Outstanding Master's Thesis and Research Project Awardees

Meghan Kelly, Geography (2016)

  Mapping Syrian Refugee Border Crossings: A Critical, Feminist Perspective



In her investigation of media coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis, Meghan demonstrates both her scholastic maturity and her ability to generate applicable solutions to urgent contemporary issues through academic inquiry. In particular, Meghan investigated how cartographic coverage of refugees’ movements is presented as well how it could be improved to encourage public engagement. While Meghan identified the importance of eliciting empathy from readers and viewers as essential to catalyzing action, she also recognized that coverage relying on maps to illustrate their experiences “were comparatively sterile and lacking in emotional depth.” In response to this disconnect, Meghan used interviews with humanitarian workers, media content analysis, theory, and political analysis to develop an interactive atlas that allows users to engage with the migratory experiences of humanitarian workers and refugees. Meghan’s nominators praised her skill in examining this contemporary issue “with an innovative combination of theory, content analysis, interview, and cartographic exploration and expression.” They particularly praised her expert application of theory, noting her mature ability to apply theory to research with a depth and complexity rarely seen in the work of Master’s students. The complexity of her research and work is a true expression of Meghan’s broad academic interests, including “cartography, political geography, feminist sociology, and graphic design.” It is for these many reasons that Meghan’s unique and academically sophisticated work is deserving of this honor.


Joshua Meisel, Geography (2015)

  Historical Demographics, Student Origins, and Recruitment at Off-Reservation Indian Boarding Schools, 1900

In his study of student populations at off-reservation industrial training schools for Native American youth in 1900, Joshua exhibited both his ability to contribute new and important work to his field of study and his immense promise as a scholar. Joshua created a large dataset to complete his thesis that involved extensive archival research. He “was able to locate nearly every census and superintendent’s report for the years surrounding 1900 so that he could create a demographic profile for each school including the age, gender, tribal affiliation, and blood quantum of each student.” Joshua prepared a thesis that his committee agreed was exceptional based on the “depth and complexity of his analysis of the student population of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ off-reservation boarding school system in 1900.” Joshua’s thesis shows his ability to work across the “intersection of a number of disciplinary traditions including history, demography, Indigenous studies, and geography.” It is for these reasons that his committee members encouraged Joshua to seek publication of his work.


Elizabeth Adams, Classics (2014)

 Esse videtur: Occurrences of Heroic Clausulae in Cicero's Orations

In her thesis on Cicero and the rhythms of literary Latin in the first century BCE, Elizabeth “tackles an extraordinarily thorny issue with over a century of research behind it and offers a unique perspective” that provides an important contribution to her field.  In fact, after presenting her research at a national convention, Elizabeth’s work has started to receive considerable attention from Ciceronian scholars.  Through her research, Elizabeth developed a thorough and persuasive argument that challenges previous scholarship on the “heroic clausulae,” uncovering its place in the Roman oratory genre and offering new insight into the meaning of its use in passages.  Elizabeth’s nominators note that her work and originality “attest to her growing promise as a scholar.”


Laurie Gayes, Clinical Child Psychology (2014)

 A Meta-Analysis of Motivational Interviewing Interventions for Pediatric Health Behavior Change

Laurie’s meta-analysis of research on Motivational Interviewing interventions “is much more akin to a well-conducted doctoral dissertation than it is to a typical Master’s Thesis.”  While there is a robust body of literature about the intervention technique, which aims to help people identify their motivations as a means of making difficult behavioral changes, Laurie’s work is the first to examine the literature as a whole, improving the accessibility of up-to-date knowledge that can influence clinical practice and research.  The value of Laurie’s work is underscored by its acceptance for publication in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology», the premier journal in clinical psychology.  


Gopolang Mohlabeng, Physics & Astronomy (2013)

 A Redshift Dependent Color-Luminosity Relation in Type 1a Supernovae

Gopolang undertook an immensely challenging project, particularly for a Master’s level student, and skillfully navigated and organized raw data to produce a significant contribution to his field.  His study of Type 1a supernovas – which “are the main (and probably sole) evidence for ‘dark energy" and help researchers calibrate the rate of the expansion of the Universe – uncovered evidence that “the large redshift, most distant supernovas don’t act as expected.”  The observations made in Gopolang’s research introduce an important discovery to the field.  Those who stepped forward to nominate Gopolang stated that his work “shows a great deal of technical prowess as well as imaginative flair that should serve him well in the future.”  The results of his research were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society».


Jeanne Tiehen, Theater (2013)

 Frankenstein on Stage: Galvanizing the Myth and Evolving the Creature

Jeanne’s research analyzes aspects of the story of Frankenstein that have captured the imagination of theater directors for over two-hundred years, prompting them to readapt it for contemporary audiences.  More specifically, Jeanne focuses on how Frankenstein serves as a cultural myth that mirrors society’s psychological relationship with scientific and technological progress.  Through the presentation of her research at national conferences, Jeanne has demonstrated the significance of her work to the discipline as well as her potential as a theater scholar.  Furthermore, those who nominated Jeanne note that the quality of her work evinces her “rich understanding of the multiple contexts in which her research fits” and establishes a solid foundation for future research.  ​An adaptation of this research was published in The Popular Cultural Studies Journal».


Laurie Petty, Sociology (2012) 

 Department Chairs and High Chairs: The importance of perceived department chair supportiveness on faculty parents' views of departmental and institutional kid-friendliness

In her study of how faculty careers are affected by perceptions by faculty of the degree to which department chairs are family-friendly, Laurie addresses an aspect of the faculty experience previously unexplored in the literature.  In producing this original contribution, Laurie also demonstrated her thoroughness as a researcher through the recruitment of broad sample of participants and careful consideration and examination of a number of variables that may affect how faculty parents experience their departments and institutions.  Furthermore, Laurie’s work provides additional insight into understanding how culture in academe impacts the departmental and institutional experiences of faculty parents, particularly in relation to gendered expectations.


Steven Roels, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (2012)

 Not Easy Being Mead's: Comparative Herbivory on Three Milkweeds, Including Threatened Mead's Milkweed (Asclepias meadii), and Seedling Ecology of Mead's Milkweed

Steve’s passion for the study of ecology and conservation is clearly evident in this study of a local, endangered plant species, Ascleapis meadii.  Not only has this work allowed him to explore an area of interest, but the results of his detailed and difficult research efforts are also applicable to current conservation practices in Douglas and Anderson counties.  Department members who nominated Steve consider his work to be “of high quality, and also of significant depth” while also providing an original contribution to the field that represents “an ideal example of a master’s thesis” in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  The results of his research were published in The American Midland Naturalist».


Connect with the College
Latest Tweets from COGA

RT @KUCollege : BBQ meatballs, taquitos & more at our Almost Alumni party, celebrating graduates of the College this Wed, 4-6pm 👉https://t.c…

Follow us on Twitter

Home to 50+ departments, centers, and programs, the School of the Arts, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration
KU offers courses in 40 languages
No. 1 ranking in city management and urban policy —U.S. News and World Report
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times