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Honors Thesis Contest

Every year, CSI holds a contest for the Best Honors Thesis on an inequality-related topic. All seniors completing the minor and writing an Honors thesis in their home department have the opportunity to be recognized with a cash award for best thesis. To be eligible, your thesis must be broadly related to inequality. The deadline for submissions is on the last day of classes. Please email submissions to and feel free to contact us for more details!!

2016 Winners

First Prize

Michael Sun, College Scholar
“The Cultural Hegemony of Finance Capital: Implications for Financial Reform in the Twenty-First Century”
Michael’s thesis contends that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act failed to address the structural issues which led to the financial crisis of 2008 and further served to institutionalize and perpetuate them. He demonstrates that Dodd-Frank’s failure was a product of finance capital’s cultural hegemony, which has dominated discourse regarding the financial sector since the reconstruction era. He claims that the purpose of financial reform in the United States has never been to produce greater egalitarianism, but rather to placate the masses and reinforce dominant beliefs about the financial sector, preventing them from creating or even imagining a version of society not dominated by finance capital. Dodd-Frank should thus not be viewed as an inexplicable failure of democracy but rather as the logical and deliberate product of finance capitalism and neoliberalism because identity politics dominate economic concerns in political discourse. Michael’s thesis advisor was Richard Bensel from the Department of Government.

Samantha Wilhelm, Government
“Is the Roberts Court-ing Business? Class Action in the Wake of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes”
Samantha’s thesis evaluates the impact of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc v. Dukes on the certification, proceedings, and outcomes of employment class actions. She contends that Wal-Mart v. Dukes, in conjunction with the Roberts Court, has reinforced business’ litigative power over disadvantaged groups by empowering big business and corporations. As corporations are advantaged by a wealth of resources, an individual alone cannot compete fairly. Thus class actions allow individuals an aggregate approach to pursue claims that many not be feasible on an individual basis. However, the Roberts’ Court has demonstrated an increased interest in business cases, and big cases appear to be winning more cases since Roberts’ appointment. Additionally, the Roberts Court grants certiorari in a greater percentage of liberal lower court decisions in comparison to the Rehnquist Court. She claims that the Roberts Court sends a clear message to corporations: the larger a company and the more discontinuous its employment policies, the less likely that it will be culpable to class claims. Samantha’s thesis advisor was Joseph Marguiles from the Department of Government.

Honorable Mention

Jocelyn Lee, Biology & Society
“Decentralizing Forest Management and Addressing a ‘Historic Injustice’ in India: Implementation Trends of the Forest Rights Act”

Jingyi Li, Sociology
“The Effects of Neighborhood Context on Life Satisfaction: A Comparative Study of Racial and Ethnic Groups in the United States”

Past Winners

First Prize

Jessica Barragan, Sociology & Government ‘15
“Hispanic Disadvantage In Criminal Jury Trials: A Multi-Method Study of Juror Bias Against Hispanic Defendants in Four Urban Counties”

Zoe Otedola, Sociology ‘15
“The Impact of Aspirations on Educational Attainment”

Dominique Corley, Sociology & Linguistics ‘14
“Sounding Guilty: African American English and Racial Inequality in the Courtroom”

Fiona McCabe, Sociology ‘14
“Persisting Educational Inequality in a College for All Era: Aspirational Fulfillment of Community College Students”

Patrick Nowak, Government & College Scholars Program ‘14
“Group Positioning and Racialized Drug Policy: The Association of African Americans with Drug Use and Its Implications for United States Drug Law Enforcement”

Kayla Richards, English ‘13
“The Role of Legal Consciousness: A Study of Law through the Experiences and Perceptions of Real and Fictional Everyday Citizens”


Honorable Mention

Shivali Haribhakti, Industrial and Labor Relations ‘14
“The Invisible Workforce”

Jana Wilbricht, Communication & Development Sociology ‘14
“Bridging the Digital Divide: Access and Use of Internet and Mobile Technology for Health Information among Hopi Indians”

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