Seeking a Challenge

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By Dennis Austin

As a GCC Honor’s Program student, I approached Professor(s) Garth Swanson and Anne Wood last semester with a goal in mind: complete a thesis project with a 100-page count. Suffice to say, I was met with concerned reaction. Thesis projects of this size and stature are not normally undertaken by community college students.  Initially, I was discouraged in approaching this project, and advised to seek a more specific topic with a shorter page length.

 I said no.

 I’m glad I did.

Throughout my tenure here at Genesee Community College, I have searched high and low for opportunities to expand and build upon my intellectual capabilities, which undoubtedly will serve me will in later stages of life. I had gotten used to the usual essay outlines which my professors feverishly assigned me. In essence, writing an essay became too simple of a task. The routine became boring, predictable, and mundane. There is no intention of disrespect toward my professors. One in particular remarked to me that their reason for being a light course load was their concern that many students would be unable to keep if they increased the rigor.

Not entirely unpredictable but unfortunate. Education, to me, should be an opportunity for students to dive deep into a subject of their choice and familiarity, with no restrictions applied. Many days and nights pondering what the next academic challenge could be. As a six-year old, my first Presidential Election was Bush V. Gore. While not of an age to properly perceive the events of that campaign, I was enthralled by the pomp and circumstance of that evening. Getting older led to more political awareness which eventually I found across the “pond.” Inspired by the events of Brexit and previous political developments in the country, compelled me to choose Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as the basis for my project. While already familiar with her Premiership, I wanted to examine how her government’s economic policy and theory, led to what I deem as an unraveling of the British working-class.

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Currently in my research, I am reviewing her flagship policy known as the MFTS (Medium Term Financial Strategy), in which her decision to raise interest rates, eliminate credit controls, and how the concentration of Britain’s money supply range, led to unsavory conditions for lower-income individuals and families. For example, 1981 saw a peak of unemployment at 3 million, which was the highest number recorded since the Great Depression. During the period of 1979 to 1980, industrial production fell by 6.4%, with downturn in manufacturing output and capacity, at 20%.

As the project continues throughout the semester, it is with great intention to (hopefully) provide updates on newer findings and to offer further explanation of how her policies were applied in working-class Britain.

Professor Swanson remarked to me that this is the first project of its kind for our Honors Program. While there have been other creative projects in the past, nothing of this nature has been done before. To our knowledge, there has been no other student at this institution, past or present, who conducted and penned a project of this magnitude.

Why 100 pages? To admit, there is some braggadocio involved, however I feel that for the first time since arriving on campus that there exists a subject within familiar realms which require a discipline and focus arguably unlike any other form of study I have taken here or anywhere. Not just due to page requirement or quantity of work involved. It is due to the fact that I am asked to go beyond my comfort zone in search of not just finishing the project, but in search of my own potential, henceforth the insistence that I adhere to this project—from start until finish. I have been given the support, encouragement and occasional sternness from my professors, since this project began. They know what I am capable of and as such, are holding me to a high standard.

As I prepare to graduate from GCC, I hope this project in some way can inspire one student to go outside of their familiar realm and seek an opportunity to truly challenge themselves. Not for the prospect of failing, but for the virtue of expanding one’s creativity. This has been a journey and while the final page has not yet been penned, this has been an experience that I will appreciate many years from now.

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