Class of 2019: reflections on senior theses

The Hendrix Class of 2019 will soon walk the stage and receive their diplomas, but that piece of paper will not detail the blood, sweat, tears, and caffeine-powered nights they endured to get it. I met with a few seniors to find out what they’ve been doing for the past year to earn their degrees.

Noah Adams


Little Rock, AR – Politics & Music Major

“Party Problems? Investigating Instances of Class Bias in the Political Party Endorsement System”

Noah Adams dove into the inner workings of American political parties to understand why the working-class is consistently underrepresented in Congress. “They have never made up more than two percent of our Congress,” Adams said, “whereas lawyers and business people have made up about 75 percent of Congress in modern history, even though they make up about ten percent of the United States.”

To do this, Adams looked at the candidate recruiting mechanisms and processes of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Democrats and Republicans “target” districts around the country that they think they have a shot at winning.  Looking at these targeted districts, Adams developed demographic data on candidates and their competitors running in those districts to piece together what might dictate whether or not those candidates receive endorsements. What did he find? “Yep, both parties are about equally as biased against working-class candidates,” Adams said. He found that working-class candidates were thirty percent less likely to receive endorsements than their wealthier counterparts.

But, Adams points out, it’s not that parties are necessarily malicious in their endorsements. Campaigns take time and money. Working-class folks don’t typically have the time or the money to run a campaign. That being said, when they do run campaigns they are just about as likely to do well as elite candidates, Adams said. After talking to party officials, both Republican and Democratic, Adams found that Democrats pushed diversity initiatives, while Republicans viewed such efforts as inauthentic. Both political parties viewed their efforts as benefitting the candidate pool, but ultimately, class had little influence in their minds because such a factor is hard to define in reality.

After graduation, Adams will work with progressive PACs and nonprofits through a political consulting firm.

Cody Gracie


White Hall, AR –  Philosophy & Neuroscience Major

“Scientific Fact or Relativist Fiction?”

Cody Gracie said that writing a philosophy thesis “is like trying to lead the reader in undeniable logical steps from true premises to a central conclusion.” It sounds…challenging. That’s why most philosophy majors are pushed to take the senior seminar course instead of writing a thesis, but Gracie took on the challenge.

By looking at how languages interact across lines of translation, Gracie pushed his readers to question what we call scientific facts. “Often times, within different specialties, scientists will see different facts, and that goes back to their subjective knowledge in observing a fact and the language in which you express the fact.” To demonstrate what he was talking about, Gracie pointed to the chair he was sitting in and said that in the English language, he could say that it was black (it was). “Black is an adjective that adheres to the chair,” he said, “but if we wanted to do this in Russian or the Arabic languages, we would say ‘the chair blacks.'” The chair then becomes a “coloring agent.”

It’s the difference in perception that’s found in the language itself. These differences in perception, Gracie said, lead to different explanations of scientific phenomenon, especially in physics. Facts can become relative in the face of differing perceptions due in large part to language and how we as humans think through that language.

Gracie, after graduating, will attend law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Claire Nissen


Austin, TX – Chemical Physics Major & Biology Minor

“Analysis and Comparison of Estrogen Removal Techniques from Wastewater”

Nissen chose to conduct her capstone project in the chemistry field of study. As a chemical physics student, she was afforded the option to choose between the two. Initially, Nissen was hesitant to share the details of her chemistry work with an English major who might not be the most scientifically literate, but she relented and spilled the goods.

Nissen studied water sanitation and purification of wastewater in hopes of combining her love for global health and chemistry. She compared different absorbents, which are “primitive materials for purification.” Nissen discovered that activated charcoal, what she said everyone sees as “hot stuff,” is actually not the ideal method of water purification. You can’t reuse it very often because “it’s only 65 percent as effective as it was in the beginning,” she said. Clays and silicas, however, have more success after more than one use. Clean water is essential to a healthy society, and this kind of work is crucial to making sure no one goes without clean water.

After graduating, Nissen won’t follow the “traditional chem-phys post-grad path,” but will head off to Sierra Leone for 27 months to serve with the Peace Corps. After finishing her service, she plans on earning a masters in global health planning and management. Following her masters, she hopes to attend medical school.

Jillian Tofukuji

Jillian Tofukuji

Los Angeles, CA – Sociology Major

“The Medicalization of Eating Disorders: Assessing Inclusivity in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5”

Jillian Tofukuji wanted to know if the new diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM) increased inclusivity in the number of people who were being diagnosed with eating disorders and being treated for them. This might sound like sociology jargon, but this jargon has vast impacts.

Tofukuji met with therapists and dieticians who specialized in eating disorders and they also studied the language of past versions of the DSM and the most recent one. Specifically, Tofukuji looked at frequency, duration, and the symptomology of eating disorders. What they found was encouraging.

“I found that more people were being roped into treatment and insurance was covering that treatment because this language had changed,” Tofukuji said. This ensures that those who need assistance can more than likely get what they need at an affordable cost.

Tofukuji, after graduating, will attend New York University to earn a masters in their media, culture, and communications program.

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