Senior Thesis Highlights

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Senior Thesis HighlightsThe Senior Thesis is a capstone of a student’s work at the College and a catalyst for future success. These projects are remarkable both for the rigor of the research and analysis they contain, and for the process by which they are created. Students work intimately with a committee of professors to develop and refine the goals and methods of the project.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock undergraduate students conduct rigorous research to complete their theses, turning in work often compared to graduate level achievements. This level of undergraduate research is a major reason Simon’s Rock ranks 13th in the nation for graduates who go on to earn a PhD. The Thesis prepares all students to enter careers requiring self-direction, problem solving, and sustained commitment to long term, complex projects.

We’ve selected seven theses from the Class of 2011. Collectively, they represent the quality of scholarly work, across concentrations, required of all Simon’s Rock BA graduates.

Sinéad Byrne: A Garden Enclosed: A Character Study and Performance of Clare from Tenneesee Williams’s The Two-Character Play

When Byrne was studying abroad at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, she was required to perform an in-depth character study. She became fascinated by the process. “I found myself thinking how wonderful it would be if I could apply all the tools I gained from that experience and devote a vast amount of time to developing my favorite character.” Her work culminated this spring with a performance of one of Tennessee Williams’s more difficult and experimental works, The Two-Character Play.

After the Thesis: Sinéad will spend the summer working at Glacier National Park in Montana. Next spring, she’ll be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border in Washington.

Jeffrey Dietrich: Out West, Off to War: The Frontier in American History and Contemporary Military Culture

While his thesis is based on historical analysis, Jeff’s research has vital implications for contemporary America. He takes on the notion of American exceptionalism by analyzing the modern U.S. military’s parallels with frontier ideology of the 18th and 19th centuries. In this nuanced and intellectually challenging work, Dietrich explores how the frontier, and later, military life, became testing grounds for individual competence and masculinity. “Together, the frontier and the military have become defining spaces of American life and history that are worth revisiting.”

After the Thesis: Dietrich, who served as president of Community Council, will pursue a master’s degree in international affairs from Northeastern University. He’s also starting a blog focused on military affairs and foreign policy.

Faye Donnelley: Rituals and Remedies: The Supernatural in Medieval Great Britain

Fascinated by the relationship between the Church and non-Christian folk practices, Donnelley delved into the history of practices such as sorcery, witchcraft, prayers, spells, and alchemy to investigate how the Church incorporated folk wisdom and pre-Christian spiritual practices into its doctrine. She questioned how practices came to be considered demonic, holy, or scientific, and how that changed over time. In doing so, she created a more nuanced understanding of how official doctrine and folk traditions interact to create culture.

After the Thesis: Donnelley has been awarded a Fulbright and will spend the next year teaching English to university students in Germany.

Chanese Forté: Health Beneficial Compounds with a Focus on Citrus Limonoid Effects on Cancer

Forté cultured cancerous cells and a variety of common pathogenic bacteria. Her thesis analyzed how limonoid extractions she prepared from citrus fruits would affect growth of the cancerous cells and infection-causing bacteria. Forté found that the same qualities that allow these compounds to support human health may also contain toxic properties. She also provides useful suggestions for further research.

After the Thesis: Forté is currently weighing offers from several medical schools. She plans to practice either emergency medicine or neurosurgery.

Cody Jones: Reading in the End Times: Multilinear Writing as the Beginning of New Theory

Jones’s thesis begins by exploring how video games are redefining literature. Because of the involvement of a player, video games offer a different sort of story than the literature of the past. Jones’s thesis unfolds as a far-reaching analysis of language, narrative, theories of the self, reading, and criticism.

After the Thesis: Jones will spend the next year teaching English while taking French courses at the American University of Paris.

Lindsey Longway: Where Have All the Mushrooms Gone: A Study of Simon’s Rock Ectomycorrhizal Fungi and Their Response to Drought

While she originally hoped to conduct a census of mushrooms on the Simon’s Rock campus, Longway’s research adapted to an unusual challenge: She went hunting for mushrooms and found very few. She recognized that this was the result of an on-going drought, and set about analyzing how the campus ecosystem was adapting to the harsh conditions. Longway’s ability to shift her focus as a result of careful observation demonstrates a classic and prudent use of the scientific method.

After the Thesis: Longway will continue to study mycorrhizal fungi on a Fulbright grant to Slovenia.

Peter Whitesell: Dimensional Shift: A Contextual Study of a Family of Lines

Whitesell approached his thesis as a continuation of his already impressive output of 3D artwork. The thesis was an opportunity to make work on a larger scale and to introduce a new feature: interactivity. He constructed a large-scale sculptural furniture installation based on a digital design he meticulously rendered in laminated styrofoam. “Conceptually, through the development of the forms that make up my body of work, I am creating my own world.”

After the Thesis: Whitesell and fellow graduate Jeb Moore will develop Graphthought, a graphical communication interface which was the subject of Moore’s thesis.