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A Tale of Two Theses
What defines a senior thesis? As the following examples demonstrate, it’s not
the format or content. It’s the rigor with which a question or idea is pursued.
For Sunshine Eversull, a Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) major and single parent, the senior thesis was an opportunity to explore a topic of personal significance: the implications, academically and socially, of attending college as a single parent.
Eversull was just getting started on her thesis research when guest lecturer Vivian Adair spoke at the UW. “Dr. Adair created a project that gets lower-income single parents into higher education,” says Eversull. “She has a particular interest in how society treats people on welfare. I went on to read all her books and study the theoretical trail she was following.”
Eversull also studied the work of French theorist Michel Foucault and other theorists suggested by her thesis adviser, Professor Phillip Thurtle.
As Spring Quarter began, she planned to write an 80-page theory-based thesis. “But I realized I wanted to take what I had learned and use it to help people,” says Eversull. One lesson learned was how single parents benefit from networking with each other, so Eversull developed a workshop—“The Super Parent Workshop”—for single parents enrolled in college. She also created a related website with an interactive discussion board.
“I’m still writing a thesis, but now it will be shorter,” says Eversull. “It will develop my theoretical ideas but will also reflect on developing the workshop.”
DXARTS major Peter Brun decided on a thesis project that reflects his interest in image manipulation. His project is a 4’ x 4’ artwork with 100 motorized sections. Attached to each motor are a dozen flaps, in varying shades of grey. A computer controls the motors, causing each to rotate to a specific grey flap (much like the flipping numbers on an alarm clock). The result is an ever-changing image in shades of grey.
“I wanted to create something that has an experiential element to it,” says Brun. “There’s an element of expectation for the viewer as you watch it flip. You’ll
be witnessing an image forming and constantly changing.”
The project has involved endless challenges. Brun had to invent rotors that would spin the flaps, and control boards and software to move the motors. “I had to teach myself a ton of new things,” he says. “I learned how to use milling machines to mill metal, I manufactured my own printed circuit board, and I had to do software design. All the DXARTS students have had to go outside their own boundaries and try new things.”
Brun’s senior thesis, and those of his DXARTS cohort, were on display at Consolidated Works Gallery in June — a fitting tribute to the students’ year-long effort.