THESISCRAZY 2019 (Part 2): Em, Emm & Emma

Things are getting dire in the CSS Lounge: “Send Help” + a very ambitious chapter schedule!

Welcome to the second installment of THESISCRAZY 2019! We had some technical difficulties and lost this post when our site went down (always save your work, friends!!!), but we’re back and better than ever now!

It’s getting close to the deadline (FIVE MORE DAYS AAAHHHHH) and we know you’re looking for an excuse to procrastinate/distract you from the weekend of work ahead. Just know that all of us here at Wesleying believe in you!! You’ve got this!!

In addition to today’s post, you can read part one of this year’s series here, and past years’ posts here.

Today, we have three Emmas who are writing three super-cool theses! Check out their interviews below the jump!

Emma Graham ’19, CCIV & COL majors, thesis in both, no carrel

Working Title: “’Work at the Villa: Self-Representation and Productivity Outside of the City in Ancient Rome.’ I feel like you need to put a colon in; like, come on.”

On her topic: “In Rome there is this thing called otium. It’s really hard to translate into English because it can be sometimes positive and sometimes negative, so the way that I translate it is “leisure time.” So these elite men would go out of the city and they would have these super luxurious villas either in the countryside or in the seashore, and what I’m looking into is textual representations of the villa versus archaeological remains that we have. So I look into three different authors — two of them write about their own villas, and one of them writes about other people’s villas — and I’m looking into the discrepancies between the written accounts and the remains.”

On how she came up with topic: “So I studied abroad in Rome, which is such a basic [phrase] — ‘Oh, I went abroad in Rome!’ It was a classic program where we pretty much focused on ancient Rome and we took this field trip to Naples and we saw twenty huge villas in one day. And I was so tired; I remember crying on the bus, like ‘I can’t do it,’ and then we went to one of the villas, and we were reading this passage from Pliny the Younger in Latin and it was kind of about the villa — not the specific one we were at but just about villas — and I was like ‘Wow, this is really amazing, I’m in this ancient space and I’m reading Pliny the Younger and it’s all connecting.’ So that’s kind of where it started.”

On her current mental State: “Uh… Panic? There’s a lot of coffee, and it’s kind of like a low hum, in the back of everything; like a low scream, following me around.”

On her most upsetting experiences: “When I didn’t get a carrel, I cried. A lot. And this was early on. I didn’t carrel and I was like ‘I can’t do it. I should drop my thesis.’ But I recovered — I recently had a moment where I thought the battery on my laptop was dying and I thought I would lose all of my work, but it was a ten minute panic and it was solved. But other than that it’s been okay.”

On her lack of Carrel: “So I have this desk that I sort of treat as my carrel — all of my shit is on there, like tons of books, spread out. There’s a bunch of people who also didn’t get carrels around there. You make due.”

On her plans for April 16: “I need to get my alcohol ready. I think I need to get two different types of champagne: one cheap one that I can pop, and then I need to figure out what I’m drinking after. And then I need to sleep. And do all the shit that I haven’t done.”

On her advice for future thesis writers: “I would say if your idea changes dramatically, don’t worry about it. I think a lot of people come in and they’re like, ‘I’m writing about this, and this is my thesis.’ I think that honestly never happens, that you end up writing about what you thought you’d be writing about… So when you’re researching, keep an open mind… And everything takes like three times longer than you think it will.”

On her favorite part of the thesis: “I made a map and it’s pretty cool. It’s just a very basic map of Italy, with six different stars, and those are the six villas that I talk about. I was like, ‘This seems slightly professional.’”

Her most repeated word/phrase: “I think I say the word ‘villa’ every other word. Also I have a lot of ‘howevers’ in there because I don’t know how to connect my thoughts, so I just throw in a ‘however.’”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “What I have done to procrastinate a lot is trying to figure out who the scholars I’m reading actually are. So I’ll like look on their websites and try to figure out where they went to college, how old are they? One of them actually direct messaged me on academia.edu. What happened was that I was reading a lot of his work, and I assume nobody else reads this stuff — because it’s just archaeological reports on this one villa site, and how many people are actually doing research on this? So I was reading a bunch of his stuff and then I found out that he went to Wesleyan. And I think you can see who’s reading your scholarship on academia.edu. So the next day I get this DM from him saying, ‘Are you a student at my alma mater, Wesleyan U?’ And I was like, ‘Indeed!’ It was cool! And then he responded back: ‘Yeah, your advisor is my BFF, blah blah, ask me if you need any help, here’s my real email.’ So that’s kind of sweet.”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/TV Show: “If it was a song it would be a combination of two songs. The first one would be ‘Take me Home, Country Roads’ because it’s about the countryside and the relationship people have to the land. But it’s also about extreme wealth, so maybe ‘Seven Rings’ or something? Where you’re trying to create your own mythology about your wealth. But it’s also connected to the land. So maybe a combination of the two.”

Anything else? “I think a lot of coffee is involved, so the shout out to coffee is important.”

On her theses feces: “I think [my poop has been] kind of okay, because one of the things I do to procrastinate is drink a lot of water and also eat hearty meals because I’m like ‘Oh, a good break will be walking to the bathroom.’ [Gestures to fourth floor Olin bathroom]. That bathroom.”

Emma Rose Borzekowski ‘19, CSS major, Planetary Science minor, thesis in CSS, carrel #405 (shared)

Working Title: “I don’t have one yet… that will definitely be figured out in the next week. The one I used for my Davenport was ‘Your ResLife Hat is Always On,’ because that’s a thing that we were told all the time in ResLife, and it gets to some of the tension about where you can and can’t leave the job. But my thesis is more broad than that, so it’s not gonna be that.”

On her topic: “It’s about undergraduate student worker unionization efforts, so I’m looking at how this has happened on private, elite school campuses. I am studying the tactics that student workers use to organize, especially in light of a 2016 NLRB decision that allowed students at private schools to organize. I’m trying to understand what this means about a new sphere of workers developing an identity as workers.”

On how she came up with her topic: “I have worked on campus for the past 4 years, and in that time I’ve also worked with a lot of other student workers. Starting sophomore year, I got more involved in doing labor solidarity actions. In spaces like USLAC, we talked a lot about using our position as students to support campus workers, but we didn’t ever really talk about how, as workers ourselves, we could mobilize and organize. In that work, seeing other workers organize, and having advice from the labor movement, I began to think about my own work more critically. And, at the same time, a friend of mine who worked on campus in an academic department was fired from her job via email and not really told a lot about it. She wasn’t given any explanation, nothing about the situation was made clear. They didn’t tell her why she was being fired, or what the process would be. And it turned out that they weren’t even upset about her performance, it was more of a layoff situation. But she didn’t know who to talk to about that or who to involve, so she asked me about it, and I started thinking about the ways that this happens to a lot of student workers. We all have a lot of problems that we don’t realize other student workers are having at the same time, and that through collective action we can change those problems and build student power and worker power and leverage those two identities and the unique problems that come with them. Really the way I got to my topic, though, was last year I was trying to figure out what I wanted to write my thesis on, and this had been an idea rattling around in my head for a while. I wanted to start organizing student workers and research it at the same time to develop some of the theory and learn from the history of this movement, which was just beginning. I was in a meeting with our provost, and she mentioned that the Reed student workers had recently tried to organize. So I think there’s something a little bit ironic in that I learned this from the provost of the university, who did not want student workers to organize. But she was like, ‘You should look into this!’ so I ended up going to Reed and talking to the student workers there and figuring out what worked and what didn’t work on their campaign.”

On her progress: “Ooh, bad. I’m really behind. But I think that was kind of always gonna be the case, honestly. It’s been good. I’ve only recently realized what I want my thesis to be doing and be about, and I think I needed the time it took me to get there to get there. But it’s been slow.”

On her current mental state: “Good! I feel calm and like I can get my thesis done in the next week. I’m also pretty angry. The problem with my thesis is that when I think about the conditions that student workers are working under and the ways that they’re being treated and disrespected by their bosses and people in power over them, I just get filled with rage. So it’s a little bit distracting sometimes. I need to take a break from writing my thesis to deal with it.”

On her most upsetting thesis experience: “I didn’t do that much work on my thesis over winter break because the COE paid for me to do a research trip in Cuba, which was amazing, but as a result, I didn’t get to do nearly as much as I wanted to over break. I got back, and my thesis advisor was like, ‘Yeah, you need to do your thesis or you’re gonna have to drop it.’ And I had a series of like three weeks where every week there was an imminent deadline that if I did not complete it, my thesis would be dropped. Also, this is maybe less light-hearted for Wesleying, but I was working on my thesis when the Pittsburgh shooting happened. That was really hard to move past, and I was really grateful for the ways that my advisor was understanding. I realized that yeah, this is a national tragedy, but it also felt like it hit close to home in a lot of ways, and I couldn’t do work for a little bit. And she was really compassionate about that.

That’s a good thing to share because things can happen, and you can deal with it. “Yeah, I want other people to know that you know, you’re writing your thesis, but it’s not like the year stops or the world does not continue. You should reach out and let people know when you need help.

On her favorite form of procrastination: “I buy a lot of blue gatorade, and so I go on trips to buy it. It keeps me going. I talk a lot to people in the CSS lounge. I feel like either I’m doing work really intensely, or I just spend so much time chatting with people here. Lately I’ve gone through some phases. I got really into listening to podcasts that recap television shows that I have not seen. It’s better that way because I can imagine it… *laughs* I also read a lot of LifeHacker articles, and now my life is marginally better! I just waste so much time….”

the dialectic ;)

On her plans for April 16: “Olin! The day after that is CSS Banquet, so I’m excited and looking forward to that, and then two days after theses are due, it’s Passover, so looking forward to that!”

Her advice for future thesis writers: “So I read a lot of thesiscrazy, I’m like a dedicated Wesleying fan, but people always give not-amazing advice. I think that really concretely, people should learn how to use Zotero early on. I have talked to a lot of people in the last week who don’t know how to use it, or haven’t been using it this whole time, and it would be very helpful if they learned how to do it before April. Also, I didn’t realize how hard writing a thesis would be. It’s not like writing five 20-page papers, and so anticipating that you’re gonna have to think a lot more than you do with other projects is maybe good. I wish someone had been like, ‘Yeah, a thesis is hard, but like, actually though.’ That would have been nice. Oh, and one more piece of advice: it took me a really long time to realize that people work in different ways, and so I felt really bad about the study habits that I would use. I’ve struggled a lot to decide whether or not I want to study in the ways that I naturally work best with or ways that are different. I think spending the first few months of your thesis figuring out what works for you and trying a lot of different things is good, but once you start to realize that you keep trying to do something that seems like a good study habit but never clicks for you, it can be okay to say, ‘This is a popular study habit that doesn’t work, for me.’ I work really well using whiteboards to lay out my ideas. I don’t work really well waking up early to write, but I do work well late at night. Recognizing that and adapting to it has made me much more productive. Also drink blue Gatorade, it gives you life!”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “A bunch of things! (I guess that’s not a favorite…) I really appreciated talking to all the people that I’ve gotten to meet in the labor movement and the student workers across the country that I’ve talked to. I am always inspired and really grateful for them. I am trying to build off of their work and connect them. I want to have a conference this summer where people interested in student worker unionization can all meet each other because that’s been really gratifying for me to have as part of this process, and I want those kinds of connections to be made between other people. I also really enjoyed working with my thesis advisor. Abigail Boggs is really, really wonderful, and I think strikes a really good balance between being kind and compassionate and then pushing me. Also, theses are fun because you can be like, ‘Ugh, my thesis!’ and everyone has to be like, ‘Yeahhhhh…’”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “I feel like it’s a labor organizing song, it’s like ‘Bread and Roses!’ Because it’s really hard, like you can’t sing ‘Bread and Roses,’ like, you’ve gotta have a good voice to do that. My thesis is likewise very difficult to actually do the things I want it to do, but it is about mass movements! *laughs*”

Her most used word/phrase: “Weirdly, I use the word ‘pursue’ all the time because I talk a lot about strategies that people are pursuing, and I don’t know how else to say that… I also use a lot of ‘Marx,’ like subsumption Marx. And then I say ‘student worker’ all the time. My thesis is full of me saying ‘student worker’ and I thought a lot about how I would frame it—it’s not hyphenated.”

Anything else? “The main reason I wanted to do this interview is to let people know that if they want to organize their workplace, if they’re frustrated by something in their workplace, chances are they have co-workers who are frustrated by the same thing or who want to help them out. If they want advice on how to come together and work collectively to make their jobs better, they should reach out to me! I know a lot about student unionization tactics now, and I would love to be in touch with people who are curious about organizing their own workplaces. You can also reach out to Peer Advocates for Working Students (PAWS). It is currently staffed by some underclassmen including Tammy Shine ‘21, Daniel Jewell-Tyrcha ‘21,Aiti Rai ‘20, andKaci Reed ‘21. They are all amazing student worker organizers, and they are here to listen and work with student workers on campus to find collective solutions to the problems we’re all facing.”

Emma Llano ’19, ANTH major, thesis in ANTH, carrel #301

Working Title: The working title of my thesis, which I haven’t changed since my proposal so it’s probably not going to actually end up being the title of my thesis, is ‘Behind the Uniform: Janitors Reproductive Labor and Affective Politics in the Liberal University.'”

On her topic: “Basically, my thesis came out of me doing organizing work with janitors for a few years now. In anthropology you do ethnographic field work, so I really wanted to unpack that a little bit, both from my perspective as a student activist but also what’s going on at the university. First, I’m historically contextualizing the university as a place that’s both domestic and non-domestic and how that affects cleaning labor which is considered to be feminine and something that occurs within the home and something that is informal. But when you think about janitors, it’s highly formalized labor, and it occurs in a place that is kind of home-like for students but not necessarily a home.  I’m looking at how affects the kind of labor that the janitors are doing and how they feel when they experience this kind of labor. To a lesser extent, I’m looking at how this connects to their personal immigration narratives, because most janitors are immigrants. Then I’m writing about how that context affects student-working solidarity movements. My second chapter is going to be about student-working solidarity movements in the past, so mostly movements that started in the late 90’s and throughout the 2000’s up until now. The third chapter is more of an autoethnographic take of what I’ve been doing with janitors and how that all fits until this larger university puzzle.”

On how she came up with her topic: I wanted to spend my last year at Wesleyan really dedicating myself to organizing, because since I started, workers have been telling me that they feel overworked and that they’ve been trying to get more people hired, but the university won’t budge. I thought this was a great way for me to be able to be more informed about what the janitors are going through effectively, but also the systems in which we are working and dedicate most of my time organizing so that my academic life and my organizing life wouldn’t be at odds.”

On her progress: “I work well under pressure, but I’m sure my thesis advisor would not enjoy hearing that for most parts I don’t actually start working until like two days before the deadline or its really crunch time. I’m not that good at sitting down and doing a lot of work at once, so it’s more scattered throughout the day type of work. I started doing research over the summer. Most of my ethnographic research was over the summer, and most of my writing took place in winter break and went on throughout the semester.”

On her current mental state: “I’m super exhausted, but I actually just read the whole thing, so I have the body chapters finished. Looking at what I have so far, I feel good about time. Right now, without an intro and conclusion, it’s 80 pages.”

On her most upsetting thesis experience: “The most upsetting process has been hearing what a lot of janitors go through on a daily basis. I don’t think we would think of janitorial work as necessarily super emotional. I’m an immigrant from Peru and my family is working class, and so hearing people talking about just adjusting to not only a new country but experiencing a whole different job that they’ve never experienced before really gets me. The thing that gets me the most every time is a janitor that used to work at Fauver said that she used to walk into Fauver and see so much trash that she’d feel like crying. We are going to a school that allows that to happen. In the past, one person would clean Bennet and one person would clean Fauver, but now one person cleans both buildings every single day. I think the most upsetting part is hearing what is expected of janitors.”

On her favorite form of procrastination: “Online shopping. I don’t even buy things most of the time. I just kind of scroll through different websites. Occasionally I’ll buy something but most of the time I’m just looking at clothes.”

On her plans for April 16: “Party. I’ve been talking to a bunch of people who live on Home Avenue and we’ve been throwing around the idea of a block party, so who knows.”

On her advice for future thesis writers: It’s just an undergraduate thesis. There are so many people that don’t even know that undergraduates can write theses. It’s going to be fine. And only write a thesis on something if it’s something you really, really want to write about. Don’t write a thesis for the hell of it, because you’re going to suffer and be miserable.”

On her favorite part of her thesis: “My favorite part, which has yet to be written, is going to be my conclusion, because I think it’s both what I’ve learned throughout the process of writing, but also seeing my personal trajectory from when I was first beginning organizing and not knowing anything about it to looking back at what I’ve learned and what I hope to continue to learn.”

On if her thesis was a song/movie/tv show: “This is my take: Good Will Hunting, but remade. I’ve never seen Good Will Hunting, but what I know about it is that it’s about a janitor who turns out to be really smart. A big thing that I’m writing against is this narrative that ‘they are more than just a janitor,’ because it’s still makes janitor work seem like this ‘blah’ thing and that you can’t just be a janitor. So, my answer is rewriting Good Will Hunting to not be like that.”

Her most used word/phrase: “Probably ‘organize.'”

Interviews by henmichelle, and fos.