On Nov. 6, four Wesleyan seniors spoke to members of the Wesleyan community about their thesis topics and research. The event, “Celebrating Seniors: Research Excellence at Wesleyan and Abroad” took place in Judd Hall, and was moderated by the Class of 2016 Dean David Phillips.
The student presenters were Tahreem Khalied ’16, Claire Wright ’16, Simon Chen ’16 and Kate Cullen ’16, and their projects varied widely. (Story by Margaret Curtis ’16, photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)
Tahreem Khalied, who moved to the United States from Pakistan four years ago, transferred to Wesleyan for her sophomore year and decided to declare the American studies major. Khalied initially thought that writing a thesis was not for her, but was encouraged by the freedom that the American Studies Department offered and soon changed her mind. She decided to write a novel based on her experience reconciling her identity as an immigrant and as an American, and including the background in critical social theory she acquired through the American studies major. The novel’s title is Just the Right Amount of American, and Khalied jokes that she is the protagonist.
Claire Wright, a College of Letters, French and psychology triple major, on the other hand, knew since her freshman year that she would write a thesis – she just did not know what it would be about. She found her topic when the MINDS Foundation, a foundation founded by recent Wesleyan graduates that brings mental health care to rural India, asked her to study the effect of using a Western diagnostic of PTSD to treat survivors of sexual violence in rural India. Wright, who had been working with MINDS since the summer after her sophomore year, thought this was a perfect idea for a senior thesis, and jokingly told the organization that she’d “get back to them in a year.” Since then she has been studying how PTSD manifests, how dynamic nominalism affects the way symptoms come about, and feminist and post-colonial perspectives of aid-work.
Simon Chen’s focus is on a completely other part of the world. He is combining his interests as an East Asian studies and economics major to ask how specific patterns of urban planning in China are prolonging environmental problems and misuse of resources. While American cities become increasingly less urban as one leaves the city center, Chen pointed to the popular model of urban sprawl and in China, and the mass environmental resources it takes up.
Cullen’s thesis research is distinct from her peers’ in its collaborative nature. Cullen, an earth and environmental studies and history major, is studying climate change through marine sediment. Though her research will culminate in an 80-page lab report, she is currently working in a lab with other students with whom her work intersects. Her research will be able to shed light on the cyclicity of climate change throughout history and potentially have significance in relation to today’s climate concerns.
These four students represent a cross-section of the various topics the class of 2016 thesis writers are diving into this year. The common link between these differing topics? “Passion,” Cullen said. The other students agree. “It’s hard work, so you want to find something that you really care about,” Wright said. “But if you do, it’s so rewarding.”