The 31st Annual Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium was held virtually on Thursday, April 22. Each year, the symposium gives students a chance to present their FURSCA projects to the student body, staff and faculty.
Last year, the symposium was canceled due to COVID-19. This year, however, 91 students will be presenting. The symposium is the final opportunity, at Albion, for seniors to present their thesis projects. Five of the seniors who presented at Elkin Isaac offered some insight into their theses and presentations.
Anthony Avouris is a senior from Kent, Ohio. Majoring in history, Avouris hopes to pursue a career as a professor of byzantine history after completing graduate studies in medieval history.
The title of Avouris’ thesis presentation is Exploring Cultural Continuity between Ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire.
His historical research examined moments in Byzantine literature where there was an ancient Greek reference or attribution. Avouris said that in preparation for his thesis, he spent time reading about eight Byzantine books and about five Ancient Greek books.
One of the biggest issues that Avouris ran into while conducting his research was a lack of modern citation in the Byzantine literature.
“Sometimes you would get, ‘the poet says,’ and then a quote. Then you’d have to try to figure out who the poet was,” said Avouris.
Avouris was most excited to share the comedic moments that he found. Though, because his presentation is limited on time, he won’t be able to share his favorite moment.
His favorite discovery in the histories was of an upper level Byzantine bureaucrat who had a very high opinion of himself. When the bureaucrat gave a speech, he said that he winged the entire speech, and everyone would have been in awe if they hadn’t been distracted by loud noises.
Abigail Amat is a senior from Niles and is a double major in English, with creative writing concentration, and French. After graduation, Amat plans to take a year off to travel and work before returning to graduate school to earn a masters and Ph.D. in English.
The title of Amat’s thesis presentation is Translations of Paroles d’honneur Écrits de Créoles de couleur néo-orléanais.
Her thesis is a translation of a collection of short stories written in French by Creole writers of color, and research on the background of the writers. She explained she was interested in bringing the writings to the forefront because they were written by some of the first Black writers in the U.S.
“Translating is hard, to put it simply. It took a lot of reading the original stories,” said Amat. “I translated very literally from French to English, and then I had to go back and make it sound more like Modern English.”
Amat said that the translations were entirely up to her on how she wanted to present them. She had to decide whether to keep to the 18th century voice or put the stories into a 21st century voice.
“I kind of settled for something more in between,” said Amat.
Amat was most excited to present the fact that these are some of the first Black authors in the U.S. This excitement stems from her desire to teach minority literature after graduate school.
Mickey Benson, a senior from Portland, Ore., is a religious studies major and history minor with a concentration in public policy. After graduation, Benson plans to get a job helping people.
The title of Benson’s thesis is Pastel Spirituality: Finding Religion in the Online Spiritual Marketplace.
“What my thesis covers is looking at people, specifically in the online format, who are help-seeking and looking for fulfilling what’s called spiritual but not religious identity,” said Benson.
Benson said that their research goes into people who purchase items that are linked to a specific religion or spirituality but don’t specifically belong to it.
“It’s something I’m really excited about because the consumer has so much power and I don’t think we talk about religious practitioners as having an empowered stance,” said Benson.
Benson discussed that anyone can become spiritually seeking and pick up the rituals without joining churches.
The biggest struggle for Benson was limiting their thesis to the most important information. Benson said they had a two-and-a-half page document dedicated to “links and tangents” that they couldn’t include in their thesis.
Benson was excited to see the amount of people who care and are interested in their thesis. They said they would describe their thesis as a “love letter to my Albion experience.”
Troy MacCallumMhor is a senior from Macomb, double majoring in history and international studies with a minor in German. After graduation, MacCallumMhor plans to attend graduate school and study archival science with the hopes of finding a career in archiving.
The title of MacCallumMhor’s thesis is Triumphalism on the Big Screen: The Division of East and West Germany after Reunification.
MacCallumMhor’s thesis examines three German films and one German TV series while analyzing the representation of east german’s and east german identity in them. His thesis argues that the glorification of East German’s after the reunification “fails to accurately portray east german identity and fails to take into account the perspective.”
MacCallumMhor explained that he was introduced to the films during a film class in his freshman year, and again while he studied abroad in Berlin.
“They believe these to be culturally relevant,” said MacCallumMhor.
One of the hardest things for him during the process was the analysis of the movies. He mentioned that the professor he would have reached out to for assistance wasn’t available to help, but he was able to get his analyses to where he wanted them.
MacCallumMhor’s favorite aspect of his thesis was his finding that national identity influenced the outcome of how the films turned out. He argues that the films are a reflection of West German identity.
Hannah Gracin, a senior from Saint Clair Shores, is majoring in English and minoring in communication studies. After graduation, Gracin hopes to start a career in advertising, public relations, communications, copywriting or social media management.
The title of Gracin’s thesis is Romantic Interests and Female Agency in YA Dystopian Novels.
Gracin’s thesis analyzes the roles that the romantic interests play in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. She looks at the specific moments where the words or actions of the romantic interest have an influence on the female protagonists.
“The male protagonist/romantic interests have a greater understanding of the fictional context that they are written into,” said Gracin. “It’s when they share this understanding with the female protagonist that they [the female protagonist] can seize on their individual agency.”
Gracin explained that one of the issues she ran into while creating her presentation for Elkin Isaac was knowing what to include. Her thesis ended up being a total of 80 pages, making it crucial that she choose only the most important parts.
Unfortunately, given the time restrictions, Gracin’s presentation didn’t include any of her findings from the Divergent series. One of the biggest findings from the Divergent series was that the powerful female characters didn’t make it to the end of the novels.
Gracin said she was most excited to present on the scene in the Hunger Games where Katniss gives Rue a funeral.