Students who at the end of their junior year have earned an overall grade-point average of 3.0 and a 3.5 in their major, are invited to participate in departmental honors work during their senior year. The prestigious and highly selective yearlong program is designed for students who wish to pursue intensive research or a special project. Papers and projects are presented at a special forum in the spring.
In consultation with a departmental faculty adviser, students choose a topic of interest, usually in their major, and select a committee of two additional faculty members to serve as advisers and readers.
Students who complete departmental honors papers, which are included in the permanent collections of the Beneficial-Hodson Library, are designated Christine P. Tischer Scholars, in honor of the 1965 alumna of the College who has generously supported the program.
To learn more about the 2015 and previous Tischer Scholars, click here.
Caitlin Battey ’15
Major: Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology
Project: East Meets West: The Battle of Modernity and Jihad
Mentors: Donald Wright, Ph.D., director of the Middle Eastern studies department
Committee Members: Roger Reitman, Ph.D., professor of sociology; Paige W. Eager, Ph.D., chair of the political science department, associate professor of political science, director of the global studies program; Alexandra Gastelum, humanitarian action fellow at The McCain Institute of International Leadership; Lindsay Scornavacco, senior human trafficking coordinator at The McCain Institute of International Leadership
Abstract: The unintentional consequences of Operation Enduring Freedom have led to a change in the foundation of jihad and the way that groups in the region apply this concept to their social and political agendas. The case of trafficking in persons through military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown that the ideology of jihad can be applied to the exploitative situation to illustrate the role economics plays in the pursuit of jihad. The Islamic State portrays jihad in an entirely different light as the ideology for the group acts as a political and social compass guiding the organization through a period of political revolution.
Quote: “This project has ignited my interest in the fundamental ideologies that shape the development of radical organizations. I gained an entirely new understanding of the role that religion plays in politics, radicalism and terrorism. The pace with which the Islamic State is evolving has turned me into a news junkie and impressed upon me the importance of good journalism and independent critical thinking. And on the late nights while I'm writing and editing, I try to remember that no one promised it would be easy just that it would be worth the hard work.”
Caitlin Bean ’15
Project: The Challenge of Racial Boundaries: The Effects of Racism in Flannery O’Connor’s Literature
Mentors: Amy Gottfried, Ph.D., professor of English
Committee Members: Mark Sandona, Ph.D., professor of English; Barbara Powell
Abstract: Until her death in 1964, Flannery O’Conner was writing fiction at the peak of the African American Civil Rights Movement. Her literature grew dense with references to civil rights, lingering racism and the persistent divide between black and white Americans. Though her protagonists are always white, O’Connor is careful to highlight her black characters’ weariness of white condescension, and it is these white characters that receive the most punishment from O’Connor’s pen, thus illustrating Toni Morrison’s 1992 argument in her book, Playing in the Dark, that there is an abiding Africanist presence beneath all white American literature. O’Connor makes use of harsh characterizations, self-realizations and the fate of her wretched main characters as a way to demonstrate the pervasive destructiveness of racial prejudice in mid-20th century America, most particularly in the short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Revelation, The Geranium and Judgment Day. While the focus of these short stories does not center on white and black conflict, O’Connor is sure to include moments of strong prejudice in each character before he is divinely punished. These scenes stand together as a way to emphasize the gruesome effects racism has on not only the victims, but also its perpetrators.
Quote: “I have learned a lot about how American literature has treated various races over time. Even when racial discussion does not seem prominent in a text, there is often an underlying subtext for it.”
Erin Botker ’15
Project: Estonian Refugees in Maryland after World War II
Mentors: Len Latkovski, Ph.D., professor of history
Committee Members: Barbara Powell, Maryanne Farrell, Ph.D., instructor of history; Erin George, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics
Abstract: My project is based on the Estonians who came to Maryland as refugees following World War II. Estonia is one of the three Baltic States, the other ones being Latvia and Lithuania. During World War II Estonia was first invaded by the Soviets, followed by the Germans, and then again by the Soviets. The Soviets remained in Estonia until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Estonians had fled their country both during and after the war due to the Soviet occupation. Many Estonians resided in displaced person’s camps in Germany until the United States passed the Displaced Person’s Act in 1948, which allowed for Estonian refugees to gain permanent residence in the U.S. As a result, a large community of Estonians was formed in Maryland. The Estonian population grew in Baltimore, and soon several organizations were formed to unite them. Groups such as the Baltimore Estonian Society and the Baltimore Estonian Men’s Choir were designed to celebrate their culture and provide support for one another. I interviewed several Estonians in Maryland about their families’ experiences after traveling to the United States. I found that despite the challenges they faced in their lives, they were eager to celebrate their heritage and where they had come from.
Quote: “This project has opened my eyes to a history about which I had never known. The situation in the Baltic states during World War II was not something I had learned about in my textbooks. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to research Estonia’s history and learn how it influenced Maryland’s own community today.”
Emily Eckard ’15
Project: Shifting Stigma: Positive Outcomes of Labeling for Those with Disabilities
Mentors: Laura Moore, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology
Committee Members: Diane Graves Oliver, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology; Lynda Sowbel, Ph.D., associate professor of social work; Kerry Strand, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to quantitatively and qualitatively measure perceived stigma and its results, especially positive outcomes, for those with disabilities. I primarily analyzed how the positive outcomes of stigma varied by support systems, visibility of disability, comfort disclosing and demographics.
Quote: “This project has allowed me to gain insight into the myriad of outcomes stigma incites in the lives of those with disabilities. I am thankful that so many people shared their stories with me.”
Mary Hickman ’15
Project: Gender Role Conflict in College-Aged and Older Adult Men
Mentors: Elizabeth MacDougall, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
Committee Members: Ingrid Farreras, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; Georgette Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology
Gender role conflict consists of the negative consequences of socially-imposed gender norms. This study investigated the differences in gender role conflict between college-aged and older adult men using the Gender Role Conflict Scale (GRCS-I), as well as correlations with depression and anxiety. The GRCS-I identifies four factors that contribute to gender role conflict: 1) success, power and competition, 2) restrictive emotionality, 3) restrictive affectionate behavior between men and 4) conflict between work and family. Forty-three older adult men ages 66 to 85 (M=73) were recruited from senior centers in Maryland, and 51 college-aged men ages 18 to 23 (M =20) participated. Participants completed the GRCS-I, the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7. A one-way MANOVA found a statistically significant difference between older adult and college-age men F(4,69) = 5.285, p < 0.001. Four independent samples’ t-tests determined the difference between both cohorts within each of the four factors. Older adult men showed significantly higher restrictive affectionate behavior between men, and college-aged men showed significantly higher scores in the remaining three factors. In older adult men, anxiety was positively correlated with conflicts between work and leisure and with overall gender role conflict, and depression was positively correlated with restrictive emotionality. Implications of the present study include how gender roles and behaviors change over the life course, as well as the need for counseling models that account for conflicts in older adults. Future research may seek to outline a longitudinal profile of gender role conflict in men, as existing research on the impact of gender role on the life course is limited.
Quote: “I owe most of my personal growth during this project to my adviser, who helped me realize what a great undertaking this project was and realize that my education within my department has prepared me to complete it with independence. The greatest personal hurdle (and reward) from this study was learning to accept criticism from my adviser and committee and use it to nurture and strengthen my thesis.”
Kelsey Koerner ’15
Major: Psychology and Spanish
Project: The Relationship Between State Optimism and Frustration
Mentors:Jason Trent, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
Committee Members: Robert W. Boyle Jr., Ph.D., professor of psychology, program director of the human sciences Graduate program; Laura M. Moore, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology
Abstract: The research assessed whether frustration could affect individuals’ optimism. Considering that studies have found negative affect to be correlated with frustration (e.g., Watson, Pennebaker & Foger, 1987) and optimism (e.g., Johnson & Tversky, 1983), there appears to be a connection between these variables. In the current study, 60 participants were randomly assigned to an experimental group or a control group. All participants completed a card-sorting task (Henna, Zilberman, Gentil, & Gorenstein, 2008). Those in the experimental group were frustrated by an inability to succeed in the task and the false impression that they could win a gift card, while participants in the control group completed the task with the assurance that mistakes are common and without knowledge of the gift card. After the task, participants completed measures of optimism, mood and frustration. Our results found the mood manipulation to work and showed no differences in how men and women rated their frustration. Opposite to our expectations, frustration did not associate with state optimism, but frustration did lead participants to express a more negative mood. Additionally, positive and negative mood correlated with optimism. The rejection of our main hypothesis is discussed and suggestions for future research are presented.
Quote: “This research project has allowed me to contribute to the field of psychology and to develop myself further within the field. I have enjoyed these past two semesters spent doing my research, and I am looking forward to contributing more new ideas for research in the future.”
William Marshall ’15
Project: Georgi Vins and the History of Baptist Dissidence in Soviet Russia
Mentors: Jason Trent, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
Committee Members: Leonard Latkovski, Ph.D., professor of history; Corey Campion, Ph.D., adjunct professor of history, director of the master of arts humanities program; Kamilya Sidorova, Ph.D., professor of Russian at Frederick Community College
Abstract: This project compiled and analyzed the hidden history of dissident pastor, Georgi Vins, and the international Protestant revival he inspired against Soviet religious repression. From Communist Ukraine to the United States, the history of Baptists in the Soviet Union and their supporters abroad recounts one of the most significant grassroots resistance movements against the Soviet Regime in the late 20th century.
Quote: “I owe most of my personal growth during this project to my adviser, who helped me realize what a great undertaking this project was and realize that my education within my department has prepared me to complete it with independence. The greatest personal hurdle (and reward) from this study was learning to accept criticism from my adviser and committee and use it to nurture and strengthen my thesis.”“The difficulty in tracking down credible information of one of mainstream modern history’s least-recorded events, and the people who shaped it, made for a very arduous journey. The extraordinary individuals and stories encountered along the way, however, left this author with a new perspective on the true value of recorded history that will not soon be forgotten.”
Annie Mercer ’15
Project: Exploring Multidimensional School Shooters: Removing Risk Factors from Their Categorical Box
Mentors: Diane Graves Oliver, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
Committee Members: Robert W. Boyle, Jr., Ph.D, associate professor of psychology; Allen P. Flora, Ph.D., professor of physics
Abstract: Risk is prevalent in society, and scholars have attempted to quantify risk so it may be minimized in the future. Many assessment tools are in existence today that attempt to address the risk of violence in schools. However, these assessments have become outdated, considering the multidimensional approach to which many researchers within the various behavioral fields of study have turned. This study looks to change the way risk is viewed as low, moderate or high to rankings of concrete observable behaviors and mindsets. This study looks at how participants ranked 10 risk factors for violence and specific levels of concerning behaviors within these risk factors, for school shooting incidents in particular. Participants were taken based on a convenience sample. The results were inconclusive as to which risk factors were of greatest or least concern, but the study does provide a framework for future research questions and mentality.
Quote: “I have really enjoyed working with my professors outside of the classroom and having them help my experiment come to life.”
Kara O’Leary ’15
Major: French and Middle Eastern studies
Project: Challenges in Feminism in the Post-Colonial Maghreb
Mentors: Donald Wright, Ph.D., associate professor of French and Arabic
Committee Members: Karen Hoffman, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy;
Hoda Zaki, Ph.D., Virginia E. Lewis Professor of Political Science
Abstract: The thesis begins with an introduction to a few the indigenous cultures and societies of the Maghreb long before the influences of the Arab-Muslim world while studying the roles and treatment of women in each society. I then look at the “feminine experience” of Muslim women at different points in history, such as the Quranic times, the period of French colonization and the post-colonial era. The feminine experience includes factors such as political standing, roles in society and the cultural affects inflicted on and influenced by women. The third part of the paper focuses on the different views and perspectives between Muslim women and the Western world in three different sections: the Western perspective of Islam, the Muslim perspective of the West and Islam’s perspective toward itself. In summary, this departmental honors thesis highlights how colonialism and Western influences have affected the status of women in a place where indigenous cultures, Western cultures and Arab-Muslim cultures are all competing for territory.
Quote: “My thesis work has been a great introduction to the analysis work I hope to do in my future career! I was able to look at a variety of sources in English and French from my time spent at the National Library in France, and was therefore able to gain a perspective on the French Maghreb relations I would not have otherwise had.”
Megan Rodriguez ’15
Project: Graph Theory Representations and Computational Complexity of Sliding Block Ice Puzzles Inspired By Legend Of Zelda
Mentors: James Parson, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics
Committee Members: Gwyneth Whieldon, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics; Elizabeth Chang, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and computer science
Abstract: Winning strategies and the complexity of single-player games, called puzzles, are a source of great interest in mathematical and computer science communities. Many popular video games employ these sorts of puzzles to provide challenges to players. We consider a specific instance of an underlying mathematical puzzle in a game. The Legend of Zelda video game series often includes puzzles involving sliding giant blocks around a grid covered in ice; the goal is to push a block until it stops on a pressure plate in the grid. We map two categories of these puzzles, one-block and n-block, onto digraphs and analyze winning strategies and solutions using graph theory. We then discuss and consider the algorithmic complexity of finding solutions and the computational complexity of these puzzles.
Quote: “In doing this research, I realized that mathematical problems can be combined with my interests/hobbies in ways I never thought possible. I was able to take concepts I learned in my mathematics and computer science courses and apply them directly to one of my favorite past times. Not only that, but other mathematicians and computer scientists do similar research every day!”
Amanda Shaffery ’15
Project: Nefertiti Regnant
Mentors: Tammy Krygier, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of art
Committee Members: Purnima Bhatt, Ph.D., professor of history, anthropology and interdisciplinary studies; and Jenni Ross, Ph.D., professor of art and archaeology
Abstract: Nefertiti is perhaps one of the most famous queens from ancient Egypt. She is known around the world as the beauty of the 18th dynasty and as the wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten, but was she more than that? Her frequent depictions in statuary, on temples, in tombs and on stela suggest that Nefertiti was much more than the beauty she is known as today, and even more than a queen. This artistic evidence combined with texts and graffito of the period and linguistic studies, all point to Nefertiti functioning as a leader and ruler of Egypt. Scholars have debated Nefertiti’s specific role in the religious and political spheres for generations. The debate revolves around if Nefertiti was co-regent, or co-ruler, with her husband Akhenaten, and if after his death Nefertiti became king. In analyzing the arguments put forth by scholars in the past as well as the artistic, textual and linguistic evidence available today, I delved further into this debate in order to provide an argument for Nefertiti’s co-regency and kingship.
Quote: From this project I have really learned perseverance; it takes a lot out of you to complete this, but it is so rewarding in the end.”
Kerri Sheehan ’15
Major: English and Communication Arts
Project: The Velocity of Mind and the Tenacity of Spirit: Form Taking on Meaning in Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems
Mentors: Elizabeth Knapp, Ph.D., assistant professor of English
Committee Members: Maryanne Farrell, Ph.D., instructor of history; Trevor Dodman, Ph.D., assistant professor of English; Amy Gottfried, Ph.D., professor of English
Abstract: In 2013, Jen Bervin and Marta Werner published a book dedicated to high resolution photographs of envelope poems written by Dickinson. The Gorgeous Nothings depicts 52 torn and intact envelopes on which Dickinson composed poems. The book offers a rare glimpse into her mind and writing process. Among these manuscripts are a select few envelopes that seem to have been purposefully torn to take on a certain shape. For example, an envelope in the collection is in the shape of a bird with a noticeable beak, wing and tail. In turn, the poem itself describes a singing blue bird, thus suggesting that process is inextricably bound to form and meaning in Dickinson’s work.
This thesis examined the correlation between Dickinson’s writing process and the way in which form takes on meaning among four of the aforementioned poems. Furthermore, it argued that the collection of envelopes could stand as the 41st fascicle in the poet’s collection.
Quote: “After the yearlong project, I have learned that a finished product comes only from a series of trials and errors. Initially, I struggled with narrowing down a topic, overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. But with the help of my professors I managed to focus my thesis on a topic for which I have discovered a passion.”
Rowela Silvestre ’15
Major: Business Administration
Project: Career Expectations of Undergraduate Millennials: Does Corporate Social Responsibility Matter?
Mentors: Glen Weaver, Ph.D., assistant professor of accounting and management
Committee Members: Erin George, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics; Anita Jose, Ph.D., professor of management
Abstract: The purpose of the study is to determine what current undergraduate millennials look for in a job. Using the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) model created by Carroll. Carroll breaks down CSR into four tiers: economic, legal, ethics and discretionary. I examine millennial job perception as it relates to the top two tiers: ethics and discretionary. I want to see whether students care more about the monetary rewards of their career choice, whether they care more about intrinsic rewards and the company’s social responsibility or whether they care more about ethics and the company’s philanthropy. The study focuses on undergraduate millennials who are attending the 2014-2015 school year.
Mixed methodology was used to obtain both a qualitative and a quantitative result. Qualitative results were obtained by interviewing fourteen undergraduate students from different majors. The interview was designed to gain an understanding of what undergraduate students seek in a future career and examines attitudes of corporate social responsibility in their responses. A survey instrument was then constructed from the observations, in conjunction with prior researcher questionnaires. The survey was sent out to hundreds of students through social media (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) and email.
Quote: “The project helped me gain valuable research skills. I learned how to do mixed methodology and gained an understanding of how challenging it is to interview and construct a survey instrument. It also helped me gain a better understanding of my generation.”
Kristen Squires ’16
Major: Archaeology and Religion
Project: The Christian Conversion of Viking Settlers in Britain c. 800-1100 CE Through the Lens of a Cultural Theory of Religion
Mentors: Stephen Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of religion and philosophy
Committee Members: David Hein, Ph.D., professor of religion and philosophy; Heather Mitchell-Buck, Ph.D., assistant professor of English
Abstract: My project looks at the conversion of Vikings in England to Christianity through the lens of the Geertzian theory of religion. In essence, I use the change in women’s status as a method of exposing the sociopolitical, economic and religious factors of the Vikings’ decision to convert to Christianity. The Vikings were able to trade external conversion for money and influence. Because of the politics encompassing England, the Viking settlers in England needed to blend in with the Christian community, which they did by lowering the status of their women. The change in social structure and gender norms was complemented by a change in religion, as over time the Vikings learned to embrace Christianity in its entirety, rejecting conversion based solely on economics and politics. Within my paper, I claim that the current stance on Viking conversion is incomplete due to the lack of Geertzian analysis and the instance of looking at only one factor and expecting it to be the sole reason for the Christian conversion of the Vikings in England.
Quote: “From this experience, I have learned how to properly research a subject and how to take notes that are still usable after several months. I learned that sometimes there are few sources to work with on a topic and how to get around that issue. Most importantly, I have learned that research is difficult, and the sources you might expect to find do not always exist, but in the end, it is worth it. The rewards and confidence gained from completing this experience are well worth the stress and difficultly of writing a Departmental Honors Paper."
Nicole Wilson ’15
Project: The Effect of Sexualized Male and Female Video Game Characters on Self Esteem
Mentors: Ingrid Farreras, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology
Committee Members: Jason Trent, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology; Wanda Ruffin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; Lynda Sowbel, Ph.D., associate professor of social work
Abstract: This experiment investigated the effect of male and female sexualized video game characters on self-esteem. Two hundred and thirty-seven participants were randomly assigned to one of eight groups in a 2 (male vs. female participant) x 2 (male vs. female video game character sex) x 2 (sexualized vs. nonsexualized character) between-subjects factorial design. Participants were exposed to five color pictures of either sexualized or nonsexualized male and female video game characters, and then filled out Heatherton and Polivy’s (1991) State Self-Esteem Scale. An ANOVA found a significant main effect for both participant sex and video game character sex, but no statistically significant main effect for sexualized video game characters nor interaction effects, suggesting that exposure to sexualized video game characters does not produce the lowering of self-esteem suggested by the media and previous research.
Quote: “Time management skills! When you don’t have a teacher constantly reminding you what is due when, you have to learn fast how to manage your time on your own. You have to be very cognizant of your time and how you spend it, especially if you are taking other classes while working on your project.”