2016 Thesis Prize Winners

Thank you to all who entered the 2016 Senior Thesis Prize in Ethnicity, Migration, Rights. Congratulations to the 2016 winners and honorary recipients for their outstanding work!

Winner | An Abundance of Butterflies

Writing a creative thesis was an extraordinary experience, and also one that allowed me to combine my English concentration with my secondary field in Latino Studies. After taking a creative writing class with Jamaica Kincaid, I realized that I wanted to write a creative senior thesis. I thought deeply about the key themes and issues that I had explored in my classes and in my extracurricular organizations. Of these themes, a few stood out, ones that would prove essential to my thesis: identity, translation, immigration, and legacy. I wanted to write about a fictional family across many generations and I also wanted to set the story in Panama, the country from which my family hails. I considered writing a novel of magical realism, but after doing some research, I decided that Panamanian history was fantastical even without imagined flights of fantasy. On a trip to Panama funded by the Department of English, I stumbled across a small sign in the Canal Museum noting that the word "Panama" means "an abundance of butterflies." This ultimately became my title. Looking back, I think that was the moment when my thesis journey truly began. Read More...


Winner | The Effect of Electoral Systems on Immigrant Representation

Since sophomore year, I have worked as a Research Assistant to myadviser, Professor Justin Gest. One of the first projects I worked with him on examined the descriptive and substantive representation of immigrants. While a rich literature examines how various factors impact the representation of minorities at large, few scholars had looked at immigrants in particular, although the subject was drawing increasing attention. After taking an electoral systems seminar with Professor Daniel Smith in my junior year, I knew I wanted to look at the intersection of immigrant representation and electoral systems, both of which are burgeoning fields within political science. My topic took more concrete form after conversations with Professors Gest and Smith about how to best test how electoral systems shape immigrant representation. Read More...


Honorary Recipient | The I-Hotel in Social Movement and Collective Memory

From classes I'd taken before and my junior paper on Vietnamese and Cuban refugee resettlement, I knew I wanted to write about contemporary Asian American history, but it wasn't until reading the book I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita the summer before senior year that I was able to ground my interest in a concrete event. The multitude of voices that Yamashita included in her novel inspired me to explore the social movements and interethnic cooperation that surrounded and propelled the I-Hotel Movement. Read More...



Honorary Recipient | The Trials of Trovan: Civil Society and Corporate Science in the Developing World

When looking for a thesis topic, I hoped to find something that would combine my two areas of focus: History of Science and African Studies. As I conducted preliminary research, I noticed one event in particular kept surfacing - Pfizer's 1996 Trovan trial in Kano, Nigeria. While the trial and the controversy that resulted were mentioned frequently in academic texts, no complete narrative existed. In part this was because the legal disputes between Pfizer and the Nigerian plaintiffs only recently were resolved and the story itself was convoluted and complex. The deeper I dug into the Trovan story, the more confusing the narrative became - it was the perfect allegory for science in the developing world and provided a lens through which to address the ethical dilemmas that result when western pharmaceutical companies conduct research abroad. Read More...