Honors program faculty remove creative project from senior thesis

The college removed the option to submit a creative project as part of the honors program senior thesis for the class of 2022 and onward.

All honors students must complete a thesis project to graduate and, before the program announced the change, students could take one of two available tracks. Students could either write a 50-60 page essay on a topic of their choice or a 30-40 page essay in tandem with a creative project such as a short film, book of poetry, or performance.

Honors students can choose to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts within the college, which includes different graduation requirements depending on the major. In the past, some students chose to use pieces of their BFA work—such as a film or a work of literature—as the project component of their honors thesis, Honors Program Director Wendy Walters said.

Walters said the senior faculty members in the program collectively reached the decision to remove the creative project option to stop students from using the same piece of work for two separate graduation requirements.

“Faculty very strongly feel that the honors program should lead up to a [50-60 page] honors thesis,” Walters said. “That is what the whole curriculum is designed toward.”

She said students often overcome their fear of writing 50-60 pages as they go through the process.

“Many of the top honors theses have been written by folks who did get a BFA,” Walters said. “[They] said that it’s not difficult to write 60 pages once you get into the topic. In fact, people often want to write more than 60 pages.”

Freshman Andie Wong, a visual media arts major in the honors program, said she might have chosen the creative project if it had been offered to her.

 “I didn’t know about it until it was mentioned in a class and it was only ever mentioned once so I never really saw it as an option,” she said. “I just assumed we would have to write a really long paper.”

Sophomore honors student Lily Doolin does not see a problem with senior honors students submitting their BFA work for the thesis.

“I don’t think it’s a way to cheat the system,” Doolin said. “Senior year is especially stressful, and if you want to graduate early, that must be so much work.”

Dean of Liberal Arts Amy Ansell said that honors students are accepted into the program with the expectation of being challenged academically at the same level or higher as other college honors programs nationwide. Ansell said first-year students submit 20-30 page research papers to a National Collegiate Honors Council—this year eight students were accepted to present their papers.

Doolin plans to pursue the 30-40 page thesis with a creative project when she is a senior but does not plan to graduate with a BFA. She said she benefited from writing her 30-page freshman honors paper, but is unsure of how prepared she would feel for writing a 50-60 page senior thesis—students only write a thesis in their first and last year of the program.

“I struggled getting to 30 [pages],” Doolin said. “I don’t know if they expect the gap of time to develop us into 60-page thesis writers. I hope so. I think with the creative option, I am prepared.”

Sophomore Student Government Association Honors Commissioner Daniella Baltazar is a visual and media arts major in the honors program. She hopes to earn a BFA.

“We go to school to create content and create media,” Baltazar said. “By eliminating the creative option, it’s kind of pushing us more toward academics, which isn’t very useful for our career paths.”

As the SGA honors commissioner, Baltazar sent an anonymous survey to students in the program in December 2018 about the recent changes to the thesis requirements and overall satisfaction with the program. Baltazar said some students who responded to the survey felt the honors program considers artistic work less valuable than academic work.

“[Students] feel like the honors program is extremely isolated and does not necessarily work in tandem with the arts curriculum,” Baltazar said.

Doolin said she heard a negative response about the change in the thesis requirement that mainly stemmed from the lack of dialogue between students and faculty.

“It’s a shame that they took the creative element away for freshmen, and I think there has been a large outcry about it,” Doolin said. “If we could sit down and find a compromise, that would have been a whole lot more productive.”

Writing, literature and publishing senior Maya Kaczor is working on a 50-60 page thesis, but she is worried for future honors students who hope to pursue a BFA while in the honors program under the new guidelines.

“For some kids it’s going to be harder, because a BFA takes so long to work on and so much time goes into it—I just hope it’s not overwhelming for people,”  Kaczor said.

Doolin said she couldn’t think of a different solution to students using their BFA work as part of their thesis.

“I think the reason I don’t have an answer is because there was never an open discussion about this,” Doolin said.

Walters said she did not know how much discussion the change created among students.

“Students often get freaked out by a change, but then realize it is not the end of the world,” Walters said. “I don’t think it is that big of a change, to be honest.”

Deputy Enterprise Editor Abigail Hadfield did not edit this article due to a conflict of interest.

 

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