The Wi-Fi starts lagging and then halts completely. Senior dance major Gabbi Anderson, in the midst of reviewing her senior thesis, never anticipated this to continue online.
Students like Anderson have struggled with obstacles restricting their creative visions. Lack of collaboration among students. Communication barriers. Minimal resources. Strict COVID-19 protocols. Loss of motivation. All challenges that transform the way seniors thought their theses would progress.
Similar to other students, Anderson grapples with these challenges and struggles to define the direction she wants to continue in.
“It has been hard for me to personally define the path I want to go in,” she said.
After over a year of online instruction, students are disappointed that their senior theses have progressed through a virtual platform.
But that’s not always a bad thing, for students in the arts.
Wilson Mendieta, dance professor, explained that students involved in the arts have had to adjust to the unforeseen changes that the industry has made. With the replacement of in person collaboration, Mendieta says that this gives students an edge.
“This offers, I believe, an opportunity for the students to develop and hone resiliency in ways that prior graduating classes have not, he said.
Even so, students are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Most people view the arts as a collaborative art form, but what happens when there’s a global pandemic prohibiting said collaboration?
This means that adaptability is key.
Jennifer Losch, film student, explained that even with the circumstances at hand, Dodge students have been extremely enthusiastic and working harder than ever to complete senior thesis projects.
“The pandemic has been preventing us from having in person meetings, rehearsals, and limiting our crew sizes,” she said.
Despite these challenges, Losch is still anticipating the chance to see the final productions of the seniors’ work.
“I’m so excited to see everyone’s hard work come together,” she said.
Grace Eberle, theatre major, expressed how feeding off of each other’s energy is a crucial part of screen acting , therefore the development of her thesis has been especially challenging.
“As an acting major working off your partner is an integral part of our craft, and when you are writing a scene and are only able to work off of your partner via zoom it doesn’t create the same effect as it would in person,” she said.
In addition, Eberle explained that COVID-19 protocols, such as social distancing and wearing masks, tend to impede the creative process. Students like Eberle recognize that this is the safest way to continue working, however, it is not what they envisioned their last senior project to look like.
“The protocols hindered us from doing 2/3 of what we normally can accomplish on set. This also means everything takes more time and that was stressful when we were already behind to begin with,” she said.
Even though the challenges for seniors developing their theses have flowed in a wave of unforeseen demands, some students have found inspiration from the pandemic to create their thesis.
Sarah De Surville, senior sociology major, described the ways that COVID actually sparked a creative idea for her thesis that she would have never thought of before.
“My thesis topic was actually chosen because of COVID, I’m studying romantic relationships and COVID and how it’s changed it,” she said.
De Surville admits that the observation portion of her thesis lacks without the proper face to face interaction that the project requires.
“Normally we need to observe and do ethnographic first person research but we can’t really visit any physical sites as easily this semester which has been hard,” she said.
In addition to this, getting advice from professors has also been difficult for students because they are not able to stay after class to talk to them or quickly mention a problem they’re having to their professor. Conversations have to be scheduled and arranged for students to seek help, which just causes an extra hoop seniors have to jump through.
“I’ve been having to conduct all interviews over zoom and online,” she said.
Even though writing theses online was never predicted, students, like Gabbi Anderson, are allowing for these series of unfortunate events to inspire creativity.
“I enjoy the freedom it has given me,” she said.
2020 has thrown a lot at graduating seniors, and they just keep rolling with the punches. Even though these hardships prohibit seniors from completing their projects like they anticipated, they have worked hard through the obstacles to make something that they are proud of.
Adaptability is key.