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Honors Outside of the Classroom: Honors Thesis Forum

Publication date

May 10, 2018 3:15 PM
 | 

Author

Jennifer Beers
jbeers@tulane.edu

Last month, the Tulane Honors Program hosted the Inaugural Honors Thesis Forum. Courtesy Cheryl Gerber

 

Last month, the Tulane Honors Program hosted the Inaugural Honors Thesis Forum, which offered Senior Thesis writers the opportunity to present their research and findings to the wider Tulane community.  Faculty mentors, friends, family members and fellow honors students gathered over the course of four days to hear presentations on research conducted in a wide range of fields in architecture, liberal arts, science and engineering, public health and business.  The presentations varied in length and format, with some students presenting individually in a classroom setting while others engaged in panel discussions that focused on a topic that brought together thesis writers from various disciplines. 

 

Out of 94 students who completed Honors Theses, 41 elected to present their findings to an audience of their peers and the Tulane community at large.  Students who write Honors Theses devote an extraordinary amount of time and effort during their senior year, and often before, to developing their projects, engaging in research, and writing up their findings in preparation for the thesis defense with their faculty committee.  The Thesis forum provided a venue for Thesis Writers to showcase the projects they produce.  Parker Evans, a math major and 2017 Goldwater Scholar, presented on the findings of his thesis On Self-Overlapping Curves, Interior Boundaries, and Minimum Area Homotopies.  Parker found that, “The Thesis Forum was an excellent experience. While the thesis defense is typically the singular moment of culmination of the thesis process, I felt that the Thesis Forum was actually a more enjoyable punchline.”

 

While the Forum allows thesis writers to showcase their research, it also offers them a chance to polish presentation and expository skills as well as think about new directions their research might take in the future.  Jake Morrow-Spitzer, whose thesis focused on the role of three Jewish mayors in Post-Civil War Louisiana and Mississippi, began his research during the summer of his junior year.  With support from the Honors Program’s Jean Danielson Scholarship, he was able to travel to Natchez, Mississippi, and Charleston, South Carolina, to work in the cities’ archives researching Jewish politicians.  After presenting at the Thesis Forum, Jake observed that, “Preparing the content of my lecture and practicing for the final presentation was a chance to show friends, non-committee professors, and other members of the Tulane and New Orleans communities (as well as a historian working in a similar field) the work I put into the thesis process and an opportunity to present some of my original findings. Because of the forum, I not only gained confidence in public speaking, but I also had a chance to reflect on the strongest arguments and important aspects of my work – an exercise beneficial to my eventual goal of publishing parts of my thesis.”

 

The Thesis Forum also demonstrated to younger students the myriad possibilities that come from writing a thesis, inspiring them to work towards developing their own projects as they approach their senior year.   While the process of writing an honors thesis can seem daunting and far off to freshmen, attending sessions at the Forum exposed them to a diverse intellectual landscape and generated enthusiasm about the thesis as the culmination of their academic experience at Tulane.  Emily Ransom, a freshman studying cell and molecular biology and public health, observed that, “This semester helped me gain an idea of what research looks like in different fields, especially through the Honors Thesis Forum as I attended two presentations that were not in my specific field of interest. However, I greatly enjoyed both presentations and found the research intriguing. Attending the Honors Thesis Forum helped me to feel more confident that I could do an honors thesis in a few years.”

 

The Tulane Honors Program is excited that the inaugural Honors Thesis Forum was a resounding success, and we look forward to continuing this yearly event that fosters the vibrant academic community among Honors Students, faculty mentors and the Tulane community at large.

 

Click HERE to see the Honors Thesis Forum program.