Seniors wrap up Lehigh career with honors theses

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With only two weeks left in the school year, seniors are moving beyond their college careers and preparing for the next phase of their lives. Yet those graduating with honors are still feeling the pressure of Lehigh academia as they finish their theses.

To graduate with departmental honors, a student must be interested in exploring a field of independent study and research. Graduating with honors calls for a written thesis about any topic of one’s choosing, requiring at least a year of work to complete the project thoroughly.

Nathan Keim, ’17, is an economics and math double major. Keim presented his honors thesis at the beginning of April. (Courtesy of Nathan Keim)

Nathan Keim, ’17, is majoring in economics and math and presented his honors thesis, which he started working on in spring 2016, three weeks ago.

“The whole process of coming up with an idea, it just sort of happens,” Keim said.

Keim wrote a 12-page theory paper about jury selection using probability distributions he learned from his statistics classes at Lehigh. He is proud of his work and is enjoying his last few weeks on Lehigh’s campus now that he finished his thesis.

Mikaila Skaroff, ’17, is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in anthropology and international relations. She has not completed her thesis yet, which she said will turn out to be between 30 and 35 pages.

Skaroff is writing about how people’s perceptions of success vary across different academic departments. She has interviewed people from the College of Business and Economics to gain an understanding of how certain students view and strive for success.

Mikaila Skaroff, ’17, is an anthropology and international relations double major. Her thesis is focused on people’s perceptions of success. (Courtesy of Mikaila Skaroff)

“Everyone is always trying to make themselves more successful in a stereotypical way.” Skaroff said. “‘I just wanted to see why that is and what people thought about it.”

Skaroff said she is not too focused on getting a high-paying job after graduating from Lehigh. She is trying to find what matters to her aside from just making money.

By practicing theoretical research, Skaroff is looking for holistic patterns through the people she interviewed.

“I think the business school is very much pushing a certain model of looking at success” Skaroff said.

The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering does not have students writing honors theses, but rather requires all engineering students to work on a capstone design project during their senior year to be presented in the spring. The majority of students writing an honors thesis comes from the College of Arts and Sciences, said Dean Greg Tonkay of the engineering college.

Gaby Pate, ’17, is writing her thesis about the British women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century. Pate is a double major in molecular biology and English. (Courtesy of Gaby Pate)

Gaby Pate, ‘17, is double majoring in molecular biology and English and is writing her honors thesis about the hunger strikes and force feedings in the British women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century.

Pate’s thesis presentation will take place in early May and until then, she will be working to finish her project which will also fall between 30 and 35 pages.

“I’ve always been interested in feminism,” Pate said. “It’s a big part of how I identify myself.”

This and the movie “Suffragette” inspired her to write about women’s suffrage. Pate said she is analyzing the movement in relation to French philosopher Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower, which says the government holds the power to make live and let die, criticizing the brutal subjugation of women during this period.

Keim, Skaroff and Pate were all overjoyed with their advisers’ assistance in their processes of writing honors theses. Their respective advisers, James Dearden, David Casagrande and Deep Singh, met with the students either once or twice per week to guide them in the right direction and provide feedback for their sprouting ideas.

All three seniors did not end up writing about their initial ideas. Keim said the preparation process altered his ideas about his topic.

At the end of their time at Lehigh, the students’ honors theses will serve as a reflection of the hard work each student put into their academic careers.

“To see (my thesis) come together from just an idea as a sophomore is so satisfying,” Pate said. “It’s like, here is a thing that I have written after so much work and time put in.”

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