Spotlight on senior theses

Dan Flatley, Crier Staff

Several academic departments at Saint A’s have already had their senior theses presentations in the fall semester and have now moved on to senior comprehensive exams. Some of these departments include English, History, Fine Arts, Communication, and Politics.

English and Spanish double major Jasmine Blais, English and history double major Ginger Gates, and communications and politics double major Kelsey Walsh are all members of the Class of 2017 who have completed and presented their theses in the fall.

In September, Jasmine Blais completed her senior thesis on Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, focusing on the themes of morality, integrity, and identity. Blais’s thesis combined what she had learned in two of her favorite classes on the Hilltop: Arthurian Legends and African-American literature.

Crier\Susan Donahue
Jasmine Blais ’17.

“While reading the novel, I was struck by how Morrison molded a narrative featuring a middle-class, African-American man in the twentieth century to be the ‘hero’ of a quest that mirrored Perceval’s or Lancelot’s for the Holy Grail in medieval times,” Blais said. “My thesis focused on how Morrison consciously used the trope to both affirm and subvert our notions of what a hero is and should be.”

Her senior seminar—made up of eleven of her peers and Professor Ann Holbrook—helped her throughout the writing process, from brainstorming and drafting to her final edits.  “The collaboration and inspiration from my professors and peers really made the process of writing a thesis something enjoyable,” Blais said. “Though a thirty-page honors thesis seems daunting in May, the support you have within the department makes the task seem conquerable in September.”

Ginger Gates, a history and English double major, successfully completed one thesis in December that covered all the requirements for both majors. Her thesis focused on author Rebecca West’s work and her effect on gender structure after World War I.  The thesis took a broad stroke view of “Victorian gender structures into World War I through historical analysis of West’s nonfiction … and literary analysis of her World War I novel, The Return of the Soldier.”

When asked what her inspiration was behind choosing this topic and this author for her thesis; Gates responded, “I found West a fascinating figure of a changing political atmosphere; she was fiercely liberal and believed in women’s education, but also held that men and women were inherently different and inherently better at certain things than the opposite sex. Her nonfiction writing is powerful, well-argued, and informative. Return is equally as well written and gets to the heart of West’s thesis about gender relations at that point in her life.”

Courtesy\Ginger Gates
Ginger Gates ’17.

Gates successfully combined both of her major requirements into one thesis. She did this by proving that this one topic and one author had enough effect in both a historical standard and enough effect in literature to cover both majors. “West was an important figure both historically and in literature, making her an ideal topic for a dual thesis in History and English.”

Gates’ did have to present her thesis twice. She presented once in class for English and once in class for History. “For English, I just read my paper aloud to the class, but for History, I had to condense my research to a ten to fifteen minute presentation. That was surprisingly very difficult to do. I was happy with both presentations, though I did need some water after reading out loud for about an hour for my English presentation.”

Kelsey Walsh faced a much different challenge than Gates. Walsh is a double major in communication and politics, and she actually completed two different theses in the fall semester.  For the purpose of this article we will focus on Walsh’s politics thesis, titled “A Presidential Candidates Flight to the Top of the Polls: An investigation into a campaign’s Twitter procedure during the 2016 Primary Season.”

Walsh’s thesis dug deep into the way Twitter effected the 2016 election and its role in Donald Trump’s win. Walsh focused more on the 2016 primary season than on the general election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Walsh asked the question, “How do candidates utilize Twitter sufficiently and what makes a difference in their tweets as they head into a contested primary?”

Her thesis statement was, “Twitter is a technological advancement to a modern day press release.” She stated that, “The 2016 election has often been referenced as the election of picking a transparent leader. I strongly believed that Twitter allows for transparency and my thesis statement was statistically accurate.”

Crier\Livy Ashburne
Kelsey Walsh ’17.

Walsh was inspired to choose this topic because of the media’s use of President Donald Trump’s Tweets. “At the time of my study, the media was continuously using his tweets. They would display his tweets as if they were his position statements or wait to see if Trump tweeted about a tragedy, scandal, etc. I was curious to know if his tweets were a part of his campaign’s strategy or if his tweets helped him succeed in any way? Often times, campaigns provide a press release to the media and the media reads the statement to the public. I saw Donald Trump’s tweets as mini press releases that he wished to be exploited to the greater amount of people,” stated Walsh.

Walsh found a problem with Trump though. “Donald Trump had too much data for the time period of my study, so I narrowed my candidates down to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I chose them because they have similar demographics. They are both Democratic candidates, previous Senators, and have social media. I looked to see if Twitter helped them during their campaign against each other. My results showed that Twitter was beneficial to one candidate over the other. The way a candidate uses Twitter is extremely important to their success in the election.”

According to Walsh, she was surprised and excited by one specific statistic found during research.  She explained, “One of my favorite statistics of my study was if a candidate tweeted a ground breaking message on election night the amount of retweets the candidates received could have changed the election. Retweets offer solidarity and alliance.”

Walsh concluded, “After my study, I was really inspired by the influence twitter has. I concluded that it is a modern day press release. I looked into Twitter for jobs and found that what I did in my thesis is what Twitter employees do for business clients. They research how businesses can utilize Twitter for their success. I was extremely interested and even applied to the position.”