THESISCRAZY 2017 (Part 4): Trapped in the Carrel

“I’m gonna turn in pages, there’ll be words on them. Whatever.”

The hours are ticking down (a fact that we’re sure all you thesis writer s are acutely aware of) and we have more interviews for you! A la R. Kelly a few of you have gotten trapped in the closet–er, carrel–but you haven’t let that stop you from working yourselves into a frenzy this last week before the deadline. You can catch up on the past three THESISCRAZY 2017 installments here, here, and here, and our entire archive here.

If you’re interested in being interviewed (we’ll be posting these right up until the last crazy second), email staff(at)wesleying(dot)org with your name, major, workspace/carrel number, and times you can meet before April 19th.

Check out the interviews below the cut:

Sara Dean ‘17, AMST/PSYCH majors, thesis in AMST, carrel #446

Working title: “My working title is ‘Sesame Street and the Competing Interests of Children’s Television’. I’m less than thrilled about the title, so I’m going to try to make it a little bit more fun, because I don’t think I’m quite doing justice to my topic.”

On her topic: “I’m writing my thesis about Sesame Street. So it’s kind of a comparison between the early show that came out in 1969 and the new show. Within the past two years, there’s been a lot of conversation about Sesame Street, because they switched from being only broadcast on PBS to being partnered primarily with HBO, and then also releasing on PBS. So, there’s been all sorts of news about them having ‘sold-out’ and whatnot. So, I’m kind of doing an analysis of the most recent show – a content analysis and also an analyses of the set – and sort of putting it in the context of the greater trends in children’s television that have been driven, in a large part, by capitalist government policy.”

On how she came up with this topic: “It was a long process to get to where I am now. I wanted to try writing a thesis, and I really wanted to write a thesis with my thesis advisor who I have now, Professor Karamcheti, because I think she’s wonderful. And, I took a really cool junior colloquium with her called ‘Sights of the Self’. It was about about the spaces that inform our identities. So, I was trying to come up with a topic that related to material cultures and public space. And, I also was really interested in education and children. So, I was trying to do something relating to portrayals of public space and how they inform societal understandings of safety because there have been a lot of things in the news over the past couple years about ‘free-range kids’, or whether or not it’s safe for kids to be outside by themselves, and there’s been a dramatic shift in that over that last half of a century. So, I wanted to try to trace it in television. And, I originally had the grand idea that I’d try to do, like, all of children’s television, which was an absolutely ridiculous idea. So, we decided to focus on just one show. And, Sesame Street is the show that’s been around the longest. So, I was originally just looking at portrayals of public space, and how it’s changed. But, when I started researching Sesame Street, there was just so much else there, that I ended up focusing more on the show itself, and its progressions in the larger scheme of things.”

On her progress: “It’s going fine. I’m, you know, trying to be optimistic. My thesis advisor has been setting me really, really big deadlines from early on that I have been consistently failing to meet. So, on the one hand… She said she wanted me to have a draft of my thesis by the end of fall semester. And then she said she wanted me to have a draft of my thesis by the end of winter break. And then she said she wanted me to have a draft of my thesis by the end of February. And I missed every single of those deadlines, like, spectacularly. So, I’ve always felt like I’m kind of behind. But, at the same time, it’s kind of like, you know, I’m getting used to being behind. So, it’s nice. I finally have a draft, but it’s, like, so bad. I’m going to need at least 200 more hours of trying to fix it, that realistically I’m not sure if I’m ever actually going to be happy with how it’s done. But, I’m feeling like we’re close enough now that I could turn this in, and graduate, and leave, and never worry about it again.”

On her current mental state: “Just kind of like scrambling. I feel like I have a tendency to focus too much on self-care sometime, and then end up being really behind on a lot of things. And so I’ve been switching back-and-forth between frantically working and having and having a day where I’m like: ‘I’m just going to breathe today,’ and then realizing that that was a terrible idea. But, yeah, I’m really sleepy, and I’m trying not to be, but it’s hard. It’s going to work out. I’ll make it work. “

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had anything super traumatic, like I never lost all my work or anything, but I would say that, just like, every time I reach a milestone that I’m really proud of, I already know of a million things that I’ve done wrong. Like, I turned in the draft to my thesis advisor yesterday, and she handed me back material from the week before that had a million corrections on it from the week before. So, I already knew that there were bad things in this draft that I’d handed her, as I was giving it in. So, I just feel kind of like there have a lot of consistent, like, ‘I did great! Oh wait, it’s not ever going to be done’ kind of moments. Um, but nothing too terrible. Nothing grand, just a lot of small disappointments.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Last semester I got really into knitting. And I bought all this yarn and started knitting a blanket, and made pretty good progress on it. This semester, I have been doing less of that, because now that I really have to be writing, it’s hard to justify spending several hours knitting a blanket daily. But, I, over the past couple of weeks actually, I’ve gotten really into making omelettes. Not like thousands of omelettes, but I’ll spend a lot longer making an omelette than is necessary. And I’ve done, like, research on omelette-making techniques. And, I’ve gotten really good at it. I went from never having made an omelette before to being, I would say, a solid omelette maker.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “Two things. The first thing is that, pushing yourself to write early is actually incredibly helpful, even if it’s like you’re not actually trying to write your chapter but just writing out your ideas. Or recording yourself talking and then writing down what you said. Because, there are so many times when my advisor made me hand in small assignments, last semester, that I then have taken text and put it into my actual thesis. The other thing that I’d say is, find a group of actual people and write together with them. Because, me and some other people started doing that over spring break, and we’ll do timed intervals where we do 15 minutes of writing and then a 15 minute break, and somehow doing it all together makes it so much easier to get writing done.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “I think my favorite part of my thesis is either having pictures from Sesame Street – I haven’t finished totally integrating this yet, but I’m going to have pictures and let the reader do some analysis themself – or, I have this really long section that talks about this parody of Orange is the New Black that’s on one of the new Sesame Street episodes – it’s called ‘Orange is the New Snack’ – and I think I did some good thinking on that one.”

On her thesis as a TV show: “It would definitely be Sesame Street. Just a much more, like, sleep-deprived version.”

Most-used word/phrase: “I want to say, ‘parody’. In Chapter 3, I say the word ‘parody’ like, probably 200 times. I kept trying to be, like, ‘what synonyms can I use?’, and it really was the most appropriate word to be using.”

Plans for April 19th: “I am going to be on the Olin steps, living it up as dramatically as possible. I actually have class that night, from 7-10. It’s kind of important that I go, because it’s a class where we partner with a community partner from the greater Wesleyan communities, and we have a feedback session with them that night, which is terribly scheduled. But, I’m going to try to, you know, hold off on the getting dramatically crunk until after that. And then, you know, let it happen.”

On questions she wished I’d asked: “A thesis carrel tour would be a fun thing to include. I don’t really have my thesis carrel set up. I had a plan to decorate it, but…”

Casey Smith, ‘17, CSS with International Relations and Middle East Studies certificates, thesis in CSS, carrel #338

Working title: “Between Security and Protection: Refugee Policy Dilemmas in Jordan”

On her topic: “I am studying refugee policy in Jordan, and I’m writing about how international organizations – and specifically the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – handle the state’s national security emphasis and their refugee policies. So, basically, I did fieldwork in Jordan last summer, where I interviewed UN agencies, other, international non-governmental organizations, and just a variety of different aid practitioners and government officials about their work and about aid agency-government relations, and so I’m using that to make a political theory argument. And also writing a bit about Jordan’s history with refugees and different factors underlying this specific approach to refugees.”

On how she came up with this topic: “I spent my fall semester of my junior year in Jordan, and I was interning for an NGO while I was studying abroad. And, there were a bunch of different events involving the refugee populations that we were working with – there was a major deportation, there was always restricting of refugees’ rights in Jordan that I was hearing about while I was there – and it kind of became clear that UN agencies, which I thought would have more leverage to prevent this kind of thing, weren’t being very vocal about different policy changes, weren’t necessarily having as much influence as I thought they would. So, I was interested to go back and interview people involved in policy negotiations and decisions and just sort of see what that relationship between the state and the agencies is actually like.”

On her progress: “The progress has been, I think, good. I’ve just sort of been editing. I’m waiting for a final round of feedback from my advisor. I have a couple of friends who did thesis in past years who have agreed to read parts of it. So, I’m kind of just waiting to see what their feedback was and make one last round of revisions. So, it’s been good, it’s been an interesting process.”

On her current mental state: “Honestly, it’s up and down. I think overall pretty good, like I’ve been getting sleep and trying to, you know, do other things as well to keep my mind occupied. But, some days, you feel very much like, ‘This is the last thing I want to be thinking about.’ And some days, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is such a great opportunity and such a cool experience!’ At this point I’m just excited to have it be finished and just feel like I can focus on other things.”

On her most upsetting thesis experience: “So, I got a Davenport Grant from Wesleyan to do my research in Jordan over the summer, and, you have to get it approved by the institution when you’re doing research, mostly for ethical concerns, and just to see if they’re going to allow your project. And, with mine, they got back to me with some normal feedback, like, ‘We’d like to see some changes in your methodology,’ which was totally normal and great. But, then they also said, ‘We don’t think that students should be going to regions like this to do research, because we think it may not be safe for you.’ And, I didn’t really know how to respond to that. And so, I ended up having to get my department and Global Studies – one of the advisors there was really helpful – just to kind of document that Jordan is a place where US students can go safely. And, that was pretty frustrating, because it would have prevented the project from even really happening.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “I loved watching The Bachelor when that was happening. I love watching Samantha Bee. I like listening to podcasts, too, like I’ve been listening to Pod Save America, which is this politics podcast, so, just normal, I guess.”

On her advice for future thesis writers: “I think a few things. I mean, I’m sure everyone’s been saying, ‘start early,’ which is true, start early. I would also say that the advisor is really important, and that finding an advisor who you get along with, and who values your project, is really helpful. So, thinking really early, even if the advisor’s specialty is something different, do you get along with them and are they going to be able to work with you. And then, also, I had a chance to present my thesis at a conference last semester in Boston for the Middle East Studies Association, and I thought that was so valuable. I got to talk to different faculty, who actually studied Middle East Studies, and who really gave good insight into my project and helped drive the process. So, I think any opportunity to talk to faculty from other universities or speak about your work in public, if you can find an opportunity to do that, that can be really useful, because Wesleyan is a small school. And, stay positive! It is a really great opportunity.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “I guess I have one favorite chapter, which is Chapter 4, where I kind of go in depth about all of the quotes from my interviews, and look at what people were saying. And, that’s where I use the twenty or so interviews that I did to derive the issues that were coming up across a lot of different interviews, and then talk about how that reflects on the theory about UNHCR and about refugee law. That’s probably my favorite chapter because it feels like I have the most ownership over it. It feels the most original.”

If her thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “That’s hard. I don’t really know, because it’s a very serious thesis – it’s not very fun in any way. This is probably not a fun answer, again, but I just saw this documentary called After Spring that’s about refugee policy and refugees in Jordan. And, I just thought that if my thesis were a movie, I would want it to be that movie, because it was a very compassionate film. They also did some interviews with different aid organizations about policy, and it wasn’t just about the policy and underlying issues, but also about the lived experience of some refugees, and when I watched it, it reminded me of some of the conversations that I had when I was in Jordan. So, hopefully that movie, even though it’s not particularly well-known.”

On the most used word/phrase: “It’s sort of what the title would imply – I say ‘security’ a lot and ‘protection’ a lot, because my thesis is about, theoretically, what does security really mean when we’re talking about national security, and what is that referring to? And, when we talk about refugee protection, what does that mean, as well?

On her plans for April 19th: “I mean, obviously everyone must be saying, ‘I’m gonna get drunk,’ which, of course, I’m going to drink champagne. But, I’m also just going to clean my room, and see friends I haven’t seen in awhile, and just take walks, and go outside more. So, just a return to normalcy.”

On questions she wished I’d asked: “Well, you asked what my worst experience was, but you didn’t ask about my best. I think, honestly, I love my advisor – she’s the best. It’s been so wonderful working with her. I think one of the biggest intangibles of doing a thesis is that you get to know a professor so well, and you get to have this one-on-one process that you don’t really get in any other experience in your time at Wesleyan. And so, even if the final product is flawed, or isn’t exactly what I set out for it to be, just having gotten the chance to work with her was a really wonderful part of my senior year.”

Emma Davis ‘17 COL major, writing certificate, thesis in COL, no carrel

Working title: “My working title, which my advisor thinks is silly because it sounds like a children’s book, is ‘The Adventures of Alexander.’”

On her topic: “I’m doing a graphic novel adaptation of a 3rd-4th century text about Alexander the Great, and it combines the historical and the fantastical. I’m working with a professor in COL who is the one who taught the class where I first read the book, and then also Julia Randall who is a drawing professor. I’m also getting advice from my comics professor for the comics class that I’m taking.”

On how she came up with her topic: “We read the book for the Middle Ages Colloquium last year in the fall, and it’s super vivid. There are a lot of battles, and he meets the Amazons, he flies above the world on the backs of griffins… So when I was reading it I was like, ‘Wow! This would make an amazing graphic novel!’ which happens to be a medium that I love. You can see the stack of them on my kitchen table. And so I talked to Professor Torgerson who was leading the class about it, and he was like, ‘Yeah! I agree with you!’ It turns out I’m not the first person to think that; there’s a whole tradition of people who have illustrated this. It was a really popular subject for illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages. It was actually one of the main ways people learned about Alexander, even though there are lots of things that are factually incorrect. So I started researching that tradition, and it’s also been translated into various different languages. There are like 22 different versions that I found that are available through Wesleyan’s library alone. I decided to do my graphic novel using visual and narrative references from all those different stories.”

On her progress: “God, um… you know, it’s funny because every stage I’ve had to kind of come up with and then complete. In the fall I spent a lot of time doing character sketches, and that seemed like it would never end and there wouldn’t be an actual graphic novel. And then in the spring, I did 45 pages of thumbnails, which are sketches to show what the story will look like on the page, and now I’ve drawn 26 final pages, so I have another 19 to do.” [michelle: Is there a written component as well?] Yeah, absolutely, it’s just the script is one of the last things. I’m working primarily from one translation of the ancient Greek manuscript and I’m also drawing in photoshop, so I can just go in and type everything, whereas the drawings take a while. There’s also an essay, but it’s only like 10-15 pages. I’m also conceiving of it as the introduction to the text itself, cause I want it to be readable. And there are a lot of fun visual aids that I get to throw in, like the character sketches, some of the thumbnails, images from the illuminated manuscripts that I’m using… it’s a hodge-podge.”

On her current mental state: “Actually comparatively relaxed. Last night after six hours of classes, I came home and worked on it a little bit, so I’m proud of myself for that, patted myself on the back. Normally, quite panicked and worried about the state of my hand because I’ve been drawing for 12-hour days, and so it’s getting to the point where I need a little ibuprofen to get going *laughs* Also I’m just pushing to the back of my mind anything that’s not thesis related. *laughs* As long as I have groceries and occasionally do my laundry and get it finished.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Oh my god, so even though I’m drawing digitally, I’ve had my share of technical issues. The tablet that my parents gave me for Christmas had a pen that malfunctioned, and it’s probably because I took my tablet in my backpack a lot of places while I was riding my bike over potholes, and I suspect it jammed the pen. Anyway, what the pen did is scatter marks across the page. It was like a spasm of clicking, which when you’re working in Photoshop can be really, really terrifying because there are tools like a paint bucket which literally just spills a bucket of paint all over your work. So it started doing that, and I was in the middle of drawing a page that I had been working on for a really long time, and all of a sudden it was like BOOM, the whole thing was black. And it spasmed so many times that I couldn’t hit control-Z, it was too late. All I could do was quit photoshop *laughs* and hope that I had saved recently enough that I wouldn’t lose all of my work. And luckily I didn’t, but oh my god it was so scary.”

Favorite form of procrastination: “Okay, so I have been thinking about this. I’m like an organizing nut, so I like to buy organizational supplies on Amazon. I recently bought some bamboo boxes for my underwear drawer, so now I can tell exactly how desperate my laundry situation is getting. *laughs* I also have gotten myself back into Parks and Rec, though I don’t really consider it procrastination, it’s more of a healthy break. Other things: I had an ant infestation, so I spent a lot of time killing ants while I was drawing *laughs* and this past Sunday–my thesis advisor told me I should tell you this story–I had a job interview thingy, and all of the laundry machines were broken in high rise, so I said ‘Screw it!’ and I did all of my laundry by hand in the bathtub, which I don’t recommend *laughs* So yeah, those are some of my favorite forms. Oh, also making mochi, which is this super-glutinous dessert which I discovered you can make in the microwave, it’s pretty much just sweet rice flour and water, and I like to put Nutella on it but you really don’t have to. The problem is that I got so into it that I got into it enough that I took a hunk of it to my publishing class, and so I was just sitting there munching on what looked like a mass of dried glue, which I’m sure was really weird and awkward looking from the outside *laughs*”

Advice for future thesis writers: “I’ve actually given this advice to a friend of mine who is also in COL: When it comes to picking your advisor, look for someone you get along with on an interpersonal level. You’re gonna be doing most of the research (and writing and maybe drawing if that’s what you’re doing) by yourself, so I think it’s just as important that they be someone you want to hang out with.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “I think a lot of my favorite things about my thesis are the things that have scared me the most, that really pushed me and let me know what I’m capable of achieving. So when I was first did the sketches, I was like, ‘Oh my god! I just drew 45 pages!’ and now that I’m doing the final drawings and I’m over that hump of ‘What if they’re crap?’ I’m feeling more confident, and really excited to be discovering my style!”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/TV show: “I would like to think of it as a memoir about the traumatic experience of a girl who had never drawn more than 1-5 full pages of comics writing a 45-page graphic novel. So something like, ‘My Mother Didn’t Totally Know What She’s Doing.’”

On what any questions she wished we asked: “What was one of your biggest fears of your thesis process? I work at Red & Black Cafe, which is a job that requires doing a lot with my hands, so I’m always terrified that I would slice a finger and be permanently impaired/not be able to finish my thesis. *laughs*  And unfortunately I’ve sort of already acted on that fear: I was slicing bread at home, and I stabbed a finger (luckily it was on my left hand and not on my right hand that I draw with, and I burned my right hand at work… So yeah, I’m treating these puppies like precious objects!”

On her plans for April 19th: “Champagne and enjoying the sun on Foss, then making all the projects from the DIY videos I’ve been watching as procrastination. Who wants a wine crate coffee table?!!”

May Treuhaft-Ali ‘17 THEA major, thesis in THEA, carrel #447

Working title: “The play has a title, and it’s ‘Through Everchanging Tracks of Neverchanging Space’ which is a quote from Ulysses. And I’m not sure if I want to also call my essay ‘Through Everchanging Tracks of Neverchanging Space,’ I don’t know if that’s a cop out…. I’m also playing with the idea of calling the essay, ‘Every Story is a Travel Story.’”

On her topic: “The way theater theses work, at least for directing, is you write a 30-50 page research essay and then you do a play alongside that. So it’s this kind of ‘practice-is-research/research-is-practice’ kind of thing. So you’re writing about all this theory, and then you’re implementing it, and then you’re analyzing your own play and sort of reading it and applying all the different theories to it.”

On how she thought of her topic: “I read Ulysses for the first time in a class my senior year of high school, and I totally fell in love. It’s just, it’s a story about how to love and be kind and be generous with other people, and I feel like a lot of the messages about just being a person in the world who is kind and a good member of their community is stuff that I’ve taken with me. And it’s sexy, it’s political, it’s silly, there are a million fart jokes in it… so I kind of fell in love. And then the summer after my freshman year, I was working in London, and I went to Dublin for Bloomsday. Bloomsday is this Ulysses festival that happens every year on June 16th. June 16th is the day that Ulysses takes place, so the whole book happens over the span of 24 hours, and the characters go all over Dublin. So the way Bloomsday works is that you go to all the different locations that the characters go to at the times that they go there, and you read the text aloud. And I started thinking, ‘Hey, this is very performative. Why is that the way people celebrate this book is that people come together, strangers from all over the world, and they share a certain space and a certain time together, and they recite text aloud and sometimes act it out?’ And there was kind of, there were inklings of site-specific theater already in there, so that’s when I started to see the book as a site-specific play.”

On her progress: “My progress? Well the play happens next weekend, April 13th-15th, so right now, kind of my biggest stress is figuring out how to balance revising my essay with being in tech for a play. Yeah, I’m realizing I won’t get a full day of essay work to myself until three days before the essay due date, which is a little nerve-wracking. But I’m halfway through revising it, it’s a 50-page essay and a lot of the material is there. I don’t think anything’s too terrible that it has to be completely rewritten. So I hope I’ll be fine. Who knows? I’m very stressed but very happy!”

On her current mental state: “I think my actors would tell you it’s somewhere between kooky director and wine-mom *laughs* Yeah, it’s kind of like–I call them all my babies, they are my children–every time I sit down to write the essay, someone needs me to change their diaper, someone’s always needing something for the production. I’m in a million different places at once, but I leave every rehearsal feeling really happy and really fulfilled, even if I am exhausted.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Oh man, so it’s site-specific, and it’s in Olin, so there are all kinds of rules about when we can be in Olin so that people don’t hate us. And we’ve just sort of been tip-toeing around Olin rules and figuring out how to make the Olin staff not get angry at us all semester. And then over spring break I was here, and I didn’t realize that Olin had different hours over spring break. So I’m working on my essay, being really productive, and feeling really good, and then I notice that my light in my carrel has been off for a while. And I wave my arms around to try the motion sensor and it’s not working and I’m like, ‘This isn’t good.’ So I check the Olin hours, and lo and behold, I’ve been there for two hours after closing time. And I really freaked out because I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re gonna find me here and be like, “This troublemaker.” And they’re gonna cancel my performance!’ And I was like, ‘If I turn myself in to P-Safe, they’ll know it was me, and I’ll get in trouble with Olin, and they’re just gonna kick us out.” So that was a stressful moment.

Favorite form of procrastination: “Hmm… Drinking Irish liquor. It’s nice because I can justify it as ‘research’ because it’s immersion into James Joyce’s culture. I have a whiskey called Writer’s Tears that I got from Ireland.”

Advice for future thesis writers: “I guess this is specific for art theses. The cool thing about doing an art thesis is you get a whole year, and a lot of resources, human and material, to do something that in the real world maybe wouldn’t make money. And getting that kind of time and those resources for something that maybe no one would ever want to pay for is never gonna happen again, so do something that scares you, do something that you have no idea how it’s going to go, do something that you don’t know if it’s gonna be good or not, because you’re never gonna get the chance to just experiment and push your own limits in the same way. I think what’s been really cool about this is that it’s totally unlike anything that I’ve ever done before, and I kind of feel like if I can do this wild play, I can do anything. So that’s a really cool feeling, just feeling like I’ve challenged myself.

On her favorite part: “Working with my actors. The cool thing is that even though I’m the person who has lived with this project the longest, they never treat me like I’m the authority in the room, which is what I want. I want them to form their own relationships with the text and with the ideas in the text, and not just rely on my to tell them what to think about it. And they’ve really done that. My favorite thing is when they have a conversation about the play, and I get to sit back and just listen, and everything they’re saying I think is really cool, and I just get to let them figure it out on their own without having to control every step of the process. And then I think my favorite part of the essay is just, there have been so many moments where I’ve written something and thought, ‘Oh, I’ve put this vague thought I’ve had about the book since the first time I read it into words, and I was never quite able to articulate why I felt like these things were connected, or why I thought this thing was important, and then I just did!’ That’s a really cool feeling.”

On anything she wished we asked: “I guess about the weird reactions we’ve gotten rehearsing in here. I have to say people have been really good about it, like people usually just laugh. People have snapchatted us a lot. It’s kind of affirmed my faith in Wesleyan. We have a child-birthing scene, so people have definitely been kind of confused. People have kind of peeked into Microforms and been like, ‘What’s going on in here?’ But for the most part people just kind of laugh, and it’s been fun!”

On her plans for April 19th: “Obviously drinking champagne on the steps. It’s gonna be really poignant for me because this is where my performance is, so I get to celebrate basically in my theater. And I want all of my actors to be there and celebrate with me. Kinda just running around and seeing all the friends that I haven’t really communicated with in the past week.”

Rebecca Hutman ‘17 CSS major, thesis in CSS, no carrel

Working title: “Building Houses and Loyalty: Realizing Participation in Morocco’s Slum Eradication Program”

On her topic: “My thesis is about the slum eradication program in Morocco that was launched in 2003, and it talks about whether and how residents were able to participate in the transformation of their “slum quality” neighborhoods. And it kind of traces how a lot of geopolitical transitions – whether that’s the increase of security risk or the Arab Spring – informed and shaped the extent to which the government lets residents participate in these processes.”

On how she came up with this topic: “I studied abroad in Morocco last fall… Fall of 2015. And I did this program where they let us choose our own independent study project, and it kind of just grew from there. So I did some interviews, wrote a little bit about it, then kind of shoved it away for a while…and then when it came time to think about, ‘What do you want to write your thesis on?’, that idea was still there for me. And I got to go back this summer to do additional research. So it’s grown and evolved over time.”

On her progress: “I think what’s been weird, and stressful but also nice about this, is that I’ve really done this at my own pace. I wrote a big chunk of it over the summer, based on just the interviews I did. And then I wrote another chapter over winter break, another chapter over spring break…so on the one hand, it’s been nice because I haven’t had to do…like, I’ve been busy this year, and so I haven’t had to do that much during school. But on the other hand, that’s been kind of crazy stressful, because I read all my chapters about a month ago, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, these aren’t cohesive at all!’ I have a lot of friends who saved all their writing for second semester, and I think during first semester, when I had a good number of pages, I was like, ‘Yeah! I’m so on top of it!’ But I think the merit of writing it, like, all kind of consolidated towards the end is that at least it’s going to be cohesive. Mine is like, I’ve got pages but do they fit into the same thesis? We’ll see.”

On her current mental state: “Truly fluctuating, and the weird thing is, we’re a week out but…I’ve been so annoying about this, but the thing that’s stressing me out right now is by tomorrow I have to decide between two jobs, and whether or not I’m going to live in New York or San Francisco. So that’s been totally consuming my brain. I have some friends who are really managing to be cool, calm, and collected about it, which I’m really impressed by. But I think there’s this whole, like, ‘Oh my god, this week determines your whole life,’ and that so isn’t true. But I think the job choice is compounding that to make this week feel more epic than it really is. Like, the stakes aren’t that high. I’m gonna turn in pages, there’ll be words on them. Whatever.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “It was either a month ago, when I read my three chapters together and was like, ‘Oh my god, I have three different theses that don’t fit together at all,’ or a few days ago, I realized that I spent the last month doing a round of edits on all my chapters. And I was using ‘Track changes.’ So one night, I was like, ‘I’m going to accept all the changes!’ and instead I rejected a month’s worth of edits. So I’m trying to not cry about it and just do it again.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “Discussing Keeping Up with the Kardashians and a lot of random pop culture business with my two friends, Tanaya Srini ‘15 and Rachel Lim ‘14. They keep me sane.”

Her advice for future thesis writers: “’Chose something you’re interested in’ is really cliche. Be open to the fact that your thesis is going to change a lot, and let it happen. I think one of the biggest regrets I have is that, in some cases, I haven’t been willing to let go of my initial ideas, and I think that’s what’s making my thesis the kind of not-cohesive mess that it is. Like instead I could say, ‘Okay, Rebecca, that was version one,’ and [recognize that] it’s changed a little bit. But yeah, be open to the change. And also, enjoy it, because it’s very cool you get to focus on something that you find very interesting for a year. You get supported in your inquiry, and you’re given the time and space to really delve into something that you find interesting.”

Her most-used word/phrase: “Probably ‘participation,’ ‘implementation,’ ‘resident’… ‘terrorism’ makes a few appearances.”

Her favorite part of her thesis: “I start with an ethnographic section that just talks through a lot of the interviews that I got to conduct, while I was doing research. That was the most fun to write because I was able to almost relive experiences, learning from really inspirational, incredible people. That was the most fun to write, and I think that comes across in reading it. It seems meaningful, and not just like, ‘Numbers numbers, theory theory, numbers numbers.’”

If her thesis was a song/movie/TV show, what would it be: “This is probably just because I was talking to my little cousins today on the phone, but one of the throughlines of my thesis is that it’s important to give residents and people the agency to shape the communities that they live in. And for some reason, the thing that that’s triggering is Bob the Builder. Like, the theme song of Bob the Builder. Because he, like, builds a lot of things! I don’t stand by that answer, but that’s definitely my gut reaction, having talked to some five- and seven-year-olds this morning.”

On her plans for April 19th: “I have a really long list of Netflix shows that I want to watch, so I’ll probably start doing that. Sleep – this is so cliche, everyone says they’re going to sleep, but I really…the dark circles under my eyes are too much right now. Yeah, sleep and Netflix. Obviously champagne.”

Emily Butcher ‘17 DANCE major, thesis in DANCE, carrel #421

Working title: “Treating the Trick: Choreographic Methods in Contemporary Circus”

On her topic: “I’m studying and performing contemporary circus, which is this weird, postmodern take on using circus technique with dramaturgy. And it’s sort of dance and it’s sort of theater, and interdisciplinary, but at times also exclusively circus. It’s a little hard to pin down, so I spend a lot of time talking about the history of circus and establishing where it even came from, because it’s been on this trajectory that’s separate from these forms of performance that we consider ‘high art,’ like dance and theater. But now it’s taking the same stages and drawing the same choreographic methods. It’s using very much the same practices and following in the trajectory of dance history. So I’m analyzing it both from a choreographic and historical perspective.”

On how she came up with this topic: “I’ve been doing circus for some years now, and when I started taking circus training more seriously, it was around the same time that I started doing dance more seriously at Wesleyan, and starting to interrogate these very semiotic vocabularies within the dance department, as opposed to these strictly technical vocabularies in my circus training. Out of a curiosity to parse that, I wanted to understand this form of contemporary circus that’s very much the kind of dance I studied at Wesleyan.”

On her progress: “I definitely wrote a lot more after winter break than before. And I think it was way too late in the process, but I really found my swing in spring break. That was when I was really turning out so many pages. I think it’s because I spent so much of first semester absorbing material. And also, for the dance major, you have to do this choreographic performance component. So I was spending so much time in rehearsals, both last semester and this semester, and planning those rehearsals. This semester, I was sewing my own costume pieces, so that was another huge chunk of time that I wasn’t writing. So I think I was vastly more productive in times when I was off-campus, I was home, and I could just think about the writing process.”

On her current mental state: “Very iffy. I have never had a caffeine addiction this bad before. Like, medium – I’ll be okay.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Probably when I put my full draft together and it was 40 pages too long. It’s not supposed to be longer than 100 pages, but they give you a little flexibility. My advisor’s been really chill about it and seems to understand, but I’m still uncertain about inflicting so many extra pages.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “I’ve been going down these rabbit holes in my research where I’ll find something really interesting, and then waste two hours. Like I was trying to find this script, this melodrama written for Isaac Van Amburgh, two lions, two tigers, and a pack of hyenas. [claire: Wait, this is a film?] No, it’s a play! They did it live! And so I spent way too long trying to figure out more info about that. But not because it has anything to do with my topic.”

On her plans for April 19th: “Definitely a lot of champagne. And sleeping.”

Her advice for future thesis writers: “It’s obvious, but pick something that you’re really excited about, and that you can talk about for 100 pages or so. Choose a passion and roll with it.”

Her most-used word/phrase (in the written component): Probably ‘contemporary.’ In both the sense of ‘contemporary circus’ and ‘contemporary times.’”

Her favorite part of her thesis: “In my spring [dance performance] piece, I was working with Emma Pasarow ‘18, who is magic. She’s amazing. And we did this apple-juggling sequence. We used, like, 60 apples in every performance. But we choreographed this partner-juggling, where I was balancing apples on my head and my knee, and she was doing this wacky contact juggling trick, and we tossed them between each other. It was so hard, and we didn’t do it without stakes until opening night, and then did it perfectly every night of the show. I think that was definitely my favorite achievement.”

If her thesis was a song/movie/TV show, what would it be: “Have you seen Mirror Mask? It’s this super weird Jim Henson movie written by Neil Gaiman. I think it’s British, but produced by Sony. And it’s so weird – it’s about this girl who lives in a circus family and gets into a fight and ends up within this fantasy world. It’s this complete departure from reality, and it’s very abstract.”

Carolina Elices ‘17 ARHA and ENGL double major, thesis in both, carrel #401

Working title: “The Preservation of Memories, Histories, Fellowships, Fraternities: Thomas Hardy and the Victorian Restoration/Preservation Debate”

On her topic: “I talk about the Victorian author Thomas Hardy, who is a 19th-century author, probably best known for works like Jude the Obscure, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Mayor of Casterbridge, Far from the Madding Crowd… But what many people don’t know is that he was an architect before he became an author. And at this time, in the Victorian age, there was a debate going on about the best way to maintain historical buildings, whether they should preserve them or restore them. And I talk about how Hardy’s career restoring churches impacted his novels, and how he ends up turning away from restoration in favor of preservation, and then how his definition of preservation appears in three of his novels.”

On how she came up with the topic: “I read Tess of the d’Urbervilles last summer, and I really loved it. And I met with my now-advisor, Professor Weiner, and we were trying to brainstorm thesis topics and I mentioned how much I love Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Thomas Hardy. And I was originally just going to do an English thesis, but then she mentioned that he was an architect before he became an author. And so I thought I would look into that and make it a thesis in both [majors], and it ended up working out.”

On her progress: “I started doing research over the summer, which I think really helped. That was when I did the bulk of my research, and also just formulating what I wanted to talk about in my thesis. I would say I was more productive last semester. I did a lot of writing, I wrote my first chapter. I was also productive this semester, but I don’t know, I’ve been less motivated.”

On all the books in her carrel: “Yep, all of these books are for my thesis.”

On her current mental state: “I am very excited for this to be done. I’ve enjoyed writing this thesis, it’s been fun, but there have definitely been some hard moments. And at this point, I’m just picturing myself with my bottle of champagne on the Olin steps. That’s what’s getting me through.”

On her most traumatic thesis experience: “Almost getting locked in Olin over winter break. When I was writing, I was very deep into it, and I was just in my carrel, and all of a sudden I hear this booming voice in the hallway like, ‘The library is now closed!’ I was like ‘Oh no!’ I ran out, and the library was dark, no lights were on. I went to the lobby, and luckily there were some other thesis writers who’d also gotten stuck in the library. But we had to wait half an hour for PSafe to get us out.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “I have three forms of procrastination. I watch a lot of YouTube videos – I’ve really gotten into this BuzzFeed series called ‘BuzzFeed Unsolved,’ which is about true crimes, like unsolved murders and whatnot. And they talk about possible theories, like who did them and why, and it’s really cool. Another form of procrastination is just having a dance party, like sometimes I’ll just crank up the music and dance in here. And then sometimes when I’m feeling really restless, and I need to just get out of here, I’ll walk around the stacks, because there’s something comforting about so many books. It just relaxes me.”

Her advice for future thesis writers: “Definitely start researching as early as you can. I definitely recommend starting over the summer, because I feel like that’s what’s helped me be pretty on top of things and be considerably less stressed than a lot of other thesis writers that I know. And also, definitely pick something that you’re super passionate about, and that you’ll want to keep working on, because it is a marathon as opposed to a sprint. You’re going to be spending a year working on it, so you definitely want it to be something that you really love.”

Her most-used word/phrase: “Probably ‘preservation.’ Or ‘Thomas Hardy.'”

Her favorite part of her thesis: “Definitely my second chapter, which is the literary analysis of the three novels that have themes of preservation in them. That was what I wrote last semester, and that was what I had the most fun writing, because I was just analyzing novels. That’s sort of my favorite thing to do.”

If her thesis was a song/movie/TV show, what would it be: “I would say that it’s a modern retelling of a classic novel, because it can be a little staid and boring sometimes, but I like to think that it’s more fresh and exciting than an older adaptation. Maybe like Clueless or another great modern update of a classic novel.”

On her plans for April 19th: “Absolutely champagne. A mix of partying and sleeping.”

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Interviews by k8michelleand claire