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Thank you, Thesis

In August 2018, I officially began the journey of my thesis and, GOODNESS, it has been quite a journey. It now marks April 2020 and I have officially defended, passed, and submitted my thesis.

43 spanking long pages of research. 51 if we're counting the cover page, table of contents, bibliography, and whatnot. But who's really counting...? Ok, me...

During the course of my thesis, my project morphed into something uniquely different from the original idea, but still along the lines of theatre and diversity. What I find truly amazing is the journey my thesis has taken me on.

Initially, I had planned to create a mentorship program for middle schools and high schools. The program was going to allow students to engage in topics of theatrical design and technical work with professionals and undergraduate students in the field, as well as provide access to viewing theatre. Soon, I began researching educational programs that were doing this work within the United States.

Then, I decided I wanted to collect data on the diversity within the design and technical field of theatre, interview those within the industry, and prove that there is a lack of diversity. I started reaching out to Facebook groups and contacts from my professor's, Thesis Director's and colleagues' network. There was an outpour of community support and I connected with some amazing people.

I had so many brilliant ideas of what my thesis could be but it became extremely overwhelming. The process of completing Arizona State University's (ASU) training for researching human subjects was daunting and I didn't know where to start. I lost sight of the main goal of my thesis and began to drift away from it.

Soon, my thesis became stress-inducing, a trigger word.

With a large dose of reality that graduation was four months away, I met with my thesis committee and realigned the research topic: to examine the factors of a successful diversity program within four companies that attempt to break down the barriers contributing to the lack of diversity within the design and technical field of theatre. The findings of the study were going to provide a guide to the best practices used in establishing a design and production program that can contribute to diversifying the theatre industry.

With less than three months to defend before the deadline, I hauled my butt through countless research papers for my literature review and scoured for theatre companies to interview. I began to set deadlines for myself and powered through the writing, research, and interviewing process.

4 interviews, 3 dreadful months, 2 amazing committee members, and 1 pandemic later (@COVID-19)...

I defended my thesis on April 9th via Zoom.

Do you know what's cool about a Zoom defense? It's accessible to people all over the world! What was originally going to be an in-person defense in Tempe, Arizona became accessible to friends, family, and theatre professionals from all across the world because of Zoom.

After finishing my presentation, my committee left to discuss their final decision on my thesis. A few minutes later, they returned and announced it was approved with no revisions. I could not believe it!

Mainly, I couldn't believe I had passed with no revisions because I thought there was bound to be some mistake that I made. Do you know why? It's because I felt like I made so many mistakes through this process. I should have defended my thesis in the Spring of 2019 since I had enrolled in the course in August 2018. I should have reached out to my committee members sooner when I felt like I was drifting with no direction. I should have reached out to someone for help but instead, I avoided it.

In hindsight, these "big" mistakes that I was making were a part of the learning process and not as drastic in the long run.

It's okay to feel lost now and then. Know that you are NOT alone. I met many other students within Barrett, the Honors College who were in a similar boat as me. We learned that we weren't the only ones struggling to find a topic that inspired us enough to spend two semesters researching and defending a thesis on, getting our projects funded, or receiving communication from our directors who were MIA for days or weeks or months. Being able to build a community of struggling thesis students helped the journey become less burdensome. Knowing I was able to vent to a student, not my committee or advisor, was reassuring. We were in this boat together, whether it was just taking off, sailing smoothly, stuck in the ocean waiting for a gust of wind to continue that journey, or had just reached its final destination.

Although this may be the "end" of my thesis journey, it is the beginning of something new within my career. I have discovered that I love equity, diversity, and inclusion work and my research on diversity programs allowed me to gain skills that I am prepared to take into my career.

There were moments of excitement, frustration and tears, helplessness, and fear, but I will always be grateful for this journey that my undergraduate thesis has taken me on.

Thank you, thesis.


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