The true test of an education is when you have to do the work for yourself. Every year, the seniors in Bryant’s Honors Program prove they have what it takes to make important contributions to the wider world by completing year-long, in-depth thesis projects that require them to take charge of their education, explore new ideas, and produce results that matter.
Known for their rigor, the research projects test every element of their education. “Bryant has prepared us so well to complete these projects that, even during a global pandemic, we’ve channeled everything we could into them,” says Honors student Samantha Turcotte ’21. “We have the drive, the perseverance, and the resilience – and we want to make an impact.”
Making a personal mark
This year, fifty-four Honors students, the largest number in the history of the program and representing nearly every course of study, presented their theses to the Bryant community. Topics ranged from categorizing new forms of bacteria to examining global supply chains to exploring the obstacles that prevent women from entering science and technology fields.
“My project taught me a lot about myself, but it also reflects me in so many ways. This is one of the first things I've really been able to put my stamp on and it's allowed me to research something that I'm very interested in and want to pursue in the future.”
“The Honors Thesis is a serious commitment, but it is a commitment that allows scholars to shape their academics and their careers,” states Professor Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D., the Director of the College Honors Program. “The work of this class truly represents the integration of business and the arts and sciences that has been the hallmark of a Bryant education.”
Turcotte, a Communication major, studied how Disney movies impact gender role awareness, body image, and self-confidence in elementary school children for her thesis. “I think the variety of these projects demonstrate the intellectual diversity we have at Bryant,” she says. “We have a wide range of interests and a wide range of majors and skillsets, but we do all come together for the same thing.”
For the students, working on their Honors thesis can often be a deeply personal process. “My project taught me a lot about myself, but it also reflects me in so many ways,” Turcotte says. “This is one of the first things I've really been able to put my stamp on and it's allowed me to research something that I'm very interested in and want to pursue in the future.”
“We have a wide range of interests and a wide range of majors and skillsets, but we do all come together for the same thing.”
Set up for success
To complete a project like the Honors thesis requires a lot of work – and a finely honed toolkit of skills. “You have to have analytical skills and you have to be very knowledgeable regarding your field,” states Noah Tellier ’21, an International Business major who developed metrics for measuring the efficacy of Environmental, Social, and Governance factors in supply chains for his thesis project.
You also need practical skills, such as time and project management, as well as a real-world understanding of how people and organizations work so that you can put the pieces together in a way that matters, Tellier notes. “That’s something I think Bryant students are able do a lot better than students at a lot of other schools,” he adds.
In many ways, the thesis is a culmination of four years of lessons and experiences. “You draw on things you learn at Bryant from your foundational courses all the way through your senior year,” Turcotte reflects.
“I could keep my results sitting on my desk for the next 30 years, but that's not going to do anyone any good. It's the sharing of your knowledge and the expertise you gained from the project that’s going to help the people around you.”
One of the key elements of the thesis is the partnership Honors students forge with their thesis advisors, who guide students while still allowing them to forge their own path. It was Professor of Management John Visich, Ph.D., who first introduced Tellier to the concepts that would inform his thesis, and Visich continued to help him as his advisor. “He was the ideal person for the project not only because he has the proper background but because this is a topic he’s genuinely interested in,” says Tellier. “Having someone like that as your advisor makes the whole process a lot easier.”
“Professor Visich kept me focused and he was always there to bounce questions off of,” says Tellier, who sees Visich as a mentor. “It wasn’t like he gave me assignments to complete, it was more ‘Let's meet, let's have a discussion and then you can come back next week and tell me what you found.’"
An important resource
Between 2015-2020, 16 Bryant Honors Thesis projects have been published in conference proceedings or in peer reviewed journals. In addition, the 340 honors thesis projects archived in the University’s digital commons, ranging from 2006 to 2020, have been accessed more than 810,000 times by 20,800 organizations around the world.
“In some ways, sharing your work is the most important part of any research project,” says Turcotte. “I could keep my results sitting on my desk for the next 30 years, but that's not going to do anyone any good. It's the sharing of your knowledge and the expertise you gained from the project that’s going to help the people around you.”
“You're all going to do great things, no matter where you go or what the future has in store because you’ve proved yourself and have amazing faculty, staff, and classmates supporting you all the way."
This is a project that matters, and it has a legacy,” Turcotte explains. “This is something that that could be published and impact other scholars in the future who refer to your work. They're going back and seeing what you did for reference.”
Prepared for the future
The projects can provide the students with an important advantage as well. “Through their Honors thesis, students develop skills that are highly sought after by employers right now,” Tebaldi notes. “The work they do helps differentiate students and prepares them to do great work in their organizations and for their communities in the future.”
Tiffany Venmahavong ’17, a Fulbright Scholar and Rangel Fellow whose Honors thesis "Five Seconds to the Ad: How Program-Induced Mood Affects Ad Countdown Effects" was published in the Journal of Advertising, returned to campus as the keynote speaker for this year’s Honors Thesis presentations. “The lessons I learned from my senior honors thesis have helped me to this day,” she noted. “The qualitative and quantitative research skills, the ability to synthesize academic papers, personal organization, accountability, and time management skills, are all skills that I honed through the Honors Thesis and the Honors Program."
"There are so many reasons to do an Honors Thesis, and one of the biggest is that I never knew that I was capable of producing something like this until now.”
“You're all going to do great things, no matter where you go or what the future has in store because you’ve proved yourself and have amazing faculty, staff, and classmates supporting you all the way,” Venmahavong, who will be joining the US State Department after receiving her Masters of International Affairs degree from Columbia University, told the Honors students.
For Tellier, who is headed to grad school in the fall, confidence was one of the biggest rewards he gained from completing his thesis. “You learn that you’re capable of a project like this and it’s definitely doable. That’s a pretty big thing to take with you going forward,” he says.
“There are so many reasons to do an Honors Thesis, and one of the biggest is that I never knew that I was capable of producing something like this until now,” Turcotte concurs. “Working with my advisor, Professor Susan Baran and my editorial reviewer Dr. Stanley Baran helped me grow not only as a student, and as a scholar, but as an individual as well."