Newsome, Thompson and Berry do not plan to pursue their research after graduation, they all agreed the process has been worth the effort and stress. They will use their sharpened skills long after they have left Malone.

Alicia Meyer is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW. 

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