Saturday, May 31, 2014

Plan II

I hope I never grow tired of explaining what Plan II Honors is. (Too late.) But I am truly proud to have graduated from such an excellent program. Plan II Honors promotes a "Renaissance" education with emphasis on analytical thinking, creative writing, and courses taken in the humanities.

Freshmen year consisted of two world literature classes, a logic class, and a Plan II signature course. Lisa Moore taught my two semesters of world lit and we only read books written by females--Margery Kempe to Aphra Behn to T.S. Eliot to Jane Austen. My signature course, Pathways to Civic Engagement, was taught by Lee Walker and the class was organized by concepts--sense of place, justice, entrepreneurship, healthcare, etc.

During my sophomore year, I took two semesters of philosophy. This was probably the most disliked course of Plan II. Mmm...I frequently skipped this class. (Oops. Sorry parents). Sophomore year also meant Plan II Math and Plan II Biology. Numbers, and math, and science. Not favorites.

Finally, junior year. This meant two junior seminars. The courses offered for junior seminars vary greatly each semester. During the fall, I enrolled in Admiral Inman's Perspectives on U.S. Foreign Policy. I wrote an extensive paper analyzing the history of US-Cuban relations, and measuring the relative efficiency of the US embargo with Cuba. During the spring, I enrolled in David Adelman's Climate Change: Law, Science & Policy. I wrote another extensive paper that analyzed social media use by five major oil corporations, and their discussion of climate change. I also looked at the social media impact of several climate change conferences (COP15 - COP18) at Copenhagen, CancĂșn, Durban, and Doha.

Somewhere along the way, Plan II Honors requires enrollment in a social science course--Plan II anthropology or psychology--and the dreaded Plan II physics course. Plan II physics = tears, sleepless nights, panic and anxiety, and a lesson in failure. Total failure. But surprisingly, by spring semester of my senior year, I was preoccupied with something much larger (ahem..thesis) and thus, experienced only minor meltdowns. I'm a survivor.

Finally, a Plan II Honors education culminates in an undergraduate thesis project. For the past year, I worked alongside professors Steve Hoelscher and Dennis Darling to examine the historic correlation between documentary photography and social problems, specifically homelessness. My thesis, Cardboard Testimonies: Addressing Misconceptions regarding Homelessness through Documentary Photography.

Over the past year, I worked on my Plan II Honors undergraduate thesis. I explored the historic correlation between documentary photography and homelessness since the 1890's. I studied the work of several photographers--Jacob Riis, Dorothea Lange, Paul Fusco, Bruce Gilden--and the impact that their photographs had on public perception of homelessness. This research influenced my own approach to photographing homelessness in Austin. An extensive blog post detailing more of my thesis experience is on the way.