Nancy Nzeyimana Cyizere ’17 is a political science major. Her thesis examines three different pieces of legislation that were proposed in France, two of which were passed. Her thesis advisors are Ruxandra Paul and Pavel Machala from the political science department.
Q: What is your thesis about?
A: It’s about three different pieces of legislation that were passed … Two of them were laws and one was a law proposal. Two of them were passed and one was not passed. Their common point was that the first two were passed by the same person at different points in her career. But this person named Christiane Taubira ended up being the minister of justice. The third law, which was the proposal, was the proposal that made her quit from the government. So that is their common point, even though they have way more points in common in theory.
Q: Why did you decide to write on this particular topic? What about it interests you?
A: I noticed that this particular person was a very polarizing character in politics in France. People would often quote the laws … the two laws that are basically named after her … but those laws pertain to very different fields of life. The first one is a law passed in 2001, in which the French government recognizes the slave trade … in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean as a crime against humanity. The second law is the legalization of civil same-sex marriage … The third proposal was a proposal … last year to strip binational citizens [of] their French citizenship if they had been convicted of terrorism. Christiane Taubira was opposed to it, so she left the government. I was wondering, … these three laws are so different, but … they have to be somehow representative of similar things for her to champion those two first laws or oppose the third law.
Q: How has the thesis writing process been for you so far? When did you start and where in the process are you now?
A: It is super hard, because in political science, we have to submit … a full draft … I did not submit the full draft by Jan. 9. We only typically get one thesis course … so we have only one thesis course … [as well as] three other courses to take and we are supposed to submit so it was just so much work especially at the end of last semester. It is really hard too … because [a thesis] is so much bigger — it is really hard to say when you are reading too much or not enough or when you are writing too much or not enough. I think my thesis needs a ton of work. I think now I am better at conceptualizing it and figuring out how I am going to organize it, but it does need a lot of editing. Plus I need to add some content. Ideally I would have every day some thesis and every day some work … one day a week probably Saturday or Sunday entirely thesis … but it has not really been this way … I know this is what I am trying to implement this semester.
Q: What has been your favorite part of writing your thesis?
A: I think it is just to confirm instincts that I had or just learning things I never thought I would read about my topic or see connections I had never seen before … it’s really just the investigative part that is really cool. It takes a lot of time, and it is really hard for me to stay focused because I will often start reading something that is really interesting and is not related.
Q: What has been the most difficult or surprising part of writing a thesis?
A: It is that regardless of how unique or how different your topic is, people have written about it before — not necessarily in the way that you think it should be written about or in the way that you expect it to be written about. Someone has done work on either the main topic or a major branch of the topic. It is hard to be original, but at the same time it is also really helpful, because as undergraduates, there is only so much we can do. It is really reassuring to see that there is better work out there, which we can use as a starting point.
Q: What advice would you give to the current juniors about writing a thesis?
A: Just find the topic of your dreams now. Because for me I had a topic that I really liked, but as I was starting the process, I realized that I did not like it enough to dedicate … enough intellectual energy. I was reading, but I did not like the topic enough to be that excited about it. I ended up picking a new one pretty late in the semester. At that point, you are already late...so it is hard … so find a topic that you know you could spend five years writing about.
Correction: an earlier version of the article omitted Cyizere's last name and referred to her as Nancy Nzeyimana only. The current version has her name in full. This article was updated on Feb. 8 at 10:08 a.m.
Correction: an earlier version of the article misquoted Cyizere as saying "deregulation of civil same-sex marriage" instead of "legalization of civil same-sex marriage." The current version has corrected the quote. This article was updated on Feb. 8 at 8:32 p.m.