Students Share their Senior Theses

Kyle Delbyck History Major "Analyzing Racial Politics and Narratives in Barack Obama's Speeches"

Kyle's thesis is on the racial discourse generated by Barack Obama's speeches, as manifested in newspaper coverage of four of his most publicized orations. She will be specifically looking at the Father's Day speech, the More Perfect Union speech, the 2004 Democratic Convention speech and the Inaugural Address. The ultimate goal of her thesis is to use these speeches and the ensuing reaction to them as a vehicle to examine whether or not Obama's candidacy has changed the national dialogue on race—whether he has challenged or bolstered prevailing norms of racial discourse. She is focusing on four main areas of discourse: racial coding, the emphasis on the personal aspects of racism over the structural, the conception of a linear progression towards equality and notions of post-racialism. So far, she has found that the answer is more complex than she had anticipated—certain traditional narratives about race have actually been strengthened by Obama's oratory, while others have been delegitimized.

Sydney Freggiario

Molecular Biology and Dance Double Major "Characterizing THD14; A Class III Histone Deacetylase in Tetrahymena Thermophilla"

Sydney wrote her Molecular Biology thesis after working with Dr. Wiley's lab and examining Tetrahymena genes that silence other genes. This field of study could potentially be used in cancer treatments to shut off cancer genes. Sydney was given THD14, a protein gene sequence. Then, she tacked on GFP (green fluorescent proteins from jellyfish) and used fluorescent microscopy to watch these proteins move about the cell. While prior research suggested that this protein was supposed to go to mitochondria, Sydney made the groundbreaking discovery that THD14 actually went to the nucleus. Moreover, she found that the protein is involved in a pathway very similar to apoptosis (cell suicide), giving this class of genes a novel function never previously discovered. Sydney is currently publishing a paper on her research now and presented her findings at the Asilomar Chromatin Conference in Pacific Grove, California in December. Not only was Sydney the only undergraduate student present at that national conference, she also managed to convince 200 very professional scientists to do the PCR dance she created.

Nicole Greene

Studio Art Major "Crafting the Multi-breasted Dress"

Nicole is very experienced with knitting and needlework, and wanted to apply her skills to a piece that would have social perspective. Her senior studio art thesis is about the lack of work by women artists in museums, collections and the art world in general. She is creating a garment that is a sort of dark parody of this inequality. She decided to take several stereotypically female elements, breasts, a big puffy dress and needlework (knitting, crochet, sewing), and combine them into a garment that is extremely cumbersome, thus highlighting the amount of effort it takes for female artists to "make it."

Stephanie Ringstaff

Dual Major: Psychology and Theatre "A Theatrical look at Revenge and Punishment, How we Pass Judgment"

Stephanie was drawn to theater and psychology by an interest in "understanding people, and why they make the decisions they make." For her thesis, Stephanie created a play considering the nature of revenge and the importance of knowing all sides of an issue before passing judgment on others.  Stephanie's play is a 45-minute production based on scenes of familial violence from the plays of Orstia, rooted in Greek mythology from the times of Helen of Troy to Agamemnon and so forth. Walker Wall should have updates about the performance, and red and black posters detailing the event will be posted around campus. Details on show times are listed under senior performances, listed on the right of this page.

Carrie Schneider

Anthropology Major "Excavating Captain Oates: An Exercise in Ice Survey and Excavation"

Carrie became enthralled with Captain Oates upon discovering in her sophomore year that her friend was one of the last living relatives of this famous explorer. Captain Oates, part of the infamous Scott expedition to the South Pole, sacrificed himself to save his teammates, walking out of the tent into the unforgiving snow of Antarctica, never to be seen again. To this day, his body has not been found. Carrie's thesis project is written in the form of a proposal to various groups for funding for an expedition to uncover the remains of Oates. In her thesis, she discusses survey methods, body preservation, and ethical excavation and display of human remains.

Emily Seaman

Humanities Major "Lindy Hop: Swing Culture and Identity Politics from the 1920s to the Present."

Emily has been an avid dancer and a member of the dance team for years. For her senior thesis she decided to explore the cultural history of lindy hop. Lindy hop is one of our nation's earliest mass culture phenomena, and many people have argued that the dance was expressive of, even foundational to, the modern American identity. Since lindy hop is still wildly popular today, Emily feels that a critical analysis of the dance form can give us great insight into the ways that identity and body politics have (or have not) evolved since the early 20th century. For her thesis, she will be looking at the dance's formation in African American communities at the end of the Harlem Renaissance, and the way that it has subsequently been whitened in popular culture. She will also consider how the dance can represent a variety of (often oppositional) ideals depending upon the context in which it is experienced. She is arguing that lindy hop has been used to both subvert and uphold traditional gender and racial hierarchies, and will analyze the radical and reactionary role it has played in American popular culture.