Thesis Spotlight: Patrick Isacks
This week we’re featuring Ogden Honors student and international studies and history major Patrick Isacks. Guided by LSU Political Science International Studies Director Leonard Ray, Patrick’s thesis project, “Fractured Europe,” studies European nationalism and the commonalities among them to indicate the viability of European separatism as a whole.
Tell us about your thesis project.
My thesis regards current European nationalism and separatism. I am looking at the overall picture of nationalism through eight case studies of European regions in order to find out what common characteristics separatist regions share and what makes them different, My eight cases are Catalonia (Spain), Scotland (UK), Flanders (Belgium), Corsica (France), Bavaria (Germany), Northern Italy, the Basque Country (Spain), and Quebec (Canada, because of its similarity to European regions). Some of the characteristics I am looking at are linguistic differences between state and region; religious differences between state and region; the politics involved in the region and in the nationalism of the region; the economics involved; and the impact of globalization on these separatist movements. I just wrapped up my last case study, so my next step is going to be editing and looking at some public opinion data from the individual regions and Europe as a whole in order to draw out some possible patterns that exist in the regions.
How did you come up with the idea?
I studied abroad in Spain with LSU in the summer of 2015, and while I was in Spain I visited the Catalan city of Barcelona, a major player in the separatist movement there. I really enjoyed my time in the city, and it was fascinating to see the difference between Barcelona and other Spanish cities. This was around the time that Scotland was also facing its own independence movement, so I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison between the two regions. I talked to my thesis director about it, and he thought I could take it further by doing more case studies to paint a bigger picture of nationalism as a whole.
How did your thesis project get started?
My thesis director is Dr. Leonard Ray in the Political Science department. I was already thinking about thesis ideas when I decided to take his Politics of Western Europe class in the spring of 2016 in order to learn more about European politics and to start building a relationship with him. Dr. Ray was the director of the International Studies program here at LSU, so I knew he could best direct me in an International Studies project.
What makes this project important?
I think separatism is a very real and occasionally a very troubling topic in today’s current events. The Trump presidency is already demonstrating the renewal of nationalism in the Western world, and some European nations are also starting to elect populist leaders. The European Union’s fate is already somewhat in question with Brexit looming, and some of the separatist movements I cover could damage it even further, which could have a real impact on international politics. I believe my topic is important because it helps raise awareness of just how many separatist movements there are in the world—I certainly had not heard of some of these separatist movements before my thesis, and I picked only eight movements. There are plenty more movements in Europe and the world as a whole, and understanding them is the first step to dealing with them.
Why did you decide to write a thesis?
I decided to do a thesis because I think undergraduate research perfectly complements all other work undergraduate students do. It is one thing to take a class and learn from a professor, but to actually take on a subject by yourself is something much more challenging and rewarding. Additionally, some of the things I’ve learned in the research process have supported what I’ve learned in the classroom, and they have ended up helping me in some of my classes as well.
Do you have any advice for Honors students thinking about writing a thesis?
My advice would be to start thinking of topics now, and to start building relationships with professors. The choice of a thesis director is a very important decision because your thesis director is pretty much your safeguard in the research and writing processes. I would also advise to pick a topic that really excites you and makes you want to learn more about it.
After graduating, what are your plans?
I plan on attending law school where I hope to concentrate in international law or European Union law. I hope my thesis will help me gain a greater political understanding of some of the regions I will study in law school.
It’s no secret that we want every Ogden Honors student to write a thesis. It’s hard to overstate the value of embarking on a long-term project—whether it’s a research paper, scholarly paper, business plan, portfolio, design project, or performance—with an experienced faculty member. It’s not just practical to write a thesis (students have a finished product they can show off to employers, graduate schools, or professional schools), it also gives students essential experience for post-graduate success. That’s why we’ve started a series highlighting our thesis writers with unique projects that, we hope, will inspire you to write an Honors Thesis.