Undergraduate Honors Theses


Change and Stability in the Political Ideology of College Students
Over the past 20 years, there has been a trend in American politics for college graduates to identify with the Democratic party and to fall to the left on the ideology scale. College graduates of today are both more liberal than previous college graduates as well as their contemporary non-college graduate counterparts. Previous research disagrees on what mechanisms are driving this growing education gap in American politics. Some point to selection effects while others argue that college socializes students to move to the left. Using data from the Political Engagement Project (2003-2005), I argue that the process that is occurring is a mix of these two ideas, fitting an Input-Environment-Output model. While college students as a whole do come in leaning to the left, college has a mildly liberalizing effect on students, so that college graduates as a whole exit leaning more to the left than they did when they entered. I also point out some factors which predispose students to ideological change or stability during college.
Classical Perspectives at the End of Antiquity
Rome changed throughout its history and the city that existed during the fourth century CE was different from the city that Virgil and Cicero lived in and described in their writings. The Roman state and society changed during the intervening four centuries as Rome ceased to be politically significant, elite behavior became increasingly disconnected from any role in governance, and the traditional religious cults were neglected as Christianity gained prominence. Despite these changes, Roman tradition dictated an idealization of ancestral custom, which was preserved in the corpus of extant literature. I argue that among the elites of fourth century society, there were individuals such as Ammianus Marcellinus or Symmachus who interpreted and responded to their society through the filter of these fossilized images of an idealized Rome. Although they lived in largely post-classical time, their writings express a worldview that is congruent with the late Republic and early Principate.
Contextual Features Affect Children’s Attention to Number
Prior research indicates that Spontaneous Focusing On Number (SFON) measured in the preschool years is predictive of mathematical achievement as late as age 12 (Hannula & Lehtinen, 2005; Hannula-Sormunen, Lepola, & Lehtinen, 2010). Therefore, there is great need to examine how young children’s attention to number is affected by various contexts. This study investigated how heterogeneity vs. homogeneity of the arrays, and verbal labels for the quantities presented affected young children’s attention to number, compared to their attention to cumulative surface area. We found that participants preference for and attention to number was correlated with their number knowledge, but only when the items they were presented with were homogeneous, not heterogeneous. This suggests that homogeneous arrays are important for children’s attention to number and individuation and could be used as a tool to help children better hone in on mathematical concepts. 
Crime Generators, Deterrents, and Attractors in Micro-Places
Criminal hotspots are heuristically understood, but seldom well-defined and empirically evaluated. In this thesis, I examine the concentration of crime into microgeographic hotspots, testing both the extent to which this occurs across major cities and the relationship between spatial features and crime. I find that roughly five percent of street segments are responsible for half of crime across major cities, with this concentration level being robust to changes in total crime rate and economic conditions over time. I also find a significant relationship between the presence of spatial features such as nearby schools, bus stops, bars, and graffiti with the crime level in microgeographic units. Through a routine activity and crime pattern theoretic interpretation, such spatial models of crime can help to identify features and facilities that attract, inspire, and deter crime. These findings have policy relevant implications for both urban planning and police strategy, offering intuition as to where crime can be expected to concentrate and how changes to local environments impact public safety.
Demography in Crisis
In the past several decades, saving for retirement has significantly changed, with the large replacement of Defined Contribution for Defined Benefit plans, as well as the unreliability of Social Security given the aging population. This paper analyzes retirement wealth across three generational cohorts—Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen Xers (1965-1980), and Millennials (1981-2000)—in order to compare preparedness and determine whether or not younger cohorts have compensated for the future unreliability of other traditional retirement income sources. The results suggest that levels of retirement wealth do not significantly differ across cohorts at all age profiles. Therefore, younger generational cohorts have not increased the amount of personal saving in order to maintain their pre-retirement standards of living throughout retirement. These results indicate that a change in saving structure and policy may be necessary to ensure that younger cohorts retire out of poverty.
Designer Breeds First, Designer Babies Next
Through the years, people began to breed their dogs and cats with the intention for the pets to be useful in a certain skill. However, that has shifted to focus on their looks rather than their skills thanks to kennel clubs imposing standards on each breed. This has led irresponsible breeding practices to occur which in turn caused breeds to evolve negatively as breeds began to suffer from preventable genetic disorders and negative physical changes. Genetically manipulating soon shifted from pets to humans with PGD/IVF and CRISPR-Cas9. At first, there was a focus to use these methods to help cure and prevent genetic disorders. That has since shifted to people wanting to create the perfect child. In this thesis I will argue that designer breeds help lead the way to designer babies, and that any genetic manipulation to embryos should only be done if a medical reason is present.
Digital Social Entrepreneurship and the Path to Ending Intimate Partner Violence in the Syrian Refugee Population
The Syrian Civil War and its displacement of individuals has led to a dramatic increase in intimate partner violence (IPV) among refugee women. Statistics display that 99% of IPV survivors undergo financial control and exploitation, making it difficult to leave these toxic relationships. In 2016, UN Women created a cash-for-work initiative in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan intended to provide Jordanian and Syrian refugee women with protection through financial empowerment. The initiative was quickly successful, showing a 20% decrease in intimate partner violence. My research over the past year builds on this logic to explore digital social entrepreneurship as a manner of addressing IPV within the Syrian refugee population in Jordan. I argue that digital social entrepreneurship, ICT startups with a greater social mission, is key to addressing many of the MENA region’s most pressing issues post Arab Spring, as well as beneficial to empowering women. My analysis culminated in a policy recommendation for a cross sectional program to give refugee women in Jordan the resources they need to establish their own digital, socially conscious firms and establish a place for themselves and their families in both the Jordanian and Syrian post civil war economy.
Digitalizing Death
With the increasing digitalization of society, the line between private and public has blurred. Social network sites (SNSs) like Facebook and Instagram facilitate such a process, with users utilizing the sites for public displays of private emotions or events. What was once intimate conversation between two individuals or personal experience shared only with those in one’s physical company have become public conversations and shared experiences for networks of Friends and Followers to comment on, like, share, and survey. Consequently, social media has allowed for heightened expressions of grief, a formerly private experience, online through the use of images, words, and reactions. The current study uses survey and interview data to understand who uses social media to grieve the loss of a family member (a particularly private loss), why an individual might do this, and how such posting influences the grieving process for the social media user.
Exemplary practices that affirm and promote cultural and linguistic diversity in head start classrooms
With the continued growth of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students, it is necessary for teachers to be intentional about serving students whose backgrounds are assets but nonetheless different from the dominant culture and language in American society. Because most research on teaching practices has focused on the academic development of children in preschool, this study tries to fill a gap in the literature by examining teaching practices that respond to and affirm cultural diversity. After conducting interviews and observations in three Head Start classrooms, four core teacher beliefs (reciprocal relationships with family, importance of home language, social emotional emphasis, and inclusion of culture) were identified across the sites; these beliefs impacted how teachers created a multicultural space and tailored instruction for students. The findings contribute to the field by providing insight for how teachers can continue to foster inclusive classrooms that value and celebrate children’s unique identities.
Existential Anxiety and the Courage to Be
This thesis proposes that anxiety should be seen as a doorway to profounder human nature rather than a pathology to be cured, it is important to embody our courage to confront the anxiety and transcend from within. By looking at the Western existentialists, the existential question is raised regarding the latent and yet absolute existential anxiety in our lives. As Western existentialists have certain answers in their framework, the thesis also provides a fresh perspective combined with some Buddhists’ thoughts to present that the courage to be is a deep acceptance to the threats of non-being and our creative possibilities as human beings.


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