Senior Capstones 2023

Below are student capstone titles and abstracts (or descriptions) from the class of 2023, organized by last name. The 2023 capstone presentations took place on Friday, May 5th.

Zarah Ahmad

Queer Geotrauma: An analysis of the Colorado Springs Queer Experience

Abstract: The construction of place, referring to the political, social, religious, and military contexts, impact every individual’s lived experience. Groups often experience harmful aspects of place through geotrauma, a collective trauma intertwined with place and geography. I pose the question of how place contributes to the realization of geotrauma for queer residents in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is the second largest Colorado city and is widely associated with the military and Evangelicalism. In the 90s, Colorado passed a ballot measure that legalized discrimination on the basis of sexuality that imposed the groundwork for conditions of geotrauma even after it was overturned by the Supreme Court. To answer this question, I evaluated and analyzed public Colorado Springs Oral History Projects. I found that queer people experienced geotrauma through harmful mechanisms of anti-queer religious and military institutions, but the geographic dispersion of Colorado Springs protects queer residents by creating different ‘bubbles.’ These bubbles help residents maintain physical barriers between communities that hold anti-queer sentiments.


Josie Ballew 

When “Care” means Control: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Colorado’s Involuntary Commitment Policy

Abstract: Involuntary mental health treatment has a long history as a mode of social control in the western world, and remains a prominent subject of political, legal, and medical concern. Although it is often articulated as a form of care and social service, the research on involuntary treatment policy, which deals primarily in commitment criteria, procedures, and rights of those committed, reveals power imbalanced relationships between care providers and care recipients. This study explores what discourses are at play in Colorado’s state commitment policy: Care and Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness (C.R.S. 27-65). The document has been analyzed using Wodak and Fairclough’s criteria for critical discourse analysis (CDA). The findings indicate five discourses which communicate the power of medico-legal institutions over people experiencing mental health issues: a hybrid discourse of medicine and law, temporality, cure, rights, and risk.


Cedar Bennett

Happier from Home: The Predicting Factors of Employee Well-Being in In-Person and Virtual Workspaces

Abstract: The goal of this study is to better understand the predictors of employee well-being in in-person and virtual workspaces by looking at the factors of social connectedness, work-life balance, and work autonomy. This fits into psychological and sociological literature on Industry 4.0, workplace well-being, and the social determinants of mental health. This cross-sectional survey study used convenience sampling methods to gather information from 80 participants, and used Stata to analyze through multiple regression, t-tests, and correlations. It was found that for the sample of mostly white women (87.3% white, 80% women), well-being is higher in those working virtually (t = 2.60, p = 0.011), and that this effect is mediated by work-life balance (z = 3.89, p = 0.000) and autonomy (z = 4.64, p = 0.000). Working mostly virtually improves both work-life balance (t = -3.84, p = 0.000) and autonomy (t = -4.58, p = 0.000), and those factors in turn increase well-being (work-life balance: p = 0.000; autonomy: p = 0.007). There is no difference in social connectedness based on work format (t = 0.04, p = 0.968); however, higher levels of social connectedness also predicted higher levels of well-being (p = 0.004). These findings demonstrate that to increase employees’ well-being, especially for their white female employees, workplaces should focus on improving social connectedness, work-life balance, and autonomy. If they’re in-person workplaces, they should especially focus on work-life balance and autonomy, since in- person workplaces tend to fall shorter in those areas than virtual workplaces.


Willo Burglechner

“I can’t tell who’s gay anymore: the interlockings of fashion and identity transformation”

Abstract: As queerness becomes more mainstream, queer style is spreading into nonqueer spaces. This study explores how queer and nonqueer identities are changing as more people adopt the queer aesthetic. Sixteen participants were interviewed about how their sense of identity changes as their style changes to discover if nonqueer people are adopting a queer sensibility through their adoption of the queer aesthetic. The results were inconclusive, however, they demonstrated that, for the participants, style is fluid and ever changing, not tied to specific elements of an identity.


Mason Castle

I Watched the Child Get Introduced to Violence": Melancholy, Grief, and Self-Making in Earl Sweatshirt's Feet of Clay

Abstract: This project examines the intersections of neoliberalism and popular music aesthetics. By treating music itself as theory, this paper examines popular music as a discursive space for the production of alternative politics and subjectivities. Through a qualitative content analysis of Earl Sweatshirt’s 2019 album, Feet of Clay, it is revealed how melancholy and grief contribute to self-making in the context of the artist’s relationship to death under neoliberal capitalism.


Sierra Drossman

GentrificARTion: The Impact of Public Art on Community and Civic Changes in the RiNo District

Abstract: “Artivism,” or art with social justice messages, has gained popularity in the past several years. Activist art is often seen as public art when artists share their messages and work within a community. As a case study, this thesis uses the River North (RiNo) district in Denver, which in the past 20 years has transformed into an arts district, to understand the impact of public art, specifically murals, on the changes that occurred. To understand these changes, artists who are viewed as activist artists, local business owners and managers, and employees of art non-profits in the area were interviewed to better understand the impact of public art on district changes. This thesis reveals that as public art is becoming more popular it adds aesthetic value to a locale, that can result in gentrification. These two impacts of public art provide both a constructive factor by creating community connection and fostering social change and as a destructive factor through being a catalyst for gentrification. These factors have caused significant changes in the neighborhood makeup and resulted in both community members and artists using their platform to combat gentrification by involving the community in public art programming, using art to spread messages of the cultural history and social issues in the area, and using art to create awareness of the impact of development. Using this RiNo case study, the ideas of community involvement and education through public art can be applied to other locations facing gentrification. 


Silvia Entenza

Exploring the Role of Social Capital in the Academic Success of Undocumented Students at Colorado College

Abstract: Through theoretical use of social capital and interviews with college students who identified themselves as undocumented, my thesis reveals the key assets/experiences students feel have been the most helpful in their persistence and motivation as first-generation undocumented students. To guide my research, I have formulated the following research question: How does the interplay between legal status and support systems influence the academic experience of undocumented students at Colorado College?


Mei-ji Fong

The Finest Liberal Arts Education for White Full-Pay Students: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Colorado College Antiracism Implementation Plan

Abstract: Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals have increasingly questioned the value of higher education in the United States (Lederman 2022). In the last twenty years, private, in-state, and out-of-state college tuition and fees have each increased by over 130% on average (Kerr and Wood 2022). As administrators across the country scramble to identify what makes their schools unique and marketable, Colorado College has decided to champion “antiracism.” Though it is exciting that Colorado College has asserted its desire to become antiracist, individuals are concerned that the broad plan will not lead to change. This paper is an examination of the values promoted by Colorado College’s Antiracism Implementation Plan a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). The findings suggest that the Antiracism Implementation Plan and antiracism itself are framed as an educational benefit to primarily White students on a White/Other binary as evidenced by primary subjects, lexicons of production and bureaucracy, and discourse around community-raised issues. 


Mazlyn Freier

"Anxiety is an Admission Requirement:" Discourses of Student Mental Health on Small, Private Liberal Arts College Campuses

Abstract: This study utilizes a qualitative methodology to analyze students, staff, and administrators’ perceptions of the current mental health climate on their college campuses through employing discourse analysis. I analyze thirteen semi-structured interviews with Student Body Presidents, Directors of Counseling Centers, and Deans of Students from six different small, private liberal arts colleges across the United States. Though only one participant identified their school as having a formal mental health policy, all participants agreed that their students were unwell. When explaining why student mental health was a concern, participants referenced campus definitions of “wellness,” campus-sponsored mental health services, and their own perceptions of existing campus policies to explain the failing state of student mental health. Participants also cited several factors including workload, inability to take time off, stressors of being a marginalized student, and understaffed and overbooked counseling centers as contributing to an “imperative of wellness” that reinforced ideals of neoliberalism.


Nina Goodkin

Shifting Abortion Frames In The New York Times: A Qualitative And Quantitative Content Analysis Before And After Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Abstract: In Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022), the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a nearly fifty-year precedent guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion. This paper investigates how the New York Times reported on abortion before and after the Supreme Court’s ruling using Etman’s (1973) theory of framing. A quantitative and qualitative content analysis shows that journalists reported on abortion differently after the Dobb’s decision but quoted similar populations of experts and citizens. Medical and inequality frames appear often in coverage. However, the results demonstrate an overwhelmingly political categorization of abortion. The pro-life, pro- choice dichotomy referring to the oversimplification of abortion as entirely good or bad was not identified. Through a cross time analysis, this study demonstrates the stable and salient aspects of abortion reporting. The results suggest that future coverage should incorporate more viewpoints in their reporting to better inform the public. 


Brianna Harshaw

Social Media and Perceptions of the Police: Examining 2020s Police Brutality and Protest News Coverage

Abstract: Recent incidents of police violence against Black people have regularly made headlines, both in print and on social media platforms. Though it is a relatively new phenomenon, this coverage has made public opinion regarding these issues more accessible than ever before. Considering this, researchers have begun utilizing data from these platforms as tools to identify major narratives in public opinion. Following this framework, this research will utilize data collected from Twitter comments to identify major narratives in the social media response to police brutality and protest news coverage, and how they have changed in the 2020s. Employing cultivation theory and the work of Donileen Loseke on narratives, this research compares the social media response to George Floyd’s murder in 2020 and the recent murder of Tyre Nichols in 2023 and explores the way time may impact the public narrative around social movements. The research suggests that although the major theme of public opinion in the 2020s has been critique, major social media narratives and discourse is beginning to favor the use of language that references yet is more critical of ideas of racial awareness or institutional racism. 


Gabi Hart

Reading Between the Lines: How Historic Redlining Practices Affect Present- Day Life Expectancy 

Abstract: While the impact of HOLC's (Homeowners Loan Corporation) historic redlining practices is evident, their impact on life expectancy has yet to be explored in depth. This gap in the relationships between redlining and life expectancy is the primary focus of this study. More specifically, this study shows how historic redlining practices and racial and socioeconomic composition affect present-day life expectancy. Using United States Census tracts as a proxy for neighborhoods, this study also controls for the impact of present-day demographics on the relationship between redlining and life expectancy. Data used were obtained from Diversity Data Kids and The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. My sample comprises five cities (one from each region) and 3,160 census tracts. I performed an OLS regression. The regression results suggest that lower HOLC grades and a higher percentage of Black and low-SES (socioeconomic status) residents correspond with a lower life expectancy. Findings also suggest regional differences in the extent of redlining's effect on life expectancy. 


Sophia Hennessy

Fair Play in Ultimate Frisbee: an Exploration of Supply and Demand  

Abstract: Informed by Pierre Bourdieu’s understanding of fair play as rooted in social positionality, the sport of ultimate is examined as a case study of how athletes make meaning of this concept. Attention is given to the variations in understandings of and experiences with Spirit of the Game, SOTG (ultimate’s version of fair play), across player gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Preliminary findings suggest, SOTG works, at least partially, to maintain systems of power beneficial to male players and harmful to Black players. Despite often enabling systems of exclusion, SOTG is not uniformly held accountable for doing so.


Erin Huggins

Two Colleges One Campus: How Socioeconomic Status Impacts Student Experience at Colorado College

Abstract: This paper examines the experiences of students at Colorado College (CC) and how their socio-economic status impacts their experience at the college. I conducted nine in-depth face to face interviews with CC students from different socio-economic backgrounds and demographics. I report that socio-economic status does impact CC experience since students from high socio-economic backgrounds have access to networks, opportunities, and prior knowledge that BIPOC students and students from low socio-economic backgrounds do not have access to. Through these interviews I concluded that because of the wealth gap at CC low income students feel that two colleges exist at once: one they experience and another their high income peers experience. While students from high income backgrounds can buy into most of CC culture and activities frequented by students many students from low socio-economic backgrounds cannot.  


Cheney Hurley

Quality over Quantity: Racism Comprehension in a Sociology Curriculum 

Abstract: Colorado College’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion was formally established in its Antiracism Implementation Plan, created in November 2019 with the intent of creating an antiracist community and environment at the College. The Sociology Department of Colorado College aims to assess its contribution to upholding the College’s commitment to antiracism by evaluating its faculty’s teaching and students’ learning regarding racism. This study seeks to examine the association between sociology coursework and advanced levels of understanding of racism in undergraduate students at Colorado College. A coding scheme was developed to indicate whether respondents demonstrated a “basic,” “intermediate,” or “advanced” understanding of racism in their open-ended response to the question: “What is racism?” The results found that respondents’ progression to higher levels of sociology coursework was significantly associated with their development of an advanced understanding of racism, as respondents who completed 200- and 300-level courses tended to have more advanced understandings of racism compared to those who had only taken 100-level courses. 


Alanna Jackson

Collectively Treading Water: A Qualitative Study of (Un)wellness of Nonprofit Workers who Identify as Queer

Abstract: Wellness, a concept with skyrocketing coverage due to mental health outcries and COVID-19, is often viewed as an ability. Being well means having the ability to produce and work, which is a self-asset to possess. Those who are intimately entwined with neoliberal economics, violence, care work, and social justice are often more unwell, especially those with marginalized identities. This study seeks to understand the following question: How do individuals, who identify as queer or LGBTQIA2S+ and work at non-profit organizations experience and understand (un)wellness? Through 12 semi-structured interviews, participants revealed that their work makes them sick in ways that do not just manifest in their productivity but also somatically, socially, and collectively. Participants invoked ideas of how white supremacy and capitalism harm their well-being. Unwellness materialized as frustration, hopelessness, pain, unsafety, and more. Wellness, rather than just an individual endeavor, was defined as feeling expansive, having basic needs met, securing access to healthcare, allowing for complex personhood, and fostering community solidarity. This result warps notions of wellness, making the fight for social justice more crucial than ever. Queer livelihood depends on liberation.  


Maddy Johnson

The Impact of Abortion Restrictions on Women’s Mental Health:A State-Level Analysis

Abstract: This study examines the impact abortion restrictions and bans have on women’s mental health in the United States. Using state-level data, I ran several regressions to determine the effect of states’ abortion policies on the rate of frequent mental distress in women. Even while controlling for poverty and exploring the possible mechanism of pregnancies wanted later or unwanted ending in birth as accounting for this relationship, it became apparent abortion laws in a state account in part for the rate of frequent mental distress in women. I conclude by reflecting on the impact of bodily autonomy and state surveillance on women and urge states to protect abortion to preserve the health of women and children.


Maya Kobayashi

Unpacking the Relationship Between Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Allostatic Load: A Mediation Analysis Using Data From The National Health and Examination Survey, 2015-2020

Abstract: Previous research done on the social determinants of health and allostatic load, a measure of cumulative wear and tear on the body due to chronic stress, set the foundation for this study. This thesis replicates prior studies that look at various factors and their relationship to allostatic load using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2015-2020. I analyze how race and socioeconomic status affect allostatic load, and to the extent that the latter plays a mediating role. With a sample of 5,165 participants, I create a measure of allostatic load and conduct various multiple ordinal logistic regressions to run analyses. My findings show that certain racial/ethnic groups are more susceptible to or protected from a high allostatic load and higher socioeconomic status decreases the relative odds of having a high allostatic load. The findings also indicate that race effects are mediated by socioeconomic status pathways. 


Sydney Lau

"What the F*** Am I Supposed to Do Now?": A Qualitative Study of Retirement from Gymnastics

Abstract: Athletic retirement is a major transition in life. While scholarly attention to this transition out of sport has increased since the 1980s, gaps in this literature remain. Retirement from college gymnastics has largely remained understudied, yet the uniqueness of this area of research cannot go unstated. College gymnasts are undergoing two major transitions at once: retirement from gymnastics and college graduation. The present study employs a qualitative methodology to explore how retired college gymnasts experienced retirement from gymnastics and offers potential resources for supporting gymnasts through this transition period. Drawing on 15 semi-structured interviews with former women’s artistic gymnasts who competed at the NCAA Division I level, I found that retired gymnasts experienced excitement, relief, devastation, and a struggle with identity loss. I argue that retirement from gymnasts is neither exclusively negative nor positive, as previous literature tends to position the transition. Instead, the retirement process is nuanced. Factors like hobbies outside of gymnastics, the strength of one’s athletic identity, and knowledge of potential obstacles during the transition may influence how a gymnast experiences retirement. In this study, I center the lived experiences of my participants to produce a more comprehensive understanding of retirement from gymnastics.


Daniel Lo

Un-puzzling the Immigrant Paradox: A Quantitative Analysis on Asian American Educational Achievement

Abstract: The study examines whether and to what degree race and generational status impact the educational outcome of students, with a focus on those of Asian descent. The study then seeks to unpack any such effects by identifying potential mediating factors. Using data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, I developed logistic regression models predicting the likelihood of students receiving bachelor’s degrees among individuals of different racial groups and immigrant statuses. Results show that second-generation immigrant students have a higher probability of receiving bachelor’s degrees. Students’ and parents’ expectations and ethnic capital are critical factors for the educational attainments of Asian students. Further, even after controlling for the attitudinal factors of students, racial disparities in educational achievement persist, suggesting larger systemic forces underlying educational inequality.


Casey Millhone

Move! That! Bus!: Accessibility Review of MVTA Bus Stops in Minneapolis

Abstract: Access to public transportation is an essential tool to access vital resources like healthcare, employment opportunities, and education. However, ableist social structures create inequalities in the accessibility, affordability, and convenience of public transportation options. As a result, there is a current hole in public information related to the current accessibility of transit locations and facilities. This study investigates the current adherence of transit structures within the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) to ADA accessibility standards. A coding system was developed to analyze the level of adherence of streetside stations with built structures, primary stations, and primary bus stops without built structures to twenty ADA accessibility variables. Findings show that although streetside stations with built structures adhered to ADA accessibility standards most consistently, Vision Accom. and Sheltered Entry were the two most prominent accessibility concerns. The information and data in this paper are only a summation. The complete dataset was submitted to MVTA with individual analyses of each transit location included in this analysis. The research is intended to provide MVTA with an understanding of the most prominent accessibility concerns and initiate a move to make this information accessible to MVTA riders. 


Katherine Moynhihan

Through the Looking Glass: A Comprehensive Look at Digital Privacy Concerns at Colorado College

Abstract: Today, advanced data-collection technologies and practices are ubiquitous and online information-sharing is a social norm. Government agencies and private corporations routinely collect personal data, leading to widespread privacy concerns. Scholars have studied digital privacy concerns, but more research needs to be done on how it plays out among young people, who are internet natives.  This study examines how privacy-related measures (experiences online, privacy beliefs, and protection behaviors) among Colorado College students vary by race, gender, and socioeconomic status. It also measures to what extent students exhibit the privacy paradox which is the gap between digital privacy concerns and privacy protection behavior. The study found that women have more negative online experiences and care more about online privacy risks than men and non-binary participants. Results showed that privacy protection behavior differed by gender, with women untagging pictures more often, but men using VPNs and incognito mode more often. There were minimal behavioral variations by race and socioeconomic status. Regarding the privacy paradox, women exhibited some less paradoxical behavior than men and other genders. There were minimal variations of the privacy paradox by race and socioeconomic status. This study provides new information on how Colorado College students perceive digital privacy risks and take action to protect their data. Further research should consider using an intersectional lens.  


Mary Nussbaumer

"I Will Respect Their Choice, Even If It's The Wrong One": A Case Study of Young Adults Evangelicals in the Post-Trump Era

Abstract: Through interviews and observations of a young adult group from Radiant Horizons Church, this study examined how Gen-Z evangelicals make sense of themselves and their political identity. The research found that the young adults are less politically motivated than previous generations, and their evangelical identity is not a significant factor that influences their political beliefs. The study also found that self-identifying as politically conservative was positively correlated to being more active in the church. These young adults found community and conversionism to be important aspects of their faith. They were also accepting of those who had identities and values that did not align with the church, deferring judgment to God.


Abigail Opperman

Social Media and The Portrayal of Self

Abstract: This paper serves the purpose of delving deeper into the social media world to try and find out why people portray themselves differently online, and how that even differs based on the platform they are posting to. It covers foundational work from previous scholars that set the premise as to how the self is constructed, and how that plays into a new, more modern world where social media is all over the place. The data collected comes in two parts, a content analysis, and interviews. Each will serve as a steppingstone to the next, as they come together to answer the question on why people portray themselves differently across various social media platforms such as who has access to their posts, who can save them, and if family members can see their posts as well. Together, they will combine to create an overarching framework of the self and how that is altered due to social media.  


Lucaiah Smith-Miodownik

The Realities We Create: A Qualitative Study on Perceptions of Mental Health and Mental Health Policy in a College Community

Abstract: Mental health is a subject of growing concern in many public spheres, and college campuses are no exception.  This study examined five students and four faculty at Colorado College, asking questions about both the broad topic of mental health as well as specific school policies. A particular focus was directed towards how the factors of age and occupation (faculty or student) influenced these perceptions and ideas. Students and faculty alike drew on unique experiences in order to distinguish their outlook on the topic of discussion, while both groups also emphasized a pattern of performative action within school policy. 


Will Taylor 

Cultural Commodification and Appropriation: How Vendors Understand Selling Their Own Culture

Abstract: Cultural appropriation is an increasingly contested and debated topic. This study seeks to understand how people who sell culture, either through physical goods or experiences, make sense of this commodification and appropriation in the context of global inequalities and power dynamics. Prior research on this topic focuses on specific instances of appropriation and the implications that stem from them, while little seeks to understand the opinions of individual agents who sell culture to make a living. Through interviews with six cultural vendors: yoga teachers, Native American jewelers, and college professors that take students abroad, this study found that vendors made sense of the commodification of culture through economic, educational, geographical, historical, and legal frameworks.  Overall each participant’s opinions were somehow rooted in an economic framework, while also making sense of the topic through other lenses related their social position and relationships to existing power structures.


Grace Tumavicus

Subversive Memory: Material Practices in Grief as Anti-Capitalist Relationality

Abstract: In this project, I explore how objects are re-valued through interpersonal connectivity in grief. I consider how capitalist logics prescribe material relationships through commodity fetishism and alienated labor, through the lens of material culture and material behavior theory. I argue that material memory practices, used in grief, are quotidian subversions of the logics of consumerism under capitalism and its’ prescription of human-material relationships. This subversion is made possible through the understanding of capitalism as hegemonic system. This argument is informed by a content-analysis study of photos and photo descriptions that I collected from my community of our material grief practices.




Report an issue - Last updated: 10/18/2023