Past Departmental Honors Theses
The Following Titles are past AAAS Honors Theses.
Ethan Geringer-Sameth, 'For a Pair of Wire Cutters.' 2012. Advised by Professor Faith Smith.
*Laura Jenks, 'Uma religião dos negros: Candomblé and black identity in Brazil.' 2009. Advised by Professor Ibrahim Sundiata.
*Logan Jerger, 'Struggle No More: Social stigma of HIV/AIDS among Haitians and Haitian Americans.' 2007. Advised by Professor Ibrahim Sundiata.
*Jason M. Brodsky, 'The political appointment of minorities by Republican presidents, 1980-2007.' 2007. Advised by Professor Mingus Mapps.
*Liora J. Cobin, 'Our own vine: Racial segregation in early national Baltimore's Methodist churches.' 1999. Advised by Professor Joan Bryant.
*Gabrielle Hermann-Camara, 'The politics of fascination: the case of Malian Jeli.' 1999. Advised by Professor Faith Smith.
Jhana Sen Xian, 'Skin trade: A cross cultural analysis of the impact of the female aesthetic hierarchies on socioeconomic status.' 1998. Advised by Professor Ibrahim Sundiata.
Vern Christmas, 'Influence of the ante-bellum southern slavery on images and roles of slave women.' 1998.
*Monica Roberts, 'How economic integration affects women in the Caribbean.' 1998. Advised by Professor Gordon Fellman.
*Ruel R. Rogers, 'The political attitudes of native Black Americans and West Indian immigrants: A comparative analysis.' 1990.
Emmanuel J. Daphnis, 'Historical analysis of race in Haiti and the Dominican Republic: 1804-1930.' Year unknown. Advised by Professor Ibrahim Sundiata.
If you would like to find out more, the library has copies AAAS Honors Theses marked by an asterisk.
Writing an Honors Thesis
Each year a small number of academically outstanding students choose to undertake honors work in African and Afro-American Studies. Candidates for honors in AAAS build upon the knowledge learned and skills developed in their previous coursework crafting their own analytical perspectives and interpretations of knowledge. This experience can be richly rewarding: it provides students an opportunity to work closely with a faculty advisor, to think critically and deeply about a significant intellectual problem of their own selection, and to grow as a researcher, analyst, writer and critical thinker. However, writing a successful honors thesis requires planning, hard work and dedication
Students who intend to write an honors thesis must apply during the spring semester of their junior year. Those accepted to the honors program are strongly advised to complete a part of their research during the summer before their senior year. Doing so increases the time that can be devoted to writing during the academic year and makes the whole process less stressful and more rewarding. Candidates who need to travel in order to conduct their research should investigate funding options as soon as possible.
To be eligible for honors in AAAS, students must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in courses applied to the major. Exceptions to this rule will be made only under exceptional circumstances. They must also have completed six courses of the nine that are required for all majors to graduate.
Procedure for Application
a). Selecting a Thesis Advisor: If you are eligible and wish to apply for admission into the honors program in AAAS, you choose a faculty advisor willing to supervise your work. This should be a professor who knows your work and with whom you have taken at least one course in a subject area related to your proposed thesis. Most faculty members decline to accept students whom they have not taught in their classes. You are encouraged to approach potential advisors to whom you must submit a preliminary proposal and who must approve your formal application to the department for honors work before the end of the spring semester of your junior year. It is the student’s responsibility to identify advisors from the AAAS Department faculty who will be in residence during their senior year. This requires planning and early consultation.
b). Preparing a Formal Thesis Proposal: If a faculty advisor agrees to supervise your work, the next step is to prepare a formal proposal of the work plan. The proposal should not be longer than three pages in length and must clearly define the problem you plan to research, explain the significance of that problem in terms understandable to the non-specialist, and describe the sources and methods you plan to use in solving it. You must include a brief bibliography essential to your research project. The proposal should be prepared in close consultation with your advisor and must be approved by the department.
c). Submitting your Application: You must submit the following materials to the AAAS Department by the middle of April of your junior year:
- A cover sheet and Application Form signed by your faculty advisor.
- Your research proposal and bibliography.
- A copy of your transcript.
All forms of writing in the AAAS require you to consider a question, develop an original answer, and support it using specific evidence, but an honors thesis requires you to take two additional steps: you must define the question to be answered and locate the body of primary and secondary sources from which your answers will be drawn. Ideally, the thesis should serve as a capstone experience to your undergraduate education in African and Afro-American Studies.
To a great extent, the success of your thesis will depend on the care with which you take to frame the research question. At the outset of a new project, many scholars find it useful to frame their ideas in the form of a research proposal or prospectus that can be modified in response to constructive criticism. The proposal should be about three pages long and must address with clarity and coherence the following questions:
- What is the specific interpretive problem you intend to address in your thesis?
- What makes the problem interesting to you and significant to other scholars? How does it relate to existing scholarship in the field of your research interest?
- What methods and sources will you use to analyze and solve the problems that you have identified? In what ways does it relate to current scholarship in your field of research?
- Do you have adequate skills (language skills, research experience, background training, and relevant course work) to do your proposed research project?
Responsibilities of the Honors Candidate
By accepting admission into the honors program in AAAS, students agree to complete their own research and writing in a timely manner and to participate actively in the intellectual life of the program.
Early in the fall semester, honors candidates are expected to attend a lunch meeting with the faculty. Candidates will be expected to make brief presentations of their thesis topics, and it is hoped, to engage in constructive discussion with each other and faculty members. The objective of this meeting is to assist students in refining their ideas, encouraging discussion across sub-disciplinary boundaries, to introduce the honors candidates to one another, and to review the expectations and the requirements of the program.
Candidates are also expected to attend a second meeting during the fall semester (after Thanksgiving break). At this meeting candidates will present brief reports on the progress of their research, circulate outlines of the chapters they propose to write, and share ideas about each other’s projects.
Honors candidates are required to submit a substantial piece of written work to their AAAS advisor on the first day of instruction of the spring semester classes. This work is usually the draft of the first chapter. The rationale for this submission is to enable faculty to evaluate the candidate’s progress and to provide her/him with constructive feedback at this critical phase of the research and writing process. At the discretion of the advisor, a second reader from the AAAS Department may be involved in the evaluation. For those candidates whose progress is not being successfully carried out, a grade will be assigned for AAAS 98a, and the student will not continue in the honors program. In a case like this, the student is not precluded from graduating with Latin honors, which is based on the University-wide grade point average. The award of summa cum laude, however, requires not only a cumulative grade point average of 3.70, but also the achievement of “honors.”
During February and March, honors candidates will be invited to share their work in progress with each other and the AAAS faculty at organized colloquia. These meetings and discussions are helpful in getting feedback when you begin the process of revising your thesis.
Honors candidates will be expected to complete a draft of their entire thesis no later than the Friday before the spring recess. This will leave ample time for final revisions before the thesis is due on April 15.
Evaluation of Honors Thesis
There are several stages in the honors thesis process when evaluations are made.
- Examination Committee
The defense committee, made up of the advisor, a second reader from the African and Afro-American Studies Department, and a third reader from another department makes a recommendation for honors at the time of defense. The committee bases its recommendation on the quality of the written thesis and the oral defense.
- Departmental Honors
Departmental honors are determined on the level of honors recommended by the committee and the departmental grade point average. Therefore, the final decision on departmental honors will not be made until the grades for the final semester are submitted and the AAAS department holds its last faculty meeting of the year, just a few days before the last University faculty meeting to vote and approve all graduating students. The possible levels of honors are: honors, high honors, and highest honors.