Beginning Thesis 101

Doing a senior thesis can feel a lot like walking around with an anchor, barnacles and all, tied to your back. It absorbs all your spare minutes and then some, ties your brain in a knot, and slowly compresses your social life until you realize the last time you had a girl’s night was two months ago. Of course, it can also be an intellectually and creatively rewarding experience. It is an opportunity for us to put what we’ve learned into practice and come out with a big…something at the end. Personally, I’ve been working on my first novella. I’m midway through the rough draft and it’s about fifty pages, the longest thing I’ve ever written. Keeping in mind that I’m only at the beginning of the process, here are some tips that will hopefully make it easier for you than it was for me.

1.)    Start early. It can take weeks to find a director and a reader, let alone start writing it. Your adviser doesn’t always do this so you may have to ask around. Make sure you’re working with professors you’re comfortable with.

2.)    Meet with your director often. You really don’t want to find out fifteen pages into it that they think you should be doing a completely different topic. I had to scrap twenty pages of research notes because they no longer fit with the context of my novella. It was painful.

3.)    Apply for summer research. Every year UPS offers summer research stipends, which are about $3250 a piece. If you get one of these stipends you can take the summer to focus entirely on your thesis. I received one for the summer of 2015. As a college student with a minimum of ten things on my to-do list, it is going to be a real blessing. I can take my time and make my thesis the best it can be.

4.)    Revise. Then revise again. Repeat. Good writing isn’t written it’s rewritten.

5.)    Choose a topic that you’re passionate about. There will be nights when you really don’t want to work on your thesis. That forcing yourself to write will feel like dragging yourself to an eight o’clock organic chemistry class. This makes those nights easier.

So this is what I’ve learned so far. Also, apparently I need to add more setting description. My novella currently sounds like it’s taking place in a vacuum. But that’s what second drafts are for. The first draft is just to get words on the page. Anything beyond that is a bonus. So good luck and remember; it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be there.

Loving It…On the Bad Days

When people ask me how I like my college, I always respond the same way: “I love it.” I am challenged here, cared for here, supported here. I am involved. I am engaged. I am busy.
I am happy.
Most of the time.
But. There are bad days. Bad weeks. There are unexpected challenges, and I find myself breaking into pieces, watching emotion well through the cracks I have splintered in myself.
It is important, in the midst of the college decision season, to tell you, these times happen. I feel a duty to admit this and to embrace it. We cannot feel joy all the time. I miss my mom. My laptop broke. I was worried about registration. I’m stressed about a research project. I’m sick. This week, I am floundering.
But what it is important to recognize, I think, is that even on these days, this is still an incredible community.
It is easy, when walking around Puget Sound’s campus, to be struck with the idyllic beauty of our world. It is easy when one is admitted to colleges to feel as though you are being overwhelmed with impressiveness of the American University Experience. It seems almost to sparkle. Often, I sparkle too, shining in the light of all the things I see and do here. But this is not always how college feels. It is scary sometimes, difficult sometimes. It is a process of being stretched, pulled wider and longer, a process of expanding. And expanding can hurt.
That’s okay. That’s natural. It is no cause for alarm, and in fact I think bad days deserve our attention and our respect too. Because if every day was the best of our lives, how would anything feel special?
I suppose what I am trying to emphasize is that college isn’t about good days. It is about all days. It is about diving in. That means sunny afternoons on the quad that are like something out of a catalog, that glossy, but it also means listening to John Mayor in my dorm room, nursing my heartache. It means having faith in myself, my school and my community. It means waking up again in the morning, to do it all again.

The Get Away

I thought coming to college there would be time to explore Canada, all over Washington and possibly Oregon. But in actuality college is more time-consuming, travel time is too much time. I think the only time I’ve been to Seattle is for crew regattas and Thanksgiving with my roommate, there isn’t even time to make that 45min-1hour drive. But the one thing we have is technology. The ability to stay in contact, if we so wish with our friends and family, to make friends and explore other places through those new snapchat events.

The Disability Closet

I have a mental illness. When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That was a very painful time for me—I spent a lot of it crying. At one point, my mother and I wondered if I would be better off in a psychiatric ward. We went to a friend’s Halloween party instead. I put on my Maximum Ride costume, carved a scary pumpkin, and resumed living my life. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I’m not alone. According to the informational posters displayed by UPS, one in six students here has an invisible disability. And mine is invisible. Most people wouldn’t notice anything different about me. I eat at the SUB, attend classes, and pursue my dream of being a writer. In short, I appear just like the rest of the student body. I may tell close friends about my disability but for the most part it remains “in the closet.” I do not want people to look at me differently. I do not want to look at myself differently.

Despite this, I was surprised when a professor said that admitting more mentally ill people made campus more “volatile” and that was why we didn’t have as many intense debates. I remember thinking that just because we are mentally ill does not mean we are jerks. This professor judged me without knowing anything about me or my situation. He didn’t even have to look at me. In that moment, I was glad my disability was “in the closet.” I did not want to be thought of as less than.

Why are remarks like these considered acceptable? It would not be acceptable to say that African American students made campus more volatile or that gay and lesbian students made campus more volatile. How are students with mental disabilities different? It is the same concept of isolating a particular group and disparaging it for its difference.

Last week, I heard the word “neurotypical” in conversation for the first time, used to describe people without mental disabilities. I don’t believe any of us are truly normal or neurotypical. We are all different, each and every one of us. I adore murder mysteries. My friend is fascinated by autobiographies. My sister loves anime. Wouldn’t it be nice if we supported our differences? Gave each other tolerance instead of judgment? Why do we feel this need to look down on one another?

None of us are less than because of the things that make us different. We all have the right to acceptance and encouragement. And most importantly, we should accept and encourage ourselves. Let’s all take that thing that makes us “weird” and let it out of the closet. Celebrate it! Because in doing so we celebrate ourselves.


Today is the fourth day of Passover—and seeing as we are halfway through, I wanted to do a little writing about why this is the best holiday ever.

My family is extraordinarily secular: although I am Jewish, I have never even set foot in a synagogue. I once attended Hebrew school, which lasted until my sister and I were politely asked to leave and never come back following events that were definitely not my fault. My experience with religion has always been fraught with doubt and suspicion and a distinct lack of involvement.

That said, Judaism is not just a religion. I have heard the Jewish people referred to as an ethno-religious group (in anthropologic terms), and I like that because it insists upon what we all know: the Jewish people are multitudinous and varied and they don’t all look like that one bar mitzvah boy (huge pet peeve and you totally know what I am talking about) and the religion part, while important, is not the sum total.

My family always, always, celebrated Passover. It was my single greatest connection to the Jewish religion and the Jewish culture: sure, we celebrated other holidays, but none of them ever had the same meaning as Passover.

Passover is culture building. I do not say this in an exclusionary way: in fact, we are taught that when the Israelites left Egypt a “mixed multitude” left with them. But on Passover, everyone repeats the same story, everyone remembers what our ancestors suffered through, everyone celebrates.

Passover celebrates, in essence, liberation from operation. During Passover, we rejoice in the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery at the hands of the Egyptian. However, Passover also acknowledges the many kinds of oppression that still exist today, and most importantly, it teaches that no one can ever be truly liberated until everyone is liberated.

Here at Puget Sound, Hillel holds a Seder the first night of Passover. On Friday, anyone who was willing to cough up seven dollars to cover the amount of Manischewitz settled down to a slightly rowdy ceremony. The food was decent, although the horseradish was not hot enough (my grandmother always makes fresh horseradish and it makes your eyes bleed), the singing was enthusiastic, and the atmosphere was on point.

During the Seder, one of the leaders of Hillel brought up an article they read about counterintuitive lessons from the Passover story: it reminds us that we are both oppressed and oppressor, it teaches us that we need to act instead of waiting for divine intervention, and that instead of being liberated from we are being liberated to. You can read the article here, and note that these are not the only lessons from Passover, but they are the ones most often forgotten.

Chag Sameach!

Confessions of a Second Semester Senior

We’re halfway through spring semester (and this first blog post is long overdue)! I’ve been up to a whole lot guysss…

So, I was lame and spent Spring Break on our beautiful, lonely, rain-full campus (Close to going on a backpacking trip to Death Valley with Puget Sound Outdoors, I decided to save for a trip to Mexico this summer with my best friend), which allowed me to recover from a very caffeine-intensive, high-stakes, sleep-deprived midterms week. During this free time, I hibernated for three days (because I was lucky enough to have all of my exams and assignments due the Friday before spring break!), repeatedly indulged in “the cookie” from the metropolitan market, and then got back to work again… on the job search and getting ahead on schoolwork because, for seniors like me, we have 6. Weeks. Till. Graduation.

The truth is, I’ve mostly been looking forward to graduating since the beginning of senior year. Yea, I love learning at UPS and I’m sure there are things I take for granted now that I’ll come to miss. Maybe that we actually get rain here, maybe I’ll miss being surrounded by people my age. But really, I’m so ready to get out of the bubble!

I should be more terrified than I am, considering I don’t have solid plans or a job lined up yet. Also, I’ve had to remember to graduate first (and pass BIO 111), before stressing over the future.

In the past two years I’ve discovered that what I really want to do is pursue a career that combines social justice and cultural heritage with the arts and education. I’ve been looking at masters programs in cultural and arts institution management at universities in Spain and Mexico. For now, the plan is to stay in the Seattle/Tacoma area for another year or two before exploring opportunities abroad, ojalá.

I know right, borrring. I really have been up to more interesting things!!! Here are titles of blog posts to come in the next 6 weeks. (Listing them here as motivation to actually write them!)

Meeting important people

No más

The Anthropocene

The German girls of UPS

Black Lives Still Matter

Undocumented Poetry

Spanish Matters

Los pasos perdidos

(In the meantime, soakin’ up the rest of this college life while I still can.)

Fundraising for Rome!

This semester there’s a course being offered on the art, architecture, and spacial studies of Ancient Rome. It’s a Connections course that culminates in one particularly awesome thing: an ACTUAL trip to Rome!!

For the first three weeks of summer, our small class will be staying in Italy and visiting all sorts of incredible cities, museums, and landmarks. We’ll be staying at the university of Washington’s Rome Center which is in a courtyard where a lovely market is held, and using their studio space to study and create art.rome Continue reading

How to “Create Dangerously”

Hello, I’m Olivia Perry, a senior and Social Media Assistant for The Admission Office.

I wanted to share my amazing experience last night that was provided to me by this great school!

I was invited by President Ronald Thomas to join him, his wife, Mary, professors, faculty, and students to have dinner with acclaimed Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat! As a Creative Writing major, and as someone who read her in a class at Puget Sound, I was very excited to see Ms. Danticat lecture “Create Dangerously”, and to meet her was a bonus!

Edwidge Danticat and I at the reception/book signing after her lecture

Edwidge Danticat and I at the reception/book signing after her lecture

At dinner, President Thomas opened up the floor to ask Ms. Danticat questions, an opportunity I was quick to take. I first asked when she decided that she wanted to be a writer. She told us that she was given the book Madeline when she was four. When she realized this was a way to tell stories without verbally telling them, she decided that was what she wanted to do.

Found on Pinterest from

Found on Pinterest from

I later asked if she had any advice for a writing major, a specifically woman of color, and her advice was something that I took to heart. She told me that I just need to write. I should always have a project to work on as leisure. As someone who feels the need to explain herself, a woman of color needs to not be deterred in anyway from what she has chosen to study and create. And as she spoke, she looked right into my eyes, giving me a sense of how genuine she is.

Her lecture, Create Dangerously, named after her 2010 book Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work, was not as long as expected but was full of insightful anecdotes and ideas. She spoke of writers becoming the reader and what should and shouldn’t be written about. When she was finished, she answered questions regarding education and politics in Haiti and the Caribbean and shared her excitement for the next generation of, not only Haitian, all up and coming Caribbean writers.

They were selling her books at the lecture and reception, so naturally I bought one and she signed it for me!


My new book


“To Olivia, keep writing. One day, I hope to read you. In Sisterhood! -Edwidge Danticat”

Last night was a great event that I would never have experienced if I did not come to this school and become involved around campus. As a senior, I have to say, go to as many lectures as possible! I have gotten to see amazing and well known people, like Junot Diaz and Anis Mojgani, speak in my years here. It is a great opportunity that current and future students should always be taking advantage of!


An Open Letter to Catherynne M. Valente

In which Daniel’s favorite author is the glorious sun, too bright to be near for too long, and he is the distant moon, only able to quietly reflect her brilliance at best.


To Ms. Valente,

It is, in truth, to the University of Puget Sound that I owe my admiration for your work. I came upon the first book in your Fairyland series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, at the end of my first year of college while perusing the school’s bookstore. “What a delightful looking book,” I thought to myself (completely judging a book by its cover, as I am so prone to doing). “I think this would be a rather fitting reward to myself for surviving my first year at college.” Unable to resist, I bought the book and began to read it on my journey back to my home in North Carolina.

Immediately I was smitten. The difficult part is to say exactly why. The best explanation I can think of is this:

Have you ever been hungry for something and couldn’t say what it was? You wander around the kitchen of your house, opening the refrigerator and freezer and cupboards and drawers over and over again. Each time, you hope that your search will reveal what you’ve a hankering for, and each time, you are disappointed. But somehow, you continue along the way and happen to take a bite of something unexpected. Immediately, you realize that this is what your hunger has wanted all along.

Reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated for the first time was like that first bite. The love I’ve always had for both the possibilities of fiction and the nuances of language was suddenly reignited, and my mind came alive with new ideas and stories of my own. They say that you are what you eat, and swallowing up your words made in me something just as witty and sad and hilarious and timeless.

It was to my complete surprise when, over a 2 AM snack with a housemate, I was informed that you would be the closing keynote speaker at the science-fiction conference that the university was hosting – “The Once and Future Antiquity: Classical Traditions in Science Fiction and Fantasy” – on March 27th and 28th, 2015. The conference was to entail a series of lectures about how Ancient Roman and Greek culture have affected and shaped modern speculative fiction. I feel no shame in saying that I curled up on the kitchen floor in ecstasy. It’s fine. Let’s not discuss it.

The clever emblem of the University's international "Once and Future Antiquity"  Convention.

The clever emblem of the University’s international “Once and Future Antiquity” Convention.

This joy was nothing compared to the actual act of watching you speak before me. It’s funny how someone you’ve always imagined can be both so much like and so much unlike what you’ve imagined them to be. You were just as funny, just as offhandedly charming and unconventionally inviting as I anticipated. You were much shorter than I thought you would be. Your voice was also much deeper. What you explained over the course of your keynote address, however, was something that I should have understood but had never considered: that you are so heavily influenced by classics.

Ms. Valente giving her keynote address to a packed audience in the Tahoma Room of the University of Puget Sound.

Ms. Valente giving her keynote address to a packed audience in the Tahoma Room of the University of Puget Sound.

It is here that I am at a disadvantage. My knowledge of classics is limited to the point of being nonexistent. I am vaguely aware that the stories and myths of Greek and Roman civilization have been passed down through the generations of Western culture. I am vaguely aware that each time they have appeared, they have been transformed and reinterpreted, like a game of telephone. But I don’t know exactly what they are or what they meant to those cultures in their time.

During your keynote address, you explained many fascinating things. These included how you saw your childhood traveling between parents as a transformation of the Persephone myth, how your distinctive prose style initial arose from knowledge of multiple languages, and how your author superpower is that you are capable of writing remarkably quickly. What struck me most, however, is that when you were writing your first novel Labyrinth, you never considered it fiction because in the time of Ancient Greece, those myths were considered fact. Every story has mysterious labyrinths housing hungry minotaur, but it is mostly in fantasy fiction that these take their most obvious form. A minotaur might take the form of a librarian, or a principal, or a unpleasant waitress in other fiction, but the audience might not know that.

I doubt that you will ever read this.In some ways, I hope that you never do, so that the hour and a half I spent watching you lecture, meeting you and stealing the briefest of hugs from you will remain untarnished in my memory. In some ways, I hope that you will somehow stumble upon this, or that a friend will present it to you with a laugh, and that you will read it and be reminded of such a strange young man that did so love your children’s stories. Mostly, however, I just wanted to write this for my own sake.

Me attempting to maintain my composure beside Ms. Valente.

Me attempting to maintain my composure beside Ms. Valente.

On one of the pages of my commonplace – a sort of intellectual logbook for quotable passages and facts – which I showed you, there is a page devoted solely to quotes from The Girl Who Circumnavigated. Each time I read the book, it never fails to entertain and touch me, but of all the wonderful passages I’ve copied down, the following is the one that struck me most, and to this day remains with me:

“As all mothers know, children travel faster than kisses. The speed of kisses is, in fact, what Doctor Fallow would call a cosmic constant. The speed of children has no limits.”


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert