No Writers’ Block Here

No Writers’ Block Here

MOUNT OLIVE- Six senior English majors at the University of Mount Olive (UMO) are currently on their way to completing their senior research thesis projects. The senior research project is a yearlong academic challenge that further develops skills that all English majors acquire, skills such as critical reading, analysis, and writing. The two courses focused on research and the project, ENG 380 and ENG 480, are taught by Dr. Keely Byars-Nichols, associate professor of English.

Whether it’s literary criticism or creative writing, says Byars-Nichols, the senior thesis project helps students prepare themselves for a wide range of career and postgraduate opportunities.

“I have been so impressed with the diversity of topics our majors have developed over the last two semesters. We are now attracting and able to foster English majors interested in all sorts of textual analysis,” noted Byars-Nichols. “We have creative writing projects and literary analysis, but we also have students doing work in new media and looking at the rhetoric of film, television, and advertising. It’s an exciting time of growth for the department. By having our students do this sort of in-depth analysis, we are preparing them for all sorts of career paths.”

The six English majors who are currently underway with their projects include Caley Breese of Crofton, MD; Elizabeth Coleman of Mebane, NC; Emily Shaw of Gilbert, AZ; Rachel Southerland of Pink Hill, NC; Olivia Springer of Cleveland, OH; and Cameron Sutton of Clinton, NC.

Breese is also pursuing a marketing minor, which inspired her to research contemporary media and rhetorical appeals. Her project is titled “Women and Feminism in Contemporary Media.”

“I am exploring how women are portrayed in contemporary media. I am also analyzing the rhetorical appeals of those advertisements, along with comparing and contrasting two different women’s magazines,” explained Breese.

Springer is also pursuing a topic focused on contemporary media and rhetorical appeals. “My project is ‘Perceptions of Women in Media in Contemporary Culture.’ I chose the topic because I grew up watching shows like Charmed and wanted to look more into how television and celebrity affect how women think they should act.”

Some of the students were inspired by specific literature courses for their projects.

Coleman was motivated from a southern literature course at UMO and decided to explore the topic of “Stereotypes in the South.” Coleman noted, “My project Focuses on stereotypes that are seen within films, television shows, and print culture in the American South.”

Similarly, Shaw was inspired by American and British literature courses at UMO and decided to research “The Transatlantic Feminist Themes in the Poetry of Dickinson and Rossetti.”
Southerland was also inspired by American literature courses, and her project is titled “Edgar Allen Poe: Man Before His Time.”

“Poe’s poetry has always been an inspiration to me. I have felt that Poe was not, and still to this day, always appreciated as a writer,” said Southerland. “I wanted to inspire contemporary readers to be more interested in Poe’s work.”

Sutton took the opportunity of the senior project to explore her fascination for fairy tales and her creative writing minor. Her project is titled, “Changeling Stories: Fairy Tales Re-Visioned.” Sutton explained, “I’ve been researching fairy tales both new and old, and interpreting them from a feminist perspective. My actual project is a collection of four fairy tales I’ve written with the knowledge gleaned from this research, with a critical introduction beforehand.”

The senior research projects taught the students how to research at a rigorous pace and develop extensive projects with both primary and secondary research sources. The process is sure to prepare each of them for their academic and professional futures.

“The level of commitment for this project helped me learn critical lessons about project planning and time management. It has been both exciting and rewarding to delve into our subjects, and these skills we have gained will help us as we move forward into our careers and graduate school,” noted Shaw.

The variety of topics and research is also attracting more students to pursue English majors. Byars-Nichols hopes that these senior projects will inspire students and aid in the growth of the English Department at UMO.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit