Thoughts on Theses: Lorena Rodriguez
Issue   |   Wed, 04/10/2013 - 00:31

Thesis Advisor: Jerome Himmelstein
Major: Political Science and Sociology

Q: What is your thesis about?

A: My thesis is about undocumented college students and the undocumented student movement, which advocates for the passage of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. I interviewed undocumented college students to try to understand what motivates people to join the movement and what prevents others from doing so. I have friends on both extremes — some are really passionate and go as far as getting arrested for their activism and others live in the shadows and are deadly afraid to reveal their status. I’ve always been fascinated by social movements so this was a great opportunity to mesh that with my interest in immigrants in the United States.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your topic?

A: I always knew that I wanted to write a thesis, but I also wanted to make sure that I picked a topic that I wouldn’t lose interest in, or get bored writing or researching about during the first semester. Sometime last year I thought I was going to write a thesis about the representation of Latina women in the media. Then I had an epiphany, like an actual epiphany, and thought I should write about the undocumented movement. With all the discussion around immigration reform, it seemed like the right topic at the right time and one in which I was certainly interested. I got more serious about it during the summer when President Obama announced the Deferred Action Program. I knew then I had picked the right topic and that it would fit nicely with current national events.

Q: How are you finding the process of thesis writing?

A: I think that the process of writing a thesis isn’t linear. You’re not going to hate it all the way or love it all the way. It definitely has its ups and downs. But when you love your topic, the downs aren’t as bad. I consider myself very organized, and I think this is important when writing a thesis. I did have a panic attack earlier this semester because I wasn’t caught up with my work, but everyone who writes a thesis has a freak out moment at some point throughout the year. And surprisingly, I have never felt rushed in the writing process. It helps when you plan these things.

Q: How difficult was the process of interviewing people?

A: It was really difficult, and it was certainly harder than I thought it was going to be. I had connections with undocumented students so I thought it would be easy to get interviewees. That was not the case. Not every undocumented student wants to talk about his or her experience. It was kind of hard to get students to participate. I managed to interview eight students. It was very stressful because I had to work around different schedules and travel to meet with these students. Most of my Thanksgiving break was actually spent interviewing people, but it was all part of the sacrifice to get my thesis done. The relief is that, once you have the interviews down, you actually have data to analyze and talk about and everything else becomes doable.

Q: What have been some of the high points so far?

A: Interviewing students was the best part. Even though I didn’t interview a lot of people, those that I did gave me a lot of information. When I finished the interviews I realized I had so much data and it was just so interesting. Another up was finishing the first chapter of my thesis. I think that when you finally get to see your ideas on paper, you realize that this can be done.

Q: What have been some of the low points so far?

A: Falling behind during winter break because I went on vacation. That was the lowest point, but I had to get my act together and really put in a lot of work at the beginning of this semester.

Q: How difficult has it been to balance classes and a thesis workload?

A: It’s all about planning every aspect of your senior year. I was really smart about the courses I picked. I certainly didn’t want three seminars in the middle of my writing process. I’ve also been able to keep my life in balance by picking courses I am genuinely interested in. It also helps that I don’t have class on Fridays, so basically I have a three-day weekend to do all my homework and work on my thesis.

Q: Do you have any advice for people thinking about writing a thesis?

A: I would suggest trying to solidify your topic and argument by the end of your junior year. It may not be possible but do your best so that you don’t have to deal with that when you come back in the fall. One thing that really helped me was to research literature during the summer. I didn’t do all the reading, but I definitely had all my reading material. You can’t start from scratch in the fall. You need to do that during the summer so that when you come back, you can start writing within the first few weeks. You should also keep in touch with your advisor during the summer. Reach out to them and tell them about your progress. Be organized. Also, try to be smart about the other courses you’re picking. Take mid-level to low-level courses. And finally, don’t leave something for tomorrow when you can get it done today.