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Alumni Spotlight: Laura Tracy

Laura Tracy Discusses How Honors Thesis & Ogden Honors Prepared Her for Law School
Alumni Spotlight: Laura Tracy

Laura Tracy in front of LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center

The LSU Ogden Honors College challenges its students to strive for the utmost level of academic success. Laura Tracy, LSU Ogden Honors College alumna, accomplished that high level of achievement by completing all Honors College requirements and successfully defending her thesis while simultaneously being enrolled in the LSU 3+3 program. 

Tracy is now a student at LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, with an interest in studying same-sex rights that stemmed from her honors thesis research. She completed her thesis, “The Lavender Scare of New Orleans,” on the prosecution of Clay Shaw in the 1960s in relation to the wave of homophobia within this time period and how it affected Shaw’s prosecution. The Ogden Honors College aided her in completing this a year earlier alongside all the other stresses Tracy faced with law school preparation and a rigorous schedule through the 3+3 program.

The LSU 3+3 program allows undergraduate students to receive a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor degree in six years. Through their time at LSU, students enrolled in this program follow a strict curriculum regime that prepares them to spend their last undergraduate year as their first year in LSU’s law school. 

“The Honors College was really great and extremely supportive of me during the entire process,” Tracy said. “Once a semester, I met with an academic advisor at the Honors College to ensure that I was on the right track with my regular major and with the Honors curriculum as well. Once I told them my sophomore year that I was interested in writing a thesis, they were able to set it up where I wrote my thesis my junior year.”

She initially chose her thesis topic after a discussion in a Louisiana History course she took at LSU with Professor Alecia Long, who also became her thesis director.

Through completing her thesis, Tracy was able to evaluate how the discrimination, various laws, and a political turmoil surrounding homosexuality that existed within the John F. Kennedy Presidential time era still exist within Louisiana today.

“I’ve always been interested in the JFK assassination, because I think it was a critical turning point in our country, which led to so many conspiracy theories and general, public distrust in the government,” Tracy said. “I talked about how New Orleans had passed a ‘crime against nature’ law in the 1950s, which made homosexual acts unconstitutional. This law is still on the books of Louisiana and has never been repealed.”

Tracy majored in history and found that the Ogden Honors College communication- and research-intensive curriculum thoroughly prepared her for the challenges that law school presents. Honors courses are built upon communicating with fellow students in classes, much like law school requires. Ogden Honors courses are often seminar-style classes, where discussion drives the course; professors prefer to facilitate discussion and hear students’ opinions rather than lecture.

“In law school, the roles are almost flipped with the professors asking you questions, the students talking for most of the class, and the professor listening,” Tracy said.

In addition, she has found correlation between her thesis topic and current legal cases she is studying, saying her law review topic is based on a similar issue.

“I am interested in same-sex rights,” Tracy said. “My law review topic also talks about something similar. I’m discussing how the Louisiana Legislature refuses to update Civil Code Articles related to marriage after Obergefell (our definition of marriage is still defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, and another article prohibits same-sex marriage. It’s unconstitutional, but I point out bigger problems in the law like establishing parental rights, which is still linked to heterosexual couples).”

Overall, Tracy said she would suggest to other students to complete a thesis. “I knew I wanted to go to law school before college, but the Honors College gave me certain opportunities to strengthen the desire to pursue law school such as an honors thesis,” Tracy said. “All students, even 3+3 students, definitely write a thesis because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” 

Tracy demonstrates how it is possible to complete a thesis and graduate with honors while still being enrolled in a time-demanding program. However, the Ogden Honors College and Dean Jonathan Earle encourage students to complete four years in undergraduate studies to be able to reap the full benefits of exploring broad and deep intellectual pursuit, studying abroad, deeply engaging in scholastic studies and community-wide service, and completing a thesis.  

“Having taught Laura during her first semester in college, in HNRS 2000 in Fall 2015, I’m not surprised she was able to successfully accomplish all her honors requirements in three years,” Dean Earle said. “It’s a great achievement! But for many students, it’s simply not possible. The OHC staff and I are committed to helping our pre-law students get the well-rounded education they deserve before heading off law school. 

While currently an L2 at LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Tracy plans to eventually become a prosecutor after receiving her Juris Doctor degree.

“My goals in law are to advocate for those whose rights have been violated,” Tracy said. “I hope to clerk for a judge a few years after law school, and then eventually work at the DA’s office to hopefully be a prosecutor at some point.”

For more information about the thesis process, visit honors.lsu.edu/honors-themes/thesis.