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Graduating Students Discuss Their Honors Theses
#WhyIWrite

From the left: Caroline Greer, Savanah Dickinson, Logan Istre

Savanah Dickinson (December 2017 Graduate) 

B.A. in Mass Communication with a concentration in Political Communication

B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in Global Diplomacy

 

What is your thesis about?

My thesis is a ranking of Middle Eastern countries according to their “soft power”: the use of attraction, as opposed to “hard power,” the use of coercion and payment. Most countries utilize both forms of power but often dedicate more resources towards one. In my soft power ranking of the Middle East, I considered over 50 metrics divided into six sub-indexes of soft power: culture, government, education, enterprise, engagement and digital. My research reveals that Israel holds the most soft power in the region, ranking first in three of the six sub-indexes: education, government and enterprise. The United Arab Emirates follows Israel in the overall ranking but ranks first in the digital sub-index. Turkey, at the number three spot overall, leads the region in culture and engagement.

How did you find/formulate/develop your thesis topic?

While interning with the Department of State in Washington, D.C., I attended a presentation on “The Soft Power 30: A Global Ranking of Soft Power” which looked at 60 countries around the world and ranked the top 30 according to their soft power. Not a single Middle Eastern country was included in the top 30 of the 2016 study. I decided to take a magnifying glass to a region largely underrepresented on global rankings of soft power. In fact, any mention of the Middle East in conversations of soft power is rare. People tend to think of the Middle East in terms of hard power, most notably in the form of foreign military involvement. Academics and foreign policy gurus often speak of soft power in the Middle East in terms of outside powers flexing their soft power muscles in the region. Rarely is there a discussion of the soft power utilized by Middle Eastern states. There is no other soft power ranking that looks exclusively at the Middle East or includes all the states of the region.

How did you meet your thesis advisor?

Dr. Touria Khannous, my thesis advisor, has been my Arabic professor for three semesters. She also led my study abroad trip to Morocco the summer after my freshman year.

What was the most valuable part of the thesis process for you?

Believe it or not, I found my thesis defense to be the most valuable part of the thesis process. I enjoyed being able to discuss my research and the topic of soft power with professionals from a variety of fields. The word “defense” is too ominous. Ogden Honors College students considering writing a thesis should approach their defense like a conversation instead of an exam.

What are your plans post-graduation?

I plan to work with a non-governmental organization in Middle East for the next couple of years before attending graduate school.

What is your advice for anyone considering a thesis?

Utilize the first semester of your thesis courses. Begin brainstorming a topic your junior year. Hit the ground running when you enroll in your first thesis course. Conduct your research during this time. Use your second thesis course to write and revise your thesis.

Respond to #WhyIWrite — why did you ultimately embark on writing a thesis?

I chose to write a thesis because I wanted to leave LSU with a body of work that combined my areas of interest and showcased my ability to conduct research and analyze my findings.

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Logan Istre (May 2018 Graduate)

History Major with a concentration in Secondary Education 

 

What is your thesis about?

My thesis is a reassessment of the role the economic reformer Henry George had in the development of American political culture during the late Gilded Age. Specifically, it seeks to move beyond thinking about George as the spokesman for land value taxation (the so-called “single tax”) to also include his influence in the rise of free trade ideology at a time when political parties, and especially the Democratic Party, were shifting on economic issues.

How did you find/formulate/develop your thesis topic?

I first discovered Henry George as an economic thinker when I was on a Wikipedia expedition in high school, but forgot about him until college when I was trying to get a better understanding of original American political economists. I found his words and character, as well as his story, very fascinating and wondered why he has effectively disappeared from popular history. My search led me to find that his influence reached well beyond his customary estimation.

How did you meet your thesis advisor?

I met Dean Jonathan Earle, my thesis advisor, when I was recommended by another one of my professors to do research work for him. After working with him for some time, and recognizing our mutual interest in nineteenth century politics, I asked him to advise me in writing my Honors thesis.

What was the most valuable part of the thesis process for you?

The thesis process was invaluable in acquainting me with both independent research work and writing history. It is drastically improved my ability to read, write, and understand academic history and expanded my ability to work independently, while also familiarizing me with the importance of mentor-student academic relationships.

What are your plans post-graduation?

I am in the Geaux Teach program now, which is preparing me to be a high school social studies teacher and, after graduation, I intend to earn an MA in history before beginning my teaching career.

What is your advice for anyone considering a thesis?

My advice to anyone considering writing a thesis is to determine if you have a passion for something academic. If you do, try it by all means. If you do not, you probably should not try it. If you are passionate about some field of study, writing a thesis may tell you whether you should continue on to grad school, or if you're not up to it. You lose nothing by trying, but it can be arduous and the end result is directly related to how much effort you put into it.

Respond to #WhyIWrite — why did you ultimately embark on writing a thesis?

I ultimately chose to write a thesis because I love the historical discipline and wanted to test my mettle for participating actively in it. It is not only my proudest undergraduate achievement, it is also the academic project that I had the most fun doing.

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Caroline Gree(December 2017 Graduate) 

B.A. in History

 

What is your thesis about?

My thesis is about temperance – abstinence or moderation in alcohol consumption – in antebellum Louisiana, focusing mostly on the tactics of moral suasion and propaganda.

How did you find/formulate/develop your thesis topic?

My thesis topic came about first from my love of religious and social history and a desire to use that in my research. I had a fascination with the Second Great Awakening, a national religious revival in the 19th century, along with moral reform and other social movements; this led to more research regarding movements for abolitionism, millennialism, and temperance during the antebellum period. With this, Dr. Gaines Foster decided I needed to be able to do primary research in the special collections at Hill Memorial Library, so my focus became temperance in Louisiana. This intersected with the time I wanted along with moral reform. Originally, Dr. Foster and I discussed Catholic responses to temperance, but my research led me to focus more on rhetoric and moral suasion used in both Louisiana and the Northern states at this time.

How did you meet your thesis advisor?

I met Dr. Foster when I took him for both Honors American History classes where I was in a seminar class with around 10-12 people each semester.

What was the most valuable part of the thesis process for you?

The most valuable part of thesis process - well I want to pick two.  The first is the primary and archival research I was led to do, which allowed me to come up with an original topic where there is really no extant literature and find my own historical argument. This made the work so more personal and exciting. The second is the relationships I formed with not only my adviser, but also with other professors who were on my committee and guided me with my work. All three of the professors who were at my defense wrote my letters of recommendations for graduate school, which was exceptional as they were most familiar with both my writing and research abilities.

What are your plans post-graduation?

Post-graduation I plan to take a gap semester and work before going to graduate school in history. I'm almost done with applications, so I'm hoping for the best.

What is your advice for anyone considering a thesis?

For anyone considering a thesis, my best advice is to make sure you really want to and are ready to commit to it. I loved my thesis topic and my adviser was very helpful, but there were still times it was hard and I wondered if I was doing the right thing. However, making sure you have a good adviser/support system, along with a topic you feel passionate about, can do wonders. Also, I would recommend setting hard deadlines with your professor so it is easier to stay on track. Overall though, I 100% think it is the best and most worthwhile thing for Honors students to do.

Respond to #WhyIWrite — why did you ultimately embark on writing a thesis?

Ultimately, I embarked on writing a thesis solely to graduate with College Honors. However, as I progressed along, I realized all that I was gaining from it. I was strengthening my writing, analytical, and research skills as well as finishing a long-term project that took a lot of commitment. But the best part of my thesis is how it reminded me I loved to learn and to research, fostering that love of history once more, and #whyIwrite is to pursue this love of knowledge for my future endeavors as a teacher or a professor.