Masters Thesis Students Showcase Their Work 

Five students and a vision. That’s how the Masters Thesis program got its start 24 years ago.

Matt Ives, upper school history and religion department chair, was the inspiration. It was his idea to recreate his own seminar experience in graduate school where students would share their research and workshop ideas. Under Ives’ guidance, the challenging interdisciplinary course for juniors and seniors has grown and thrived since its inception.

“The premise was that students would look at topics in history, but over the years it has expanded to include all of the humanities, and even some math and science,” Ives explained. “This year some of the topics are historical, but many are based in psychology, sociology and political science.”

He cited Oliver Kreeger ’24 who combined his interest in fantasy fiction and political science to write a paper that applied political science theory to “Star Wars.” 

“What I love about thesis is that you can just dig into absolutely whatever you want,” Kreeger explained. “It's a fulfilling class and I’m so glad I took it.”

During the year, Kreeger along with eight classmates (Samson Mines ’25, Eva Khavin ’25, Viviana Simon ’24, Willow Maniscalco ’24, Willa Hart ’24, Alina Fagan ’24, Shaza Murigande ’24, Jessie Xie ’24) were tasked with producing a 25-page paper, a creative project and presentations. 

The annual presentations took place over four evenings in March and April in front of community members. Ives was appreciative of the parents who attended and didn’t even have students in the class. “They came out to listen, to ask questions and to add their commentary just because they were interested in the topics and wanted to support our students,” he shared.

The theses covered a wide range of subjects from “Why the One-Child Policy Did Not Have the Impact We Think It Did” to “The Myth of Indigenous Extinction in Latin America” and “Why Time Feels Faster As Humans Get Older.”

For her thesis senior Jessie Xie chose to apply German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s theory on aura to the performing arts: “Dissecting ‘Liveness’ and the Aura of Theater.” 

“I participated in a research program last summer at UCSB, where I was first introduced to the concept of the ‘aura’ of art,” she explained. “Through reading, I learned that this idea was primarily defined for visual arts, but for my interest in performing arts, I decided to push further to seek an application of this concept in the performing arts realm, and that's what I ended up focusing my thesis on.”

“Students have been able to follow their passions, identify problems and questions that are important to them, and come to original conclusions,” Ives said. “They aren’t just reporting what they read – they are synthesizing and coming up with something brand new.”

“I learn so many things not only from my own research, but also from just listening and conversing with other students in class, and that's definitely something I hope to continue doing in the future,” said Xie
"I say this every year, but it’s really true this year," Ives said. "I learned so much from working with these young people. It probably sounds very corny, but I’m so happy they are taking me along as a passenger on their learning journeys!"

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