– By Stephanie Gross, Electronic Reserve and Scholarly Communication Librarian

Since 1999 both the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program and Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors programs have attracted hundreds of talented students. The program provides an unusually rigorous curriculum. The submission of a written thesis at the end of the program intensifies the learning experience for honors students.

The benefit of the academic writing assignment extends far beyond the personal experience of the scholar-writer. The thesis requirement mandates that honors students submit a digital file of their final project to Yeshiva University Libraries as well as to their program coordinator. Included with the file of their work is a signed consent form for self-archiving of the thesis to YAIR, the Yeshiva Academic Institutional Repository. The form indicates which level of sharing the student prefers. Options include open access, which makes the work available publicly the world over free of charge. Both Google Scholar and EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) index and link to YAIR content. A second option is YU-only access should students hesitate to share their work without express permission. A third option creates a one- or two-year embargo if potential publishers request that the work not be immediately available. The fourth option allows the thesis author to opt out, with only the author’s name, title of work, and abstract appearing. In such cases, authors can still be reached through the Scholarly Communication Librarian, who coordinates granting permission on a case-by-case basis.

Several theses have had over 500 views in the span of only six months (https://repository.yu.edu/handle/20.500.12202/3977/statistics). In readers from as far away as Spain, Italy, and Israel have viewed YU honors theses on YAIR.

Honors program directors emphasize the benefits of the thesis requirement, especially the sharing of academic work to YAIR:

Dr. Eliezer Schnall, Director of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program, Yeshiva College:

The honors thesis is the capstone project of every honors student’s Yeshiva College career. The thesis is an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member who serves as a mentor throughout the process. With the thesis, honors students explore a question that deeply matters to them, drawing on the writing and analytic skills that have been honed during their course of study at Yeshiva College to produce a substantial research paper. Many students use their theses as a writing sample for admission to top graduate and professional programs. It is therefore fitting that completed theses are held in YAIR, the Yeshiva University institutional repository, to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of the honors program’s scholars.

Dr. Cynthia Wachtell, Director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program, Stern College for Women:

The senior project remains the capstone to a student’s academic career at Stern College. Through the process of completing their senior projects, students learn advanced research techniques, sharpen their writing skills, and acquire expertise in an area within their majors. Students strengthen their relationships with their faculty mentors and gain an expanded sense of their own capabilities. They graduate from the program expertly prepared to pursue graduate-level research work.

The range of the topics of senior projects reflects the students’ interests in the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and Judaic studies. Among the subjects that the honors program’s 2020-2021 graduates chose to investigate were:

  • Gene Therapy as a Treatment for Inherited Retinal Disorders
  • Algorithmic Bias: A New Age of Racism
  • Symbolism in Jewish Art
  • Non-Invasive Strategies for Treating Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
  • The Evolution of the Idea of the Jewish Race
  • The Effects of Smoking Cigarettes, Marijuana, and E-Cigarettes on Fertility
  • The Role of Adolescent Questioning in Jewish Education

YAIR gives graduating students the assurance that their research is of interest and value to others, reinforcing a central goal of scholarship: to engage in ongoing conversation about new findings and perspectives.

 

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