Thesis: Thesis.

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A Junior Reflects and Prepares for the Grand Finale

by Bethany Geiger, '10

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Bethany Geiger, '10

“Thesis.” The word is unfamiliar when you arrive as a freshman, even though you know its definition. The longer you stay at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, the more often you hear the word. More and more of your friends enter senior year, where it becomes a permanent part of their daily vocabulary. Sometimes, it’s a noun. (“My friend is writing her thesis this year.”) Sometimes, it’s a verb. (“I can’t hang out tonight, I’m thesis-ing for a few hours.”) Sometimes, it’s even an expletive. (“Ugh, thesis!”) But whatever form it takes, it is something extremely well-known to the Simon’s Rock and Big Bard community, and is not often found at other undergraduate schools. Well, not like this.

At Simon’s Rock, your thesis is not just a big essay. It’s a year-long project that represents both you as a person, and your educational journey you’ve adventured through the past four years. While many students write 100-page academic essays, some students write novels, and some produce plays or art installations.

As a junior, I’ve had two and a half years to see The Thesis happening around me, in all its various forms. By this time next year, I’ll have joined the train of “Thesising Seniors,” a vehicle populated by very stressed, but very knowledgable, young people. I’m kind of looking forward to it. While I know it’s a lot of work, the beauty of the Thesis is that I can select the topic most important to me, and have a whole year to delve into it as much as I possibly can.

My life is full of Thesis right now. Even though I’m not a senior, it seems as though all my friends are. As the semester ends, deadlines approach. December 5 is the official first-semester evaluation, and it’s a very hectic time for my senior friends. I took a few minutes to ask them about this grand academic milestone. How are they handling it?

“I think the final product as a concept is the scary part,” Molly says. Molly is studying Dramaturgy, and her thesis is to explore Edward II the way a professional dramaturg would.“By the end of the year, you will have a thesis. What I’m doing is going to be part of a massive whole, both in my time as a senior and as a final product in and of itself... Just thinking about that is enough to freak me out.”

My friend Emily is studying technical theater. She is both writing an essay and creating a three-dimensional stage model for a play she would like to design and produce. She loves the idea of her project almost too much, and is disappointed that she only has so much time and energy to put into it. “I think the worst part, for me, is that I can’t do this big project that I initially set out to do,” Emily says. “I really wanted to do this huge model, and all of this extra work, and looking at the time line, I just can’t make it happen...”

I ask them what they are planning to do with their finished theses. Will they look back on it as simply a learning experience, or do they have plans for the final product?

“Mine is getting sent out to all the internships I’m applying to next year,” Molly says. “[Dramaturgy] is what I’ll be doing as a career, presumably, so it will be really helpful to have this under my belt.” Emily, too has practical plans: “I’d like to use the practical part, the design model, to help me get design jobs once I leave college.”

Taylor, another friend, is a Political Studies major. His thesis explores political campaigns in America, but his professional pursuits will be very different from the educational experience he gains by writing this thesis. “They’ll know, from having a thesis on my resume, that I can research at a high level,” Taylor says. “I am immersing in the history, even though I want to work in campaigns in a more operative sense, not always a historical one... But knowing how that industry has developed, and knowing where it’s going, will kind of enable me and set me apart from someone who’s just at the grind, only doing what they’re told.”

It’s a very different mindset from simply writing a 10-page paper, they all say. A brand new educational medium. You have to take baby steps, but simultaneously become a master. “It will definitely be nice to look at this thesis on the shelf, and realize that I’ve finished,” Emily says. “It’s an exercise in doing a large project, and I think that’s valuable. You learn things along the way that will help you.”

I know that my senior year will be hectic, but I’m still kind of looking forward to working on my thesis. The seniors I know all agree: even though it’s stressful to spend so much time on one thing, it’s nice to research something that genuinely interests and fascinates you. It’s a whole year devoted to the topic that defines the past four years learning experience. Your education, personalized. That’s about as Simon’s Rock as it gets.