Past Senior Theses

Lucca Raabe
Lucca Raabe '23
Title: "Rationalizing Racism: Racial Structure and Individual Racial Sense-Making in Mathematics Education"

Committee: Sarah Mayorga, Derron Wallace, and V Varun Chaudhry

Short Abstract: I center the mathematics department at Brandeis as a case study to understand how racial inequality is reproduced in mathematics education. I find that students cultivate and rely on a necessarily colorblind Mathematics Identity to find belonging in the department, positioning the “ideal” mathematician as raceless, despite their belief that diversity is generally valuable.

Lessons Learned: I learned the importance of community engaged research and scholarship, and so much about myself and how I hope to engage with the ever changing world of mathematics education. Most importantly, I learned the power of academia, and sociology more specifically, as a social and communal practice that can generate tangible tools to address structural inequality. 

Rynn Parrack
Rynn Parrack '23
Title: "Serve and Tell: An Investigation of Volunteers’ Motivations in a College Context"

Committee: Laura Miller, Jill Greenlee, and Sara Shostak

Short Abstract: Why do college students volunteer in college? This research investigates who typically volunteers, for how long they volunteer, and why they volunteer in college. Motivations for volunteering in college are complicated by a desire to help the community and to achieve career or other personal goals. Drawing on survey and interview data, I analyzed the motivations of college volunteers through thematic analysis of survey and interview responses.

Lessons Learned:  Through researching and writing my thesis, I developed synthesis skills and learned to adapt my research plans throughout the year. My advice is don't be afraid to ask questions. 


Emily Arkin
Emily Arkin '20
Title: "Utilizing Fluidity and Finding the Self: Developing a Multiracial Identity in Institutions of Higher Learning"

Committee: Laura Miller

Short Abstract: This thesis explores the development of the multiracial identity in young adults ages 18 to 23, and how the university environment impacts this process. It asks what role a predominantly White university environment plays in the development of a multiracial identity and the overall sense of self.

Lessons Learned: Do the pre-work early! Figure out your project, send the forms, and set your timeline up for research and writing in the summer! That way you can dedicate the year to the research itself, rather than the minutiae of preparing to do the research.

Miriam Berro Krugman
Miriam Berro Krugman '20
Title: "The Confluence of Contexts that Construct a Social Movement: Comparing the Argentine and American Pro-Choice Struggles"

Committee: Gowri Vijayakumar, Mike Strand

Short Abstract: This thesis studies two abortion rights movements in Argentina and the United States, and factors that have impacted the contexts in which the movements exist and what they have accomplished.

Lessons Learned: Writing a thesis requires a lot of self-discipline and reworking of concepts and ideas, so having my passion behind my topic, and personal experience while studying abroad in Argentina to reflect back on, brought me through to finishing my thesis and writing something I am really proud of.

Judah Weinerman
Judah Weinerman '20
Title: "More Than Mutual Belligerence: The Cohesive Power of the Family Values Cultural Toolkit"

Committee: Mike Strand

Short Abstract: This thesis is a theoretical reframing of the term “family values”, understood not as a concise set of behavioral guidelines for evangelical home life, but a sprawling series of techniques and motivations for justifying a certain vision of the American family. The argument this thesis puts forth is that the cultural sinews that tie evangelicals together in coalitions like the Christian Right are not shared senses of meaning or a coherent vision for American life, but the cultural toolkit and ascribed motivations provided by the cultural tools of family values.

Lessons Learned: My biggest challenge was learning to cut out writing that I personally enjoyed, but failed to advance my central point; it taught me to take constructive criticism.

Rebecca Hersch
Rebecca Hersch '19
Title: "The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom: The United Response of Muslim and Jewish Women to 'Moral Shocks'"

Committee: Wendy Cadge, Jon Levisohn, and Sarah Shostak

Short Abstract: This thesis builds upon previous literature on interfaith dialogue in addition to social movement literature on mobilization processes, emotions, and collective identities to address the following research question: What motivates women to become involved in the Sisterhood, how did they become involved, and how does this mobilization process vary based on one’s role in the Sisterhood?

Lessons Learned: I am grateful for the project management and critical thinking skills that I honed during my thesis work.

Pengfei Liu
Pengfei Liu '18
Title: "'Opportunity or Adversity?': Chinese International Students and Activism in China"

Committee: Chandler Rosenberger, Gordie Fellman, Gowri Vijayakumar

Short Abstract: This study explores different factors that influence Chinese international students’ decisions to participate or not participate in activism in China. Through twelve interviews with Chinese international students of diverse backgrounds, this study finds that there are three factors to understand why this group of students do not participate in activism in China - political intimidation, Chinese culture, and the differences between Chinese and American outlook towards activism.

Lessons Learned: My advice would be to start early; don't feel shy about frequently meeting with your advisors and utilize this opportunity to hone your literature review skills.

Ruby Macsai-Goren
Ruby Macsai-Goren '18
Title: "Clergy In Action: Religious Leaders in Response to Social Crises"

Committee: Wendy Cadge

Short Abstract: This thesis builds upon previous literature on religious social movements, clergy’s congregational and community roles, and the intersection between religion, politics, and sociology to address the following research question: How have clergy who identify as politically progressive responded to political and social events following President Donald Trump’s election? This qualitative study examines 13 politically progressive Jewish, Protestant, and Unitarian Universalist clergy in Boston and their action in issues of immigration and speech.

Lessons Learned: While the research skills I learned through my thesis writing process were essential to my developing critical thinking and future career as I apply to doctoral programs, I am most grateful for the confidence I learned in my own voice and power as a sociological thinker.

Lilah Kleban
Lilah Kleban '17
Title: "University interventions in sexual misconduct and intimate partner violence"

Committee: Karen Hansen

Short Abstract: This work examines Brandeis’ Title IX process to help explain the vast discrepancies between reporting rates and the actual prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus. The dichotomy between university policies and students’ distrust of a system designed to protect them left an important system gravely underutilized. Using qualitative research methods, this work seeks to understand what in Brandeis' Title IX system dissuades students from using it.

Lessons Learned: My research taught me to break down complicated systems for study and to continue working on my writing; skills I expect to use throughout my legal career.

Jessica Star '17
Title: "How the conservatory paradigm impacts mental health?"

Committee: Mike Strand

Short Abstract: This study proposes that there are aspects of conservatories that contribute to mental distress, but that there is not enough research to conclude that conservatories cause higher levels of mental distress when compared to a traditional school setting. It finds that even if the data is still inconclusive on whether conservatories cause higher levels of mental health issues than a more traditional university, there are still many mechanisms found in this specific conservatory of study that do impact mental health.

Lessons Learned: My thesis provided me with a small glimpse into what it takes to write a research paper, and ultimately impacted my research focus in graduate school.