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Interdisciplinary Studies Major

Recent Thesis Topics

Alexa Horwitz – Class of 2015
Exploring the Selfie Phenomenon: Identity Representation in Middle School Female Students
I created my Interdisciplinary Studies major to explore my interest in the intersection of identity representation, social media, and innovative technology. In qualitative, in-depth interviews, I spoke with local Middle School female students and investigated how this demographic use selfies to represent identity. The study aimed to understand why these girls take selfies and how they share these images of themselves with their peers. I asked several questions about their cell phone and social media habits, however, the majority of questions had to do with the four motivating factors of this visual language: status update, dialogue, physical appearance, and individual/group positioning. The literature I reviewed about adolescent development, self-presentation in everyday life, and the history of photography and social media platforms helped my analysis of this groups' unwritten rules of selfie habits and the social norms guiding selfie behavior.

Anna Lyons – Class of 2015
The Impact of the Post-Famine Decline in Spoken Irish on Sean Nos Song
My thesis looks at the effect of the Great Famine and the Gaelic Revival on sean nós singing in western Ireland. Sean nós is a tradition native to Ireland that uses Irish-language song as a medium to tell local stories. I focused on the work of one man, Douglas Hyde, in his efforts to revive sean nós during the Gaelic Revival. I judged that from a musicological perspective Hyde’s original songs failed to faithfully replicate pre-Famine sean nós. To do this I reviewed hundreds of songs to find ones that seemed typical of the genre leading up to and during the Famine. Then I analyzed Hyde's own original song and compared its traits to the pre-Famine songs to assess if he was successful in reviving the genre. Through this project I was able to improve my own Irish language skills as well as develop a deeper appreciation for all of the ways that different fields overlap and the variety of directions that research can take!

Jennifer Seidel – Class of 2015
Bigger Than Bubble Checks: The Case Study of a Storyteller in a Multicultural Classroom
I created my Interdisciplinary Studies major in Applied Linguistics to explore my interest in the intersection of language, culture, and education. My thesis ended up being about variation in narrative style based on cultural background and the implications of such variation in a local preschool classroom. In a weekly activity throughout the year, I asked my students to tell me stories, leaving them the freedom to structure their tales however they saw fit. It was great fun getting to know my students through their stories and watching their skills develop. One of the biggest things I learned was to keep an open mind and embrace the unexpected. Many of my original plans and ideas were turned upside down by my students, who taught me to let go of assumptions and really listen.

Samuel Zollman – Class of 2015
Changing the Channel on Climate Change: How Televisual Media Can Be Used to Teach Children about Climate Change
Currently, children consume over 11 hours of media daily, much of it as televisual media. At the same time, a child's understanding of the environment and climate change is poor—a critical issue in the face of global climate change. Seemingly unrelated issues, my CIS Senior Honors Thesis—Changing the Channel on Climate Change: How Televisual Media Can Be Used to Teach Children about Climate Change—sought to link the two by exploring how a child's TV watching can be used as an environmentally educational experience. As a project integrating topics of child development, climate science and communication, and televisual/digital media, I reviewed literature from the three fields, as well as conducted semi-structured interviews with science teachers and analyzed several environmental children's shows. Though the entire process was challenging, I loved discovering connections between three such distinct fields of study, and weaving them together to develop possible solutions to a real and pressing global issue.