Author: shilorea

Hello Friends

photo-1458925140641-48569e57da75My novel, for the purposes of my thesis, will be done tomorrow. I will submit it to my advisor, who will submit it to the department head who will then send it on to the Dean’s office. I can’t believe it!

The last few months I have been working on editing, rewriting scenes and trying to fully define what I wrote so I can describe it when people ask that much-dreaded question “So what is your novel about?”

Now, I can safely answer, “I’m working on it.”

I am so thankful for the opportunity that Dietrich College gave me to write a novel. The time and the resources provided have given me the chance to prove to myself that I can do it. But more than that, it has shown me that I love long form fiction.

This time last year, I asked my friends who were finishing their theses what they had learned during the process. One friend, who had been working on a historical-fiction novel, candidly said, “That I don’t like novels.”

That response stuck with me. But for me, this experience has been the opposite. I have emerged from this year secure in my knowledge that I really enjoyed writing my novel and I can’t wait to write another one.

I am excited to share my work at Meeting of the Minds and with all of you who have supported me through this process.

Thank you!

Learn more about my project.

A Study of American Popular Music Festivals as Youthful Rites of Passage

Have you ever gone to a music festival? Dietrich College Honors Fellow Geneva Jackson spent the summer attending festivals in Tennessee, West Virginia, Delaware and other locations. Why? She’s researching their role as youthful rites of passage as her Senior Honors Program thesis.

Jackson, a global studies and history major, recently presented on her work. In addition to her field work, she worked with her advisor, History Professor Judith Schachter worked to define what a festival consists of for her project.

geneva presents“We have a working definition,” Jackson said. “There has to be music, even if other arts are present, and the duration has to be longer than one night.”

She also spoke about how she had to narrow her original focus from comparing festivals from the 1960s to today. Instead she will just study modern music festivals.

Jackson talked about the unique position she’s in because she’s part of the demographic she’s observing. She also described the types of data she collected – how she wrote everything she saw, trying to be objective, and what she experienced. She also wrote reflections later about what she learned and what it meant.

Moving forward, Jackson will go through all of her notes to see what fits where and find and read anthropological works on rites of passage.

Learn more about her project.

Big Bite: A Student’s First Novel

Creative writing major Eleanor Haglund has written plenty of short stories and even one novella before, but never tackled something as long and involved as a novel. Until now.

Haglund, a Humanities Scholars Program student with a psychology minor, has embarked on writing her very first novel. She spent the summer figuring out just how to do this as part of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Honors Fellowship. The fellowship allows students to get a head start on their Senior Honors Program thesis work.

eleanor presentationHaglund presented her work so far earlier this week – about how her story switched focus and how she made so much progress (100 pages written and counting!)

“My novel is a coming of age story about a girl in college,” Haglund said. “The girl is struggling with school and her family as she comes into her own. It’s totally fiction.”

Haglund was advised by English Professors Kevin González and Jane McCafferty not to outline as she began the writing process.

“But I love structure and schedules, so I freaked out,” Haglund admitted.

However, she said by not having a pre-determined path, so many doors opened for her.

“I would have focused on events and plots – and wouldn’t have focused on characters,” she said.

Haglund said that she needs to write every day, and even blogged about her quest to find the perfect location. But she’s writing and not looking back.

“It’s really hard to revise a large project as you’re going, so I plan on revising later,” Haglund said.

She plans on having a completed first draft by November.

“Then I will start with what Jane said, ‘re-envisioning what I’ve put down,’” she said.

Learn more about her novel.

Hezbollah, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Intersection of Militant and Political Identities

Next up in the series of posts on the Dietrich College Honors Fellowship summer presentations is Chloe Thompson, a global studies and Hispanic Studies double major with a creative writing minor.

chloepresentsWhen she applied for the fellowship program, Thompson wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do her thesis on, but she knew that it would involve non-state groups and political actors. She settled on Hezbollah, Arabic for “Party of God,” and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) because they’re two non-state actors that have separate but active militant and political arms.

Thompson described how she spent the summer looking for answers to questions such as why the PIRA transformed from a militant group to a political one and how Hezbollah maintains having both factions function.

“The great thing about this fellowship was that I didn’t need to produce something right now,” Thompson said. “I could take the time to understand and learn.”

She feels that she now has developed a mastery of the concepts, a depth of knowledge and the vocabulary to analyze and talk about both groups.

“Now, I’m at a jumping off point for figuring out what I want to say,” she said.

Thompson’s most immediate plan to tackle the next stage of her project is to keep looking for ways Hezbollah and the PIRA are similar.

Learn more about her project.

View a group photo of all of the honors fellows before their presentations.

How to Fight Jealousy

Just a reminder that today, the 2015 Dietrich College Honors Fellows presented on their work so far this summer. We had hoped to share videos of each presentation, but due to technical difficulties, we’ll just be sharing recaps and a few photos throughout the week.

For Kaylyn Kim’s Senior Honors Program thesis and fellowship project, she decided to create a psychological study to find out how to fight jealousy using security[1] copy

Kim’s project advisor is Associate Psychology Professor Brooke Feeney, an expert in studying interpersonal relations – particularly in how close relationships help people to thrive through adversity and through the pursuit of life challenges.

First, Kim, a psychology major with a minor in creative writing, talked about how she needed to define “romantic jealousy.”

“It’s the threat of comparison and competition and the fear of being replaced,” she explained. “Jealousy is not inherently a bad emotion. It comes from a place of love, but the outcomes can be negative.”

Security priming has been shown to boost moods and self-esteem, so Kim wanted to explore how it affects jealous thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. She used imagining a partner’s touch or sound of their voice as examples of security primes.

Kim has already started running pilots, and she detailed how her experiment works. Participants must speak English, be at least 18 years old and have a romantic partner that they have been dating for at least three months who is also willing to participate. They will not be aware of the study’s real goal.

The couples will fill out background questionnaires and go through a series of activities designed to gather baseline information and then elicit jealous reactions.

Kim believes that the implications from her work will include creating interventions “to enhance the well-being of individuals and their relationships.”

Read more about Kim’s project.

Check out a photo of all of the Honors Fellows before the presentations.

Narratives in the 21st Century

Today, the 2015 Dietrich College Honors Fellows presented on their work so far this summer. We had hoped to share videos of each presentation, but due to technical difficulties, we’ll just be sharing recaps and a few photos throughout the week. (If you want to see a great picture of all of the fellows right before the presentations, click here!)

lwpresentationUp first: Laurnie Wilson. Wilson, a creative writing and history double major with a minor in German, is working on telling narratives through text and photography under English Professor Jane Bernstein. Wilson, who is in the Humanities Scholars Program, began her presentation with a dramatic reading of some of what she’s written so far.

She then talked about how at the beginning of the summer, she struggled with coming up with content to write every day. Traveling helped her solve the problem.

“It wasn’t that I wasn’t inspired,” Wilson said. “I wanted to write more about my experiences. So, I made a leap to non-fiction and travel journal writing, and the floodgates opened. My thesis work became a joy.”

Wilson still wanted to use photography in her storytelling, so she took a class while she was home in June. She said that her teacher will continue to mentor her as she moves forward with her project.

“I realized photography is just as much storytelling as writing, and I noticed that I was absorbing the world around me more,” she said.

Now, Wilson is focused on typing up her handwritten notes and organizing and transferring all of her photos and files to her computer.

“I want to be really organized at the beginning of the semester,” Wilson stated.

Then, she will start to bring out storylines from both her written pieces and pictures. Her hope is to have a final product that is a “book that you can hold” filled with text and images that tell her story.

Learn more about Wilson’s project.

On Piloting

I’m very happy to announce I just conducted my first pilot test of my research study! I’ve run through the protocol and script many times with advisors, grad students, and friends, but not on anyone in the unsuspecting population. I had my lab manager and a research assistant act as my ‘couple’ who had been dating for three months and ran through the study like it was the real thing. Afterwards, they gave me great feedback on things they liked, and things that needed to be fixed.


All my applications for the IRB are written and complete. I plan on continuing pilot testing this week, making necessary changes in my application, and finally submitting on Friday! Then I wait for their response.

My pilot testers are going to consist of a wide range of opinions that’ll give me crucial feedback. So as I mentioned, today I had my knowledgeable research assistant and lab manager duo to test on; later this week, I’ll also have a completely unsuspecting real couple along with my research advisor and grad student powerhouse duo. Each pilot I’ll find something new to fix, so the next one will run smoother. Hopefully by Friday, I’ll have worked all the kinks out.

My lab room, where I watch!

My lab room, where I watch!

The aftermath of the study – piles and piles of questionnaires

The aftermath of the study – piles and piles of questionnaires

I’m excited to move on from the ‘writing’ stage of the study onto the ‘doing’ stage. It was so fun hearing what my pilot couple had to say about my baby, and it made me excited to fix it so the next couple could experience it as well. It’s also quite awakening, to go from imagining what it’ll be like to see it come to life.

Learn more about my project.

Hello everyone!

It’s my second week back in Pittsburgh, which means I’ve been immersed in my project for nearly two weeks now.

What I’ve been up to…

  • Lots and lots of reading. Basically, every day, I start off with reading new material, reviewing old material, looking for information online, reading through textbooks, and repeat. I’ve spent the good majority of last and this week delving into the research on relationship jealousy and security priming. It’s not the most exciting task, but certainly an essential one.
Found a nice study spot in the Carnegie Library!

Found a nice study spot in the Carnegie Library!

  • For now, my work has been a solitary task, apart from these weekly meetings with my advisor and other Dietrich fellows. I don’t mind working alone, but it’s a good feeling to interact with people that understand and support my work.
  • The beginning stages of the IRB proposal. Writing this proposal is my first (and big!) assignment. As I started writing two days ago, I have noticed what a huge and complex task this will be. The IRB proposal requires you to attach and explain everything you will use in your study, from the flyers, informed consent form, questionnaires, script, method, debriefing form, to twenty other things I have not listed. This means I need all these things done. For each component, I have a solid idea of what it’ll look like, but it’ll certainly take some time to write it out in the diction and format I envision. The smallest element can affect a participant’s answer to a question, so I need to extremely careful when writing these things out so my study presents itself neutral and unbiased. Also, the description of my study needs to be as tactful as possible, since I am dealing with human subjects and arising potential negative feelings of jealousy.

In these past two weeks, I feel as though I’ve found more about the way I work. First of all, I’ve absolutely loved working on my own time, which is not something many students get to experience. Each day has been different from the one before, which is partly due to the fact that I get antsy when I’ve been doing the same thing for too long. For example, I find myself switching locations throughout the day instead of staying put in one place. Walking around and moving helps me take a break when I’m in a rut, and I find it much more helpful than sitting and waiting for inspiration to come. I’ve hit up the usual work locations (Starbucks, the library, my lab) as well as outdoor locations (in front of the Carnegie Museum, by the fountain in Schenley Plaza) if outdoor Wi-fi permits!

Progress is coming slowly but surely. I’m excited to tackle on this proposal for the next few weeks and get my study rolling.

Learn more about my project.

Hello, Hello!

wilson_201x201My name is Laurnie, and I’m thrilled to have been selected as a fellow for this year’s Dietrich Honors Fellowship! I’m currently a creative writing and history double-major, with a minor in German. For me, the idea of completing a thesis project has always seemed a bit vague. During my time at Carnegie Mellon University, the thesis was this kind of strange, amorphous, looming presence that I wasn’t quite sure how to approach. I didn’t know anyone who had completed a thesis project, and I certainly had no idea what my options would be for a thesis as a creative writer. So now that I’m embarking on my own thesis adventure, I’d like to invite you to follow along!

My hope for these blogs posts is twofold. First, I’d like to show students interested in the fellowship one way in which you can approach it from a creative perspective. Second, I’d like to make my project as transparent as possible, so everyone can see the way in which my project evolves from start to finish. The chance to share my progress with you here, in this space, is one that I’m so looking forward to!

So, now that you know just a bit about me, you’re probably wondering what my project is about anyway? Well, funny that you should ask! For my project, I’ll be combining creative writing and photography to create a series of short stories on the topic of growing up. I’m excited for both aspects of the project, as I feel that they will make a much more resonant narrative than writing or photography ever could alone. Truth be told, I’ve never worked much with photography, but I’m excited for the creative challenge! My hope is that this project will both play to my strengths and push me out of my comfort zone just enough to make a lasting, positive change in my artistic work.

I’m still so shocked that the university is going to pay me for pursuing an idea. It seems like a rare day when someone happily gives you money to create art. Yet, this vote of confidence has done wonders to reinforce the importance of my work. I really do believe that this thesis can be the beginning of a very successful professional career, as well as a wonderful way to deepen my creative practice.

I’m looking forward to keeping you updated! My work this summer will cross continents and oceans, bridging the old and the new, the expected and the unexpected, the fantastic and the mundane. So keep an eye out! I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I’ll enjoy writing them.

Til next time, friends.

Read more about my project.