News - Student Takes Creative Route for Honors Thesis

Student Takes Creative Route for Honors Thesis

By Kristen Davis Student Takes Creative Route for Honors Thesis

If you were around Greenville’s campus the night of February 23, you may have heard the powerful and moving words of Mandy Pennington '18 echoing from the Blackroom, sharing the poetry and songs she wrote for her honors thesis project, part of the degree requirements for the McAllaster Scholars Honors Program.

Pennington’s honors thesis was creative in form: a song and poetry cycle, with each piece based around different emotional states such as pain, fear, joy, vulnerability, grief and insecurity. The project maintained high academic standards, including an 80-page critical discussion of the work’s influences and literary context.  

Pennington is a graduating senior at Greenville University, triple majoring in audio engineering, commercial music, and English.

Blending Disciplines

When asked how she chose the topic for her thesis, Pennington stated, “I wanted a project that would incorporate the music department, since I think of that as my primary department. I thought that a song and poetry cycle would be a good mix of writing and music, incorporating both of my departments (English and music). I was trying to come up with a broad enough theme that could encompass a large selection of poems and songs, and human emotion has been a popular subject of song cycles, dating back to the nineteenth century when the classical song cycle form was first established.”

Dr. Courtney Bailey Parker, assistant professor of English and theatre studies at the University, served as Pennington’s thesis director.

“Because Mandy has three different majors, she had to think about this massive project in terms of synthesis. I think she succeeded admirably,” says Dr. Bailey Parker. “In order to execute this project, Mandy was challenged to not only consider how her two home departments—music and English—might intersect content-wise for this thesis, but she also had to consider how she might use interdisciplinary resources to perform the project faithfully.” 

21st Century Professional Development

Dr. Bailey Parker credits the English Department’s home within the Center for Visual Culture and Media Studies (CVCMS) as part of Pennington’s project’s success.

The CVCMS, a consortium of media-related academic programs at the University (including English, digital media, media communication and art), exists as a resource-sharing mechanism between member departments and encourages cross-disciplinary innovation.

Bailey Parker explains, “The structure of the CVCMS invites faculty members to embrace interdisciplinary synergy, and so it’s only natural that we’re able to help advise students about what that synergy might look like for their own projects. This is exactly what 21st century professional development ought to look like.” 

Advice and Future Plans

Many students finish their thesis projects at Greenville in advance of May graduation.

Pennington has some advice for current students considering the honors thesis route: “Brainstorming helps so much! Before the semester when I actually started my thesis, my friend Summer and I went into a study room in the library and I just shouted out ideas while she wrote them on the white board. No ideas were stupid, and she drew arrows and connections between related ones until I found a clear path,” says Pennington.

After graduation, Pennington plans to move to Nashville, finish her audio engineering degree, work at a recording studio and pursue her dream to become a singer-songwriter.

When asked what she would like for her future, she says, “I may go to grad school in the future. Really, it’s all up in the air! I love music and I love creative writing, and I would probably be happy doing something in either or both of those fields.” 

View the full recording of Pennington’s performance of “Oh, to feel nothing: a song and poetry cycle.”

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Many students could not gain access to this 21st century professional training without scholarships. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on May 03, 2018

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