MCC Honors Program

Undertaking the Honors Program in Media, Culture, and Communication is an exciting but demanding opportunity for students with outstanding academic records and a serious intellectual curiosity about the discipline. The program prepares and guides students to pursue original, independent research under the supervision of a full-time faculty member during the senior year. Producing an honors thesis is a challenging academic experience that can reap many benefits, including close mentorship from a faculty member, the opportunity to further explore a specific intellectual question or issue that piques your curiosity, and the development of strong research, writing, and critical thinking skills that can strengthen your portfolio in graduate school or professional settings. A program of this caliber often represents the most defining and culminating experience of one's undergraduate study and can synthesize the knowledge developed over the course of the major.

Timeline

Although the honors program demands the greatest amount of work during the senior year, planning should begin in the junior year. A general timeline for participation in the program is listed below.

Consider if participation in this program is right for you. Talk to faculty members in the department about possible topics or senior honors work that past students have produced. Review journals and recent publications in the field to gain a deeper understanding of current trends. Identify possible questions that fascinate you enough to explore over a sustained period of research and writing.

Submit an application to formally enroll in the honors program. Applications can be picked up at the front desk of the department, or downloaded directly from this website. Before submitting an application you will need to approach a faculty member with whom you'd like to work and discuss your research ideas. If the faculty member agrees to work with you, they must sign your application. You will be notified of your application approval or denial by spring registration. 

Begin research based on input from your faculty sponsor.

Enroll in Honors Seminar, MCC-UE 1210, 2 credits. Taught by Professor Aurora Wallace, the Honors Seminar will introduce you to research methods and take you through the initial steps of writing your thesis.

Enroll in 2 credits of Independent Study with your faculty sponsor. Continue writing of thesis. Meet regularly throughout the term with faculty adviser. The instructor of the honors seminar and the faculty adviser will together evaluate the final honors thesis. Present research at spring research colloquium.
Frequently Asked Questions

Students with a strong academic record, genuine intellectual curiosity, and the self-discipline and commitment to undertake a sustained research project should consider this program. The minimum GPA for participation is 3.75, although, on the strong recommendation of a faculty member, a student whose GPA is slightly lower may be accepted.

The thesis is generally about 40 pages in length, consisting of a review of relevant literature, a discussion of your research topic and methods, and an analysis of your findings.

Benefits include the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a regular basis which can help students at large universities to feel a closer connection to the department. Faculty advisers can also serve as references for you in future academic endeavors. Writing the thesis and undertaking sophisticated research can also develop your skills in the areas of problem solving, using libraries and other research venues, managing time and large projects, and further develop your oral and argumentation skills. You will produce a lengthy, sustained piece of academic writing that you can use as a writing sample for application to graduate school. Finally, producing a thesis can be fun when it involves delving into a topic or issue that fascinates and delights you.

The program is not for everyone. Remember, you will be a college senior, with the inevitable senioritis that affects everyone to a greater or lesser degree. You may also be involved in internships or eager to move into a new career, further distracting you from intensive and sometimes solitary research. Rest assured that graduate school is still an option for students not completing the honors program. And again, students can graduate with Latin honors based on GPA regardless of participation in this program. Only students eager to do research and write a thesis should join the honors program.

Some recent topics produced by our undergraduate honors students include: Women, Consumption and the Hummer H3; Late Night Talk Shows; Student Social Movements and the Media; Race, Identity and Cyberspace; Communist Blacklisting and Broadway; Korean Media Regulation; Latin American Press and Development; The Art of Subtitles; and The Aesthetics of Information in New Media Graffitti as Political Communication.

After considering if this program is right for you, discuss your topic ideas with a member of the MCC faculty.

You must work with a full-time faculty member. MCC faculty members present a wide range of interests, from globalization and politics in the media to the study of gaming and consumer culture. We advise reading the faculty bios on this website to help you determine who to approach with your topic idea. Professor Aurora Wallace, Director of Undergraduate Studies, can also help you identify a faculty supervisor whose expertise best matches your interests. This will be done when you formally submit your application for the Honors program in spring of Junior year.
How will honors fit in my program of study?
Honors can count toward specialization electives, or toward an appropriate field of study, based on your research topic. You will discuss this with your faculty supervisor and your academic adviser. Of course, it can also count toward unrestricted electives.

The honors thesis is graded by your faculty supervisor and the course director for the honors seminar. When both faculty members agree on a grade of A, honors in the major is noted on your transcript. Participation in the program does not guarantee graduating with honors in the major, but because of the closely supervised nature of the program and the self-selection of students who enter it, most students who begin the program successfully complete it.
Sample Thesis Abstracts

Dena Behnam, Class of 2017

Through textual and discourse analysis, this thesis examines how the New York Times covered the Iranian Green Movement of 2009. After reviewing 17 articles, I found that the Times ultimately portrayed the movement from an Orientalist lens, furthering the divide between “us” in the West and “them” in the East. The Times journalists not only discussed the significance of the Iranian Green Movement of 2009 as a historical moment in its own right but also used it as an opportunity to draw upon the differences between the United States and Iran in regards to political issues such as feminism, censorship, and foreign policy. News ultimately acts as a stage for producing reality, shaping our perception of the world and everything around us. If the rhetoric currently used to discuss Iranian and Middle Eastern politics resorts to stereotyping that hinders multi-dimensional analysis of complex issues, there will be little progress in better understanding countries different than our own.

Aditi Bhatkhande, Class of 2017

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)- an idea that was reserved for niche multinational corporations has now gained widespread acceptance as well as incited significant criticism. Though it has gained popularity, it is still a nascent concept that has been defined so broadly that the malleability of its definition has allowed its misuse. To establish an acceptable definition for CSR and to initiate a global conversation about a corporation’s social behavior, in a common language understood by all, organizations like GRI and IIRC established various sustainability reporting frameworks as tools for corporations communicating about their CSR. This paper analyzes these sustainability reporting initiatives to build the argument that forms of integrated reporting, if mandated, have the capability of not only delivering a systematic assessment of CSR but also improving a corporation’s approach towards sustainable business.

Callie Klotz, Class of 2017

By the end of the 2016 election, over 1 billion related tweets had been sent from the time of the primary debates in August of 2015 to Election Day, leading it to be named the "Twitter Election." Besides Donald Trump's predilection for Twitter, this was, in part, due to shifting news consumption habits and two new Twitter features, Periscope and Moments, that made the social media platform ideal for live news coverage. This thesis explores tensions between Twitter, with its grassroots authorship, and mainstream news media, with its certified employees and official sources and how the political climate made Twitter an appealing space for news production and consumption.

Seth Loftis, Class of 2017

Media scholars and popular audiences alike have a fascination with mobile phone applications that facilitate intimate relationships. This thesis is an exploration and analysis of the ways in which queer people utilized new payment methods and new telephone channels to meet others with similar interests, to entertain themselves, and—most interestingly—to have sex. The first part of this thesis combats previous scholars; arguments that the success of the phone sex industry was caused by the AIDS crisis; however, my research largely suggests that phone sex was more of a response to government interference, policing, and state dangers threatening queer bodies and spaces in general rather than from the AIDS crisis. These queer migrations to virtual spaces as opposed to physical locations foreshadow the success of contemporary virtual spaces—or smartphone apps—that queer men use to meet others, whether online or in person. The second part of my thesis argues that phone sex is inherently queer. As an alternative to “real” sex acts and in-person intimacy, phone sex is an inherently queer industry because it disrupts the culturally fabricated boundaries that institute sexuality as a binary rather than a continuum, in which anything that differs from the heterosexual “norm” is inherently subjected to artificial and often meaningless restrictions on expression. The third part of my thesis argues that the rising popularity of phone sex ultimately had a paradoxical effect on queerness. While phone sex certainly existed as an “underground” or secretive method for queer people to have non-normative sex, and while it also proliferated the forms of gay sex or queer sex, at the same time it also opened and expanded the definition of queerness in general due to the fact that ostensibly “straight” people could perform different identities on the phone lines in order to get a glimpse into the “queer” world. To wrap up, I discuss cultural responses as well as the US government’s response to phone sex and the legislation that attempted to prohibit or limit the sale of sex via the telephone. Lastly, I conclude my thesis and point to further research that may be possible in the future as more and more resources become available.

Tina Paglioli, Class of 2017

This thesis analyzes the sexual violence against women in the HBO series Game of Thrones, particularly as it is amplified in the adaptation process from text to screen. A review of adaptation studies suggest that this extends beyond simple translation of content, while studies on media representations and the intersection of sexual and violent content investigate the potential damages of these practices. Scene analyses examine the discrepancies between sexual violence present in book and television material, and a final section questions the reasons behind and meanings produced by these changes. This thesis argues that, by virtue of being inconsequential and exploitative, the sexual violence in Game of Thrones is potentially harmful both to viewers and HBO’s brand.

Shilpa Venigandla, Class of 2017

The thesis sets out on analyzing refugee spaces through the lens of temporality. In other words, it explores how refugees articulate a right to place by negotiating permanence in and through spaces that are defined by their temporariness and what particular discourses emanate from such place-making practices. Employing a ground-up analysis of how refugees articulate their presence, and place, in a spatial confine that is continuously propagated as temporary shows how refugees complicate meanings of refugee space, disrupt narratives guided by notions and systems that insist temporariness, and bring awareness to the particular political, social, and economic conditions. Two specific refugee contexts - Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and refugees and migrants in Calais, France – serve as case studies to guide this conversation. Within these attempts to create meaning of place in structures of transit - thus legitimize refugee voices and agencies, social relations, their struggles and politics, and a sense of humanity - a broader criticism is drawn to the nature of human rights discourse, nation-states, borders, refugee and migrant conditions, and larger geopolitical narratives of conflict and migration.

Jordana Wender, Class of 2015

“Insulin Pump as Mobile Device: Ethics of Changing Healthscapes” explores the tensions between automation and personal responsibility within the framework of biomedicalization. Biomedicalization dates back to the 1980s and describes the merger between life sciences and computer technologies as they intervene in health and medical care. This paper examines the balance between automation and personal responsibility in biomedicalization by exploring the changing healthscape of the insulin pump through a semiotic analysis of visual materials. Current advertisements, specifically for the Omnipod insulin pump, have been de-medicalized, portraying the pump as a lifestyle device that requires little patient responsibility. However, this vision of the insulin pump is misleading and dangerous. The device does not always operate correctly on its own, as software glitches and malfunctions can occur, and the patient is not alert to the danger. I suggest that there is a need for greater emphasis on the medical aspect of the insulin pump in advertisements to increase patient awareness and participation. Perhaps the next step in insulin pump development is for the system to be re-imagined as a self-tracking device and not a mobile device.

Anthony Sganga, Class of 2015

While many studies have been dedicated to analyzing the media diets of college students as a group, similar research is limited when it comes to the media diets of politically active students. This study analyzes the role media choices have on the positions of younger members in each political party. The study sampled members of the College Democrats and College Republicans at NYU, along with a random sample of independent students. Participants were surveyed on media preferences, time spent consuming media and voting habits.

Molly Salas, Class of 2014

This thesis explores the ways that contemporary television criticism informs and shapes public perception of what Quality Television is and how these perceptions reflect dominant social forces and hegemonic structures, by way of its relationship to class, race, and gender. Through a thorough content analysis of every published piece of television criticism across three publications (The New Yorker, AV Club and USA Today) in the year 2013, I notice there are numerous common descriptors of quality television in terms of visual style, intertextual references that place shows within a hierarchy of other shows like it, and overall subject matter that tended to earn comparisons to “quality” or “prestige” dramas that have preceded those on currently on TV. This, along with TV critics’ ambivalence toward awards shows such as the Emmys or Golden Globes, and shifting viewing practices from live to on demand options, suggests a widening rift in the critical conversation between those shows that succeed in ratings performance and others that are reviewed with an elite viewing audience in mind. As such, the homogeneity of "quality television" tropes across many series, networks, and subjects minimizes space for diversity on screen to excel critically.

Peggy Fleming, Class of 2014

Sexual assault is one of the biggest problems plaguing college campuses todav—even more problematic is the fact that not even half of these crimes are reported. In recent years, several schools have received special attention when one or more of their college athletes have been accused of rape or sexual assault. This paper examines the American cultural influences that encourage the perpetuation of sexual assault on college campuses. Furthermore, it explores how the media’s coverage of these crimes—especially those that involve athletes—plays a role in promoting and/or discouraging the perpetuation of a pro-rape culture. This research includes a case study using content analysis to specifically examine the media coverage surrounding allegations of rape and sexual assault at the University of Montana at Missoula. Findings concluded that even objective news sources weaved pro-rape cultural narratives into their reporting of allegations of sexual assault involving college athletes.

Brooke Marine Class of 2015

The use of Emoji, a popular medium of expression consisting of Japanese emoticons, has quickly become a cultural phenomenon. One might notice that while the emoji many people have come to know and use may seem limited to the Apple product platform, emoji are seen everywhere, commodified and reproduced on a variety of platforms. How is it that emoji are simultaneously limited to one platform yet seemingly ubiquitous symbols, understood widely by many regardless of age, location, and other socially constructed boundaries? What are the visual cues signified by an emoji, and how might its meaning differ from person to person?
Surely, most emoji may mean the same thing to many people who come from similar social backgrounds and experiences, but what about those communicating with one another in emoji, from different parts of the worlds and with different first languages? Emoji can be used as a storytelling device, an unspoken language that conveys human emotion from person to person. What role does the use of emoji outside of the digital realm play in the understanding of its meaning? This thesis explores the topic of emoji as a language of the digital platform.
 
 

Image Credit: Garrett Ziegler