A Dive into the Honors Thesis Vault

Independent, student-led research has long been a hallmark of the academic experience here at Ursinus.  Each year scores of seniors undertake original research or creative projects in their discipline to fulfill the requirements of the Experiential Learning Project.  Those seniors with high academic achievement are able to conduct two semesters of independent research in pursuit of departmental Honors or Distinguished Honors.

The college archives collects and preserves copies of each Honors thesis and makes them available to alumni or other interested researchers.  Since 2015 the Library has been collecting all theses in electronic format and depositing them into our institutional repository, the Digital Commons.  With this digital archiving initiative firmly established, library staff are beginning to digitize Honors theses from the past, both to preserve these scholarly works for the future and to make them more accessible to researchers.

In surveying the Honors papers currently available in Digital Commons, one is struck by the diversity and scope of topics Ursinus students have investigated over time.  From a look into Portland Cement, Asphalts and Bitumens to The Chemistry of Selected Food Stuffs and Condiments, our senior researchers have really seen it all.

One paper that struck me as I was browsing through Digital Commons was a 1938 thesis by Gertrude Goldberg about the Federal Reserve System.  Writing in the midst of the 1937-38 recession, Goldberg provided a timely critique of the Federal Reserve Board and its responsibility for provoking that economic downturn.  She argued that the Fed’s decision to increase reserve requirements for commercial banks hindered lending and commercial activity and contributed to the downturn.  Although scholars debate the exact causes of that recession, the Fed’s own researchers accede the Federal Reserve likely had a part to play in the 3rd worst recession of the 20th century.

From 1938 to today, the complexity, sophistication, and diversity of student work has only grown.  This past year, seniors investigated such topics as oral argument tactics employed by Supreme Court justices and the reasons behind decreased attendance at Major League Baseball games.  If any of these topics pique your interest, head over to Digital Commons to explore the great work of our student scholars.