Current Project Examples
As an opportunity to direct their own research, creative scholarship, or experiential learning experience, each University Honors student directs and defends a capstone project. Each project is either a thesis or a major project that is undertaken by the student and guided by a capstone committee consisting of a faculty mentor and two readers. Below are a few of the exciting projects put forth by students. Current students: to help you start your project, you can download and print the proposal and registration forms directly below.
Capstone Proposal Form
Capstone Registration Form
Spearfish, South Dakota
Political Science and Philosophy
Cody Drolc is senior political science and philosophy student from Spearfish, SD. Cody is involved in numerous organizations at BHSU and he currently serves as the Honors Club secretary/treasurer. When he is not studying Cody enjoys photography, drinking coffee over conversation with friends, and the trickeries of Francis Underwood on House of Cards. Cody has been interested in politics since high school and believes in the importance of a grounded civic education. After Cody graduates in May he plans to continue his education and hopes to one day be a college professor so he can continue researching and writing all while sharing the important facets of political science.
His project is titled, “Cracking the Hermeneutically Sealed Box of Structuralism: A Poststructuralist Reading of Nicos Poulantzas." Nicos Poulantzas – best known for his debate with fellow Marxist Theorist Ralph Miliband, which was published in the New Left Review – is consistently read as a structuralist, meaning he viewed the state and its maintenance as the product of a particular underlying base and subsequent structures. In his case it was the capitalist mode of production that constituted the base, which then caused superstructures – judicial, political, and ideological – to reproduce the capitalist mentality; thus capitalism was maintained. While the preceding constitutes significant portions of Poulantzas’s work, the structuralist approach does not dominate what he has to say about the nature of the state.
Poststructuralism was an emerging paradigm while Poulantzas was writing in the 60s and 70s, which moved beyond the ahistorical and deterministic approach of structuralism towards a focus on individuals and internalized aspects of a state with no clear underlying base. This work defines and critiques structuralism and produces a working methodology for identifying both poststructuralism and structuralism in theoretical texts. The working methodology for identifying structuralism and poststructuralism in theoretical texts is heavily based on consistent themes found in structuralist and poststructuralist works. This methodology is then used to identify the poststructuralist aspects of Poulantzas’s work.
Moreover, by identifying the poststructuralist facets of his theories, this work explains how the poststructuralist paradigm changes and enlightens the meaning of some of his examinations. Specifically, the poststructuralist reading of Poulantzas highlights a disconnect from traditional Marxist approaches and modernizes his theories of the state. This work concludes that the Miliband-Poulantzas debate created an “inflated” structuralist position for Poulantzas, which is a significant reason for the hermeneutically strong reading as simply a structuralist; and that portions of his examination are better placed under the poststructuralist paradigm.
“Cracking the Hermeneutically Sealed Box of Structuralism: A Poststructuralist Reading of Nicos Poulantzas" was successfully defended in May 2015.
Huron, South Dakota
Myranda Mattke grew up spending most of her time between a soccer field and her grandparents’ farm in Huron, South Dakota. As she grew older, she started to spend more free time in her mother’s classroom. It was there that she grew a love for educating children. Her favorite subject, both in school and to teach, is mathematics. This is where she found her thesis for her Capstone Project. Her project is a secondary research study of how students score with an inquiry-based math approach that has been in place for many years compare to students who are just now being exposed to inquiry math. She will be student teaching in Galway, Ireland to witness firsthand how the inquiry-based approach that has been in place since 1999 looks like. It is there that she hopes to gather information that leads to why inquiry mathematics helps students to better understand mathematical operations and numbers and how they correlate with each other.
"Mathematical Instruction: Change is Sometimes Good" was successfully defended in May 2015.
Spanish and History Education
Ashley's capstone project will focus on the influences of Moorish and Islamic culture on the architecture in the South of Spain. The Southern Spain was under Islamic control from the early 700's until the Reconquista in 1429 during which the Christian forces on the Iberian Peninsula took control of the area and brought us to the ruling of Ferdinand and Isabella. Over the period of about 780 years, the Moors and Muslims left a big imprint in Southern Spain and this can all still be seen today in the architecture still standing. Ashley will be spending a semester in Granada, one of the last cities under Islamic control to fall, where she will get the opportunity to go to the sites of the structures in person and conduct her research from there. The project with begin with how the area was first occupied, go into the Christian and Islamic struggle over the area, and then end with how the Islamic influences still shaped the architecture on the Iberian Peninsula and what the main features were and where they can still be seen today. Her project will consist of a traditional research project and a walking guidebook with photo illustrations.
"The Islamic Moorish Influence on the Architecture in the South of Spain" was successfully defended in May 2016.
Killdeer, North Dakota
"In vitro Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity on Buffalo Rat Liver Cells" was successfully defended in May 2016.
Spearfish, South Dakota
History & Political Science
Jordan's capstone project will culminate in the crafting of an allegorical novella that depicts current political events. It will employ universal themes that readers can use to understand the world and find solutions to the problems in our society. He will begin by researching allegories to understand the social and psychological functions of allegory before developing his own definition as the basis for his allegorical novella. This project will allow him to to use the knowledge he has gained from both of his disciplines in a unique, creative way that he has not been able to do before in typical research papers. He believes that the use of storytelling to reflect on certain issues and themes is one of the best ways that people can understand the world around them. Jordan plans on attending seminary after graduation from Black Hills State University, and storytelling is an integral part to pastoral ministry.
"On Finding Hope: The Modern Allegory" was successfully defended December 4, 2014.
Sturgis, South Dakota
Kaitlin's idea for her capstone project began in a research methods class as she learned about the field of experimental psychology. Once she learned how to utilize the scientific method, it was easy to start exploring her own ideas and questions. With a minor in art and a major in psychology, she was interested in how the two could potentially be related. Kaitlin reviewed literature within the field of art therapy and found a few studies pertaining to drawing and stress. Her project explores two conflicting outcomes (Curry & Kasser, 2005; Smith, 2011) to test whether meditative benefits of art are a result of drawing within the borders of a circle, or whether the act of free-form drawing is sufficient to reduce stress. It was hypothesized that if the act of drawing alone induces the meditative state, then both the circle and the freeform drawing groups would show more significant decreases in anxiety than participants who did not draw.
"Distinguishing the Meditative Benefits of Drawing Within and Without Borders on Acute Stress" was successfully defended April 25, 2014
Lucas's capstone project will focus on analyzing and synthesizing various theories regarding President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the Atomic Bomb. In the end he hopes to gain a new insight into that horrific choice. He chose this because of his historical interest in President Truman and one of the most controversial events of his Presidency. The actual decision to drop the bomb has been researched by a number of historians and political scientists, who have laid out a number of interpretations. Generally, these theories fall under two categories: the first interpretation holds that American casualties would have been too high if the Japanese homeland had been invaded. The second argues that President Truman wanted to use the bomb as "atomic diplomacy" to ensure that the Soviets would not have a large stake in the Far East and that the United States would have a bargaining chip to use at Yalta. Lucas's project will argue that these two are not mutually exclusive and will analyze and synthesize these theories to contribute to the discussion.
"Harry Truman and the Atomic Bomb: A Complex Historical Analysis" was successfully defended in May 2015.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Political Science and Speech, with minors in Economics and Philosophy
This project looks to analyze the current situation regarding domestic surveillance by the federal government, specifically the National Security Agency. It will describe a few of the surveillance tactics which most clearly demonstrate how American rights have been infringed upon. It will then describe the philosophical basis for why privacy ought to be valued, and how the behavior of the average citizen can help restore some of the privacy that has been lost. Nicole is interested in this topic because the issue is current and pressing, and the variety of factors associated with the issue tie into every aspect of her degree programs.
"The Surveillance Industrial Complex: America's Privacy Crisis" was successfully defended April 25, 2014
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Human Service & Sociology
Kristin’s capstone project focuses adolescent sexual behavior. Using data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, she will analyze the relationship between sports participation and age of first onset of sexual activity and the prevalence of sexual violence with both male and female athletes. Her findings will dictate a proposal for a peer-mentoring and embedded education program for implementation in middle and high schools to help offset risk behavior. The project will also include presentations at NCUR (National Council for Undergraduate Research) and the Black Hills Research Symposium.
"Just Do It: Sports Participation and Onset of Sexual Behaviors in Adolescents" was successfully defended in May 2015.