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Seniors approach theses with passion

Aubrey Butts | Friday, September 23, 2011

Senior Michael Rodio began his career at Notre Dame as a biology major.

Now, Rodio is preparing for his senior thesis as a piano performance major.

“I would rather spend four hours a day at the piano bench than a lab bench,” Rodio said.

Having a passion for his subject has driven his preparation for his thesis performance, Rodio said.

“Do a thesis because you personally need to do it, not because you feel like you have to,” Rodio said. “It sounds trite, but if you love something, your work will be great, no matter how difficult it is.”

Rodio will perform a full-length recital as his thesis. He said the show will last about an hour.

“My performance will include pieces ranging from a Hayden sonata to Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,'” Rodio said. “Most students [in the major] perform recitals at different points in their undergraduate career. While it’s technically part of the major, it is always something I have wanted to do.”

Like Rodio, senior Eileen Gillespie used her passions to develop her American Studies thesis, inspired by a student government project she participated in.

“Last year, I found out about eND Hunger, a group on campus that works with the West Side Food Security Council to increase food security on the West Side of South Bend,” Gillespie said. “I joined this group and really started to learn about food deserts and the disparities that exist in food availability and quality among different neighborhoods.”

Her experience with eND Hunger prompted Gillespie to research the relationship between food security and social class for her senior thesis.

“The most challenging thing so far has just been navigating the research process as a whole,” Gillespie said. “I’ve done plenty of research papers for classes, but this is the first time that I am doing something of this caliber.”

Gillespie described her research experience as more “hands-on” than previous college projects.

“We each chose our own topic, and we actually have to go out and collect our data,” she said. “It’s not just something where you sit in the library and research information.”

Gillespie’s post-graduation plans also influenced her thesis topic.

“I think I want to eventually work in the food industry, either with nutrition or with food policy, and my thesis topic relates quite well to that,” she said. “I hope to be better prepared for this field by the time I am done writing.”

Senior Kevin DeLaMontaigne, another American Studies major, also said he hopes to draw examples from the local community for his thesis.

DeLaMontaigne will examine the way homophobic language affects the social power structures in schools today. He became interested in the topic after reading several books on the subject for his classes.

Now, he is waiting for paperwork to process before he can take the next steps.

“Ideally, I would like to spend time in a school and observe children who have been affected by this issue,” said DeLaMontaigne, “However, until my UROP [Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program] application goes through, I have been limited to reading, internet research and examining the roles of gay-straight alliances.”

Constructing a senior thesis paper is daunting, he said, but ultimately rewarding.

“At the end of the year, I just think it will be really cool to be able to say I wrote a 50-page paper,” DeLaMontaigne said.