To Write or Not to Write: Senior Thesis

To Write or Not to Write: Senior Thesis

Some of you reading this may be sophomores or juniors who are considering writing a thesis for your major, but are unsure as to whether or not you are ready to take on the time commitment and dedication to a single topic that will occupy your lives for an entire year. Others reading this are probably first years or prospective students who have no idea what to declare a major in, let alone what you would write about for 50-100 pages. There are a number of reasons why someone might write a thesis: it is required of their major, it is required to receive honors in the major, there is a topic they have studied at some point during their first three years in college and want to go further in depth with that topic, or they want to study something entirely new!

Senior thesis writers can reserve their own carrels on the 3rd floor of the library.
Senior thesis writers can reserve their own carrels on the 3rd floor of the library.

I knew I wanted to write a thesis in American Studies since my sophomore year. Even though I am a double major in English as well, I was so interested in the vast array of topics American Studies offered. I loved studying the 20th century (especially the 1950s), gender roles, and representations of women in the mass media. However, those were still extremely broad themes and I didn’t know how I would find a unique topic that hadn’t really been studied before.

I made a list of topics I was interested in writing my thesis on: family based television shows from the 1950s to the present day (think Leave It to Beaver, Full House, and Modern Family), commercialized female cultural icons (Rosie the Riveter, Betty Crocker), comparing Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the shaping of gender roles among youth, and American Girl dolls as symbols of girlhood and companionship (this is the topic I ultimately ended up deciding on)!

My four pieces of advice for whether or not to write a thesis would be:

  • Find a topic you are really passionate about. I mean, really REALLY passionate about. Something that you could work on all day, everyday and not get sick of. (I wish I could only research and write my thesis and not have to take any other classes).
  • Choose an advisor who not only will be able to help with your research and outlining your chapters, but will also be your personal cheerleader. (I am so lucky to have the MOST positive thesis advisor I could possibly imagine!)
  • Listen to your gut. It seems stupid but you will absolutely know if a thesis is the right thing for you. If you have any doubt that you’re not up to the task, think about a one semester thesis or independent study!

Once you find a passion or an interest that you can’t let go of, committing to write a thesis will be an easy decision!

P.S.: If you decide to write a thesis, do as much research as possible over the summer. This was a huge time saver when the fall semester started and I was able to start writing my chapters right away!

Why Being an English Major is #Lit

Why Being an English Major is #Lit

Choosing a major isn’t easy – especially at a liberal arts school where students are required to take classes in varying disciplines in order to graduate. So how does one go about choosing a major their sophomore year? Although some students may arrive on campus their freshman fall knowing what they want to concentrate in, the majority of Trinity’s population arrives unsure.

From a personal perspective, I had a decent idea that English would be one of my primary majors, and I had some experiences within my first two years of Trinity that confirmed this for me.

  • First English class at Trinity.

I enrolled in my first English class here at Trinity my freshman fall. This course was titled “Intro to Literary Studies.” Although I am currently concentrating in Creative Writing within my English major, I had heard that this class was one of the major’s pre-requisites, and I had also been told that the professor for this class was incredible. This advice proved to be right, and helped to enforce my decision to become an English major. Throughout this course, we studied multiple types of literary styles from an assortment of different authors. Not only did this course introduce me to one of my favorite contemporary authors, but it also provided me with an opportunity to bond with an incredible professor who has still continued to be an immense influence throughout my Trinity experience today.

  • Attending a Career trek

Although I knew that I would most likely become an English major upon attending Trinity, I also knew that I wanted to enter a media-related occupational field upon graduation. Therefore, I was a little bit apprehensive of the lack of a communications major or program. My freshman spring, I saw that Trinity’s Career Development Center was hosting a “career trek” over Trinity Days: a four-day weekend that occurs once per semester. This specific “trek” included a trip to New York City in order to network with alums working within marketing and communications fields. Although these “treks” explore multiple occupational avenues within Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C., I chose to attend this New York City media trek because of its close link with my area of interest. Throughout the trek, we met six different alumni within multiple organizations in the city. Not only was the networking opportunity incredibly valuable, but most of these individuals claimed that throughout their time at Trinity, they had chosen to pursue a major in English with a Creative Writing concentration. Therefore, this experience helped me to solidify that I was on the right track in choosing a major for my duration at Trinity, and also for my post-graduation interests.

  • Discovery of a Creative Writing Thesis

A third defining experience that helped me to decide to become an English major was the discovery that I have the opportunity to write a Creative Writing Thesis. For Creative Writing concentrators here at Trinity, students can choose from a range of options including the opportunity to write a series of short stories, a novella, a memoir, a novel, one-act plays, or poetry samples. The idea of being able to spend a large amount of my senior year planning, crafting, and editing a large creative piece that I could work towards potentially publishing after graduation appealed to me immensely, and still excites me currently as I look forward to this experience, even though I have roughly a year prior to immersing myself in it.

Ultimately, I love to write, and because I love exercising this creative skill, I throw my efforts into it completely until I’m absorbed in the act itself. Although I am speaking from a mere twenty years of experience, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that passion drives success, and if you’re able to incorporate your passion into your occupation, then you’re guaranteed to soar.

“She was an American Girl”: Why I Chose to Major in American Studies

“She was an American Girl”: Why I Chose to Major in American Studies

I am always asked the question, “Why did you pick Trinity?” Even though my long answer includes about 10 different reasons, my short answer is the academics and ability to take anything and everything I wanted! In high school, I absolutely loved my US History classes and AP US Government and Politics class and knew I wanted a college that had strong history classes, even though I didn’t think history was the perfect major for me. To this day, I still have so many academic interests – history, English, the arts, politics- and as a first year student, I figured the only way I would be able to fulfill everything I wanted to study would be by quadruple majoring. It wasn’t until I took AMST 203: Conflicts and Cultures in American Society that I realized the American Studies major combined everything I wanted to study.

In AMST 203, we studied the political, social, and culture movements of the 1950s. This meant that we were watching episodes of Leave It to Beaver, reading literature like The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and beat poetry, learning about McCarthyism and the Red Scare, and even reading scholarship on Jackie Robinson. I took this class during the spring semester of my first year and was so confident that this was the perfect fit for me that I declared a major in American Studies in April of that same semester. American Studies is an interdisciplinary major- this means that I was able to take an arts policy class in the public policy & law, an introductory class in the sociology department, American literature classes in the English department, and U.S. history classes based out of the history department.

American Girl

I feel incredibly close to the faculty members in the American Studies department. Even though I have one advisor, I am comfortable going to any of them for questions on classes to take, research opportunities within the major, or advice on my post-graduate plans. The department is small but mighty and I know I am lucky to have their support and guidance in ways that my friends in other majors don’t have.

I also knew all along that I wanted to write a thesis for American Studies and when it came time to think of a topic, I made a list of everything I was interested in researching. The themes I studied in that first American Studies class- mass media, gender roles, and popular culture-  still stuck with me. After looking at the ideas I had come up with, and talking with my thesis advisor Professor Jack Gieseking, as well as Professor Scott Gac and Professor Tom Wickman, American Girl dolls seemed to be the most unique topic that engaged with all of the areas I enjoyed studying. Even though I am still continuing to shape my thesis as I write and research it, I am currently looking at the intersection of race, class, and gender represented by the dolls, as well as what version of the American past the dolls’ storybooks convey. Although many people don’t necessarily understand just how much there is to research on American Girl dolls, I absolutely love my topic and really feel it is the perfect culmination of my personal and academic interests. It truly is an interdisciplinary topic and goes to show how many possibilities there are within American Studies scholarship. It is a major I highly recommend to any student interested in understanding American history and culture within the context of today’s society!