I continue to be amazed at the powerful ways in which students can benefit from a Spanish curriculum that incorporates community service learning, entrepreneurship education and Spanish for the professions. Case in point: senior honors theses.
Senior theses reflect the advisor's research. Therefore, the majority of Spanish senior honors theses are analyses of some cultural product (literary piece, film, etc.) or some linguistic component. Students learn a lot through these projects, sometimes most importantly about the research process itself and the student's own post-graduate academic aspirations.
Since I don't focus on those two areas, my students' senior theses take a different turn. A few years ago a team of three *wonderful* students (Jenna, Stephanie & Mateo) wrote a case study on the impact of community-based learning on the Refugee Center, and vice versa. Picking up on that same thread, Katrina Bone studied theories of volunteer management and how some key strategies could help the Refugee maximize the CBL students' capabilities and at the same time maximize their learning. Lena Lee combined her internship experiences with theories of experiential learning to write a thesis that spelled out ways that students, internship directors and internship hosts can enhance the internship experience. Jennifer Mull and Melissa Dilber have teamed up to analyze their separate international internships/service experiences and compare their language/culture/professional needs with the curriculum materials offered in some Spanish textbooks.
You can see more about these students by clicking on the "about us" tab above.
Lena finished her thesis this week. It's now in the hands of the second reader. I'm very pleased with Lena's work, and I am especially happy that her appendix includes handouts that will be useful to all of us involved with the Spanish & Illinois Summer Internships (see link in left navigation bar).
But these theses don't fit within the traditional mold of what and how Spanish students do research. They involve careful self-reflection on their own learning experiences as part of the data. But I the learning that happens in these theses is deep. Students are truly invested in their research when it involves something that they care deeply about--including themselves!
Congratulations to Lena on finishing her thesis--and graduating.