Monthly Archives: March 2010

MA Thesis Workshop Recap, Shanna Farrell

In addition to Scott Campbell’s response to Draper’s recent MA Thesis Workshop, we now have a post from Shanna Farrell, who also attended the event that evening. Shanna’s recap is below; let us know if you attended and would like to contribute your thoughts!


On Friday evening, March 12th, Draperites gathered for a thesis writing workshop given by Professors Daniel Thurs and Rebecca Colesworthy. Attendees discussed each of their thesis topics, which are in various stages of completion. After a brief overview of the workshop and a summary of each attendee’s topic of research, the floor opened for an informative Q&A session. Questions spanning the spectrum from general to specific were asked, which prompted the half running joke/half earnest response “ask your advisor”.

This led to the subject of choosing and working with an advisor, which seemed to be a pertinent issue for everyone present. Several important pieces of information were discussed. When a student approaches a potential advisor, the better the two know each other the more inclined a faculty member might be to accept the challenge. (It should be emphasized that faculty reserve the right to say no.) One way to make time with an advisor more efficient is for a student to present the advisor with as many writing samples as possible. Preliminary bibliographies, similar pieces or studies, and specific questions can also help an advisor help their advisee. Some Draperites raised concerns about the feasibility of having multiple advisors or advising committees. One response to this question was that some faculty members who have similar research interests as a student don’t necessarily require an official advisor/advisee relationship to offer help and insight. In fact, a faculty member might be more willing to assist if a student doesn’t need much more than some general guidance.

MA Thesis Workshop Recap, Scott Campbell

Since many students were unable to attend Draper’s most recent MA Thesis Workshop, we’ve asked a few attendees to share some of the tips and advice that they found most useful during the session. Scott Campbell’s write-up is below, and a few more students may contribute their thoughts on the workshop shortly. If you attended the workshop and would be willing to add to this discussion, please let us know!


Reflecting on the Master’s thesis workshop, I found several pieces of advice to be particularly useful. The first was when thinking about your topic to come up with three keywords that would describe the major focuses of your paper. These can serve as both frames for your thesis and as suggestions to guide your research, leading to sources that may not deal specifically with your topic, but do engage the keywords in a manner that would benefit your thesis. A second bit of advice was to try to find a source that makes a similar argument to the one you plan to make. This is not to copy the source or to be discouraged, but instead to serve as a guide to what is already out there and can help deepen your ideas. Also, if you can’t find a source, reflect on what this might say about your topic. Is it too broad or difficult to be dealt with effectively in 50 pages? Finally, the part that adds an extra layer for my thesis project is the human component. Remember that even if all you are doing is talking to another human being and using that person as a source for your thesis, then you likely need approval from the University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects and NYU’s Institutional Review Board. Not only will the certification and approval process take some time, but think about the impact it may have on your sources when you present them with a waiver to sign, and also the impact it may have on your thesis if at any time they decide to revoke their participation.

-Scott Campbell

Master’s College Program Board Events

The GSAS Master’s College Program Board invites you to participate in these great events:

Sunday, March 28
Ice Skating at Wollman Rink
Free admission to the ice rink and metro card fun pass for all registrants, participants pay only for skate rental.
Meet at 1 pm at 6 Washington Square North in front of the Lions.

Wednesday, April 7
Trivia Challenge and Pub Night!
Come join us on Wednesday, April 7th at the Common Ground Bar and Restaurant, 206 Avenue A between 12th and 13th streets at 8pm for trivia night! Wear your finest NYU apparel and test your knowledge against other teams. First place receives at $50 gift certificate to the Common Ground and second place a $25 one. The first round is on us.

Saturday April 10
Meals on Wheels: Make a Difference, Make a Friend

Join masters students from across GSAS for a morning of service and camaraderie. Students will be volunteering Saturday April 10th from 9:15am to 11:00am delivering prepared meals to homebound seniors. Please consider donating your time to make a difference in the lives of elderly New Yorkers and to make new friends in the masters community. Following our volunteer engagement, we’ll meet back in the Graduate lounge for pizza, drinks, and some time to chat and decompress. Free metro card fun pass for all registrants.

Saturday, April 10th meet at 9 am at 6 Washington Square North in front of the Lions.

Tuesday, April 20
Master’s Study Break
At the Grad Lounge; Room 120 in the Silver Center

Need to blow off steam and regroup right before spring semester finals? Join fellow master’s students for a study break to socialize and recharge. Refreshments will be served.

"Afterlives" English Conference at UCLA Call for Papers Still Open

UCLA English Department’s Southland Graduate Conference, “Afterlives” takes place June 4, 2010.

Keynote Speakers are Mark Seltzer (Evan Frankel Professor of Literature, UCLA) and Saree Makdisi (Professor of English and Comparative Literature, UCLA)

Call for Papers is still open! Deadline is March 22nd.

More details on this blog, here.

Draper Alumna Profile: Mary Snauffer

When Draper alumna Mary Snauffer looks at the trajectory her life has taken in recent years, she describes it as the product of “a lot of happy accidents.” From her decision to join the Peace Corps after completing her undergraduate degree (in English and Art History), to the significant change of direction her academic interests took while at Draper (see question five, below), to her current employment with Reprise Media as a social media coordinator—Mary has found herself in a variety of unexpected places. And yet, each of these developments fit together as if they were planned from the start. Of course, as “That Draper Kid,” Mary always felt like she was “putting together a puzzle” and making the subject matter in her courses “relevant in a much different sort of way than other students in class.” So for her, bringing together disparate interests and skills is habit by now.

As a social media coordinator, Mary “creates online strategies for major brands through Facebook, Twitter, and other online social platforms.” This work, as Mary points out, “is tightly entwined with the work I did on my thesis,” which was entitled “The Presentation of Self Online: A Study of People’s Relationships to Online Social Network Publics.” Her interest in social media began during her first year at Draper, when a Steinhardt class on media culture and youth inspired her to begin thinking more about identity creation—about “online lives versus ‘real’ lives.” A former roommate who worked with social media and search engine optimization led Mary to think about her academic interests in a more “career-oriented” light. She was amazed, she said, that someone “has an actual job at this.”

As more and more brands and corporations look to expand their advertising presence in social media settings, Mary believes that the dynamic between consumers and advertisers are changing for the better.“It’s an exciting opportunity,” she says. People can be “directly engaged with brands…it’s more of a democracy, and less like being broadcast at.” She cites an example where a cosmetics company paid for a Facebook advertisement and overnight, had 2,000 fans. However, at the same time, they were identified on PETA’s Facebook page as a brand which tests its products on animals. As Mary points out, this sort of interaction dramatically “changes the dialog that brands are used to having with consumers.”

While Mary is still very much invested in her work-life, she is still committed to continuing her academic work as well. “The good part of this job is that you’re encouraged to do your own thing. My niche is that I’m the person who’s interested in academic issues. Now I can start…working on articles on archival issues.” She is currently developing parts of her Master’s thesis into more focused articles and is interested in the way in which the preservation of personal artifacts is changing. “People on Facebook are not making scrapbooks,” she says, so how do they pick what to save, and how do they go about saving it?

As for advice for current Draper students, Mary simply suggests that even students like herself who don’t enjoy “networking” should “keep an ear to the ground.” There are so many different opportunities that people can take advantage of, especially in New York City, she says. She thinks that people may be surprised that many “people are willing to help you.”

Mary responds to ‘The Draper Dozen’

1. When did you graduate from Draper?
Summer 2009

2. Did you attend full or part-time student?
Both. Mostly part time (2 courses a semester), except for my first spring semester when I attended full-time with 3 courses.

3. Do you still live in New York?

4. What was the topic of your Master’s thesis?
I was interested in studying how social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook were transforming the ways we think, perceive, and behave. I interviewed over 100 internet-active human subjects (from 30 countries) about their behaviors on SNSs, and incorporated (principally) media theory, sociology, gender studies as well as archival scholarship. I was curious about how people presented their identity to a largely “invisible audience”- the challenge of having to articulate yourself or, as Danah Boyd coined, “write oneself into being,” fascinated me. And whether users assumed their (and their peers’) online identities to be authentic.

5. Why did you choose to pursue an interdisciplinary degree at Draper?
I decided to do [the Draper degree] while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. Looking back, I had no real idea what I was doing. My entire application process happened in a pretty dodgy internet café in my village where it was just me and Thai boys playing either violent video games or looking at porn. What appealed to me about Draper was the idea of working closely with a mentor and pulling in different subjects to support your main piece of work—your thesis. Draper was the only graduate program I applied to. My statement of purpose was about studying gender and Muslims, which clearly isn’t the path I stayed on. At all.

6. Are you still in academia? Why or why not?
No, though I like to think I have one big toe still in the pool. I’ve been working on expanding specific chapters of my thesis in order to publish them in journals—the work I did studying the threat and potential of personal artifacts in Facebook-era really interests me and I am looking around at archival journals. Since my job now forces me to constantly consider how people view brands in the Facebook/Twitter/etc. space, working on academic stuff in this area still feels really relevant. The only problem with this area and academia is that the technology changes so quickly it’s really difficult to properly analyze anything. It’s also difficult to write in a way that won’t sound dated in two years, which is frustrating.

7. What special activities or projects do you enjoy outside of your academic work and/or career?
I enjoy running and writing fiction. I also am trying to become a “serious” cook.

8. What do you like best about New York City?
I like that I have so many friends from different areas and periods of my life who have migrated here. And that you don’t have to own a car—I like that a lot.

9. What do you like least about New York City?
That it’s a city. I like to pretend I’m really a person who would rather live in a rural/college town sort of place. I’m not sure if that’s even true anymore, as I’ve gotten pretty used having everything I need in a mile radius from me at all times.

10. What was the last book you read for fun?
I’m currently reading the Raymond Carver biography. Before that it was Lit by Mary Karr.

11. If you could change anything about ______ [fill in the blank: New York City, the world, the economy, your hair…] what would it be and why?
My job: I would get out of work at 3:00 PM and have the summer off.

12. How do you feel about social media and which, if any, do you use most?
Well, I feel quite strongly about social media! At work I am constantly on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Constantly. In my real life, I feel like I’m a registered user of everything there is but actively use Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter, with a dash of YouTube. I’ve been debating committing a “cyber suicide” for a month by cutting myself off and then writing an essay about that experience. I don’t think my boss would like that experiment, though.