Honors in the Major Program—Christian Ragland
Christian Ragland graduated with a degree in English from Florida State University in May 2020. The HITM Program allows any FSU student who has completed 60 hours of coursework and has a 3.2 GPA or higher to participate. The student must complete a research thesis or a creative project in their area of study under the supervision of a committee composed of at least three faculty members.
English, Editing, Writing, and Media, with a minor in international affairs
TITLE OF HONORS IN THE MAJOR PROJECT
Resistance to a Transition: How Emerging Genres Navigate Social Resistance. See Christian's project here.
English Professor Barry Faulk, English Professor Leigh Edwards, and Assistant Teaching Professor Portia Campos in the School of Public Administration
What was the inspiration behind your decision to pursue Honors in the Major?
When I was a junior, I had a meeting with [former English department Academic Support Specialist] Inmaculada Silverio. My goal was to find extra opportunities to get involved in during my senior year. As an English major, I found that my real academic strength was essay writing, so the opportunity to write a real formal thesis immediately appealed to me. The chance to graduate with honors was also very attractive because I was not in the honors program at that point.
Could you explain/summarize the requirements for this program?
For the program, students are asked to spend two semesters working on a thesis. This can be in the form of a formal essay or a creative project. The first semester is mainly planning and drafting, and the second semester is finalizing and defending the thesis in front of a faculty committee. In addition to the thesis, students are required to take an honors section class within their major during each of the two semesters.
The faculty committee contains one professor from outside of your department and two from within your department. One of the professors within your department serves as your thesis advisor, who provides counsel and guidance as you work on your project. I chose English Professor Barry Faulk as my thesis advisor. He was a professor who I had previously built a relationship with, and I found that his area of study was closely related to what I wanted to write about. I chose English Professor Leigh Edwards as my department committee member and Assistant Teaching Professor Portia Campos in the School of Public Administration as my outside member. They were all extremely helpful and gave my very useful feedback on my work.
What topic did you select for your research thesis?
I chose to write my thesis as a collection of case studies regarding vernacular music genres and their relationship to existing power structures. Each chapter focused on a different 20th-century American music genre, tracing the history of jazz, heavy metal, and hip-hop within the social context of their time. My research found that each genre faced opposition from institutional powers seeking to silence the emerging genres and that musicians tended to resist opposition through satire. Ultimately, the genres that found success in resistance were those which more openly embraced the rhetoric of their detractors.
What did you enjoy most about working on the HITM project? Did you have any downsides or struggles you would like to discuss?
I thought the program was great. I was lucky enough to take the Senior Seminar during my defense semester with one of my committee members, Dr. Edwards. Her field of study also touches on a lot of topics relating to my thesis, so I found the class extremely helpful. Dr. Faulk was invaluable in his assistance during my two semesters, and I found the work challenging but rewarding. The process of writing a long and formal paper taught me a lot about how academia works, and I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish.
I personally found the lack of choices for honors section classes to be a bit challenging. During my first semester, the only class I was able to find was Women in Literature. This class was very engaging, though literature has nothing to do with my field of study or research. At that point in my senior year, I was interested in taking more specialized classes instead of broader English courses. I also had some restrictions due to the fact that my defense semester took place during the beginning of COVID-19 quarantine.
What advice would you give to any English students who want to pursue HITM?
I think HITM is a great program, and I encourage everybody to consider it. Due to the challenging nature of the project, this program is best for those who want to take their studies to the next level. I found the essay to be analogous to taking a class in which you are the only student, and the professor is dedicated to grading your work very closely. It can be a bit intimidating, but I thought it was a healthy challenge. For this reason, and the distinctions associated with a completed thesis, I would say this program is best suited for people who are aiming to pursue higher education after completing undergrad.
What plans do you have post-graduation?
My situation has changed a bit due to COVID-19, but I was lucky to be able to stick to my original plan pretty closely. Right now, I’m studying for the LSAT and plan to attend law school in 2021. I currently work in food service and have a couple side jobs writing for companies online. I was actually able to get hired by the law firm where I completed my [EWM] internship, and I write for their website part time.