Seniors show off thesis presentations, projects

As actor and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda would say, history has its eyes on us. But on April 18 and April 25, the students of the history department seminar showed that sometimes human beings can be the ones keeping an eye on history.

Students, led by Professor of History Timothy Kircher, began their research in the beginning of the spring semester. Each student chose a different topic to work on, and they were eventually divided into small groups according to similarities between their research.

These groups were then put into one of two dates of presentations, which were open to the public in the East Gallery of Founders Hall from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Some of the themes included an examination of gender and witchcraft in Salem in the 17th century, Britain’s involvement in Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, the hypocrisies of French colonialism in Algeria and a deeper analysis of the Joan Little trial.

Although looking calm and excited to teach the audience about what they have been studying for the past few months, the students claim that the process was not always easy.

“It’s been very challenging for a lot of obvious reasons,” said senior Jocelyn Foshay. “One is that my research is focusing on marginalized and silenced communities, so finding primary sources from (a specific) time (period) and finding sources that come from the voice that I want to highlight is next to impossible.

“A lot of people coming from Europe were illiterate, so they (did not) have journals, newspapers or anything like that.”

Foshay’s research explored the differences between evangelical and progressive era reform in regards to black versus white brothels in Chicago in the early 20th century. She explained how the use of evangelicalism for racist and xenophobic agendas affected the lives of black prostitutes at the time.

This was not the only difficulty Foshay faced. She also had to come up with something new to tell the public as well as the scholars in the field.

“The biggest (problem) is making sure you have an original argument that hasn’t been done (before),” said senior Brenna Walsh. “It takes a lot of time and research, (but) I’m also excited to (share) my work.”

Walsh translated and examined the notes of a French National Assembly debate that happened on Sept. 30, 1957. The members of the assembly were voting on a law of integration, which was the last chance for an Algerian solution within a French framework during the French-Algerian war.

Kircher seemed very pleased with the results of his last seminar and his students’ successes.

“This was a fantastic experience,” said Kircher. “All the students have been very much engaged and passionate about their work, exercising the abilities of historians in discovering new material about a variety of topics, some (of them) new, some traditional.”

Senior Ethan McAdams said the class helped him improve his writing and communication skills. This was his second time taking the seminar, and to him, the experience could not have been better.

“This class has been a journey,” he said. “This time around, it seems like I’ve grown exponentially academically because now I know how to structure my thoughts in a paper as well as in (a presentation).”

Students, faculty and family members who attended the events in order to support friends and loved ones were satisfied with the quality of the theses and the organization of the presentations.

“(This was) really fascinating,” said senior Hannah Brewer-Jensen. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here, but it’s so cool to hear the finished product of all these students, many of (whom are) my friends.”

Another reason why the presentations were so popular is because the seminar students encouraged each other during breaks and presentations.

“This is a group that has really (related well) in terms of supporting each other,” said Kircher. “Working with them not only individually, but in smaller groups, and seeing how they share ideas and come up with the results of their (research) is probably my favorite part.”

To those graduating this year, this class was life-changing.

“I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something,” said McAdams