Honors Program and Thesis Program

By Mya Clark

Volume 67, No. 8

Erienne Ballard Presents Her Thesis Concerning a Hospital in Kibimba, Burundi in Africa on Nov. 22. Photo by Karly Bruce

At Malone, the Honors Program helps students academically and intellectually through experiences in and outside of the classroom. 

The Honors Program is available to students with a 3.6+ GPA and a score of 26+ on the ACT (or equivalent SAT score). The program helps students to have more experience in their field of study and an application built towards grad school or high-end jobs. 

The honors thesis, the culmination of the program and the final requirement to graduate with honors, involves a two-semester independent study on a topic of interest chosen by the student.

Students completing an honors thesis work closely with faculty advisors and other students within the honors community. Through the thesis process, students develop critical thinking skills, confidence and knowledge within their area of interest. 

An honors student beginning their thesis needs the appropriate three-credit-hour course: Honors Thesis I (HON494) during the first semester and Honors Thesis II (HON496) the second semester. Honors Thesis I requires the completion of a thesis proposal and Honors Thesis II requires completion of the thesis, defending it and presenting it. 

Steven Hennis, senior business administration and finance double-major, has been part of the Honors Program since his freshman year. Hennis did his thesis on emotional intelligence (EI), or how one uses emotional control in a workplace to deal with hard conversations. 

“In high school I had a communication class, and my teacher gave us a statistic that talked about “soft skills” versus “hard skills,” and how you need to be able to do the hard skills in a workplace,” Hennis said. “I didn’t realize that if you can’t communicate well with other people you will not be able to cooperate or be respected by other people within the workplace.”

An interesting thesis for Hennis to complete was to find a study that shows EI is linked to helping reduce aggression. Studies show it is helpful to understand what people are verbally and nonverbally communicating to you and to reduce miscommunication and aggression.

One challenge that Hennis faced was being easily distracted and impatient with his thesis process. 

“Advice I’d give to a student [interested in completing a thesis] is don’t be intimidated by the process,” Hennis said. “It is rewarding once you see all of your hard academic work being shown off.”

Students interested in attending Hennis’ thesis presentation should head to the Johnson Center on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 6:10 p.m. Here, Hennis will present and defend his work to a panel of faculty, including explaining his work for the attending audience. 

Erienne Ballard, senior nursing and global studies double-major, has been part of the Honors Program for four years. Ballard presented her thesis titled “The Exploration of Economics in the Culture of Nursing Care” on Nov. 22. 

Ballard traveled to Kibimba, Burundi in Africa where she spent a month in hospitals observing, interviewing, and researching for her thesis. 

“I was supposed to go to Guatemala for six weeks in May 2020, but then COVID-19 happened,” Ballard said. “I canceled that trip and planned it again for May 2021 through the entire summer, and then in January the trip got canceled.” 

 She also tried to go to Costa Rica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras and Uganda, but these trips were also canceled. She then got connections to go to Nepal for an entire summer, but then that program got canceled as well because of a COVID-19 crisis. The challenges Ballard faced had her change her thesis many times but finally was able to go to Africa. 

Ballard’s family often travels to different countries doing research and practicing medicine. Her mother is also a nurse and was a big inspiration to her thesis. Ballard wanted to show cultural compassion by having the willingness and knowledge to converse with others. 

“If I could give any student advice on wanting to join [the Honors Program], it would be to find a subject they are passionate about because not only will it push you to finish it, but it will also make you want to keep researching and writing about that topic,” Ballard said.

Hannah Robinson, senior Bible and theology and music production double-major, has been in the Honors Program for four years and did her thesis presentation her junior year. Robinson completed a thesis titled “The Influences of Biblical Portraits of Insiders and Outsiders and How It Affects Churches Today.” 

“I was trying to find something I was passionate about and something that was broad enough where I wouldn’t get bored with it, but focused enough to find some direction on it,” Robinson said. 

Robinson did a creative and research process because she believed her topic should be expressed on a personal level in addition to just the facts.

She wanted to go with a scriptural theme that looked at three different narrative stories about insiders and outsiders to create a portrait of exclusion and inclusion. She then synthesized her findings into something applicable and incorporated a series of poems that went along with the research portion. 

“I wanted something that seemed relevant to others and myself on a deeper and more personal level,”  Robinson said. 

Robinson wanted to start her thesis right after her sophomore seminar, a class that is a requirement for Honors Program graduates. She wanted to open up her senior year to study abroad in England for a semester and to catch up on internships. 

“My advice for students who are interested in doing a thesis is to be self-disciplined and be able to make time on top of other course work,” Robinson said. “If you plan to go to grad school it is a good idea to do this and to have it on your application.”

Interested students can find Honors Program information on Malone’s website and can contact Dr. Steve Jensen, chair of the English department and director of the Honors Program, for any questions or concerns.

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