Sophia Perkins Talks About Graduating in Three Years and Completing an Honors Thesis
May 04, 2023
Sophia Perkins is an Ogden Honors senior studying art history in LSU’s College of Art + Design. She is graduating with Upper Division Honors in just three years this May, which means she completed 12 hours of honors course credit at the 3000/4000 level, maintained a 3.5 GPA in all coursework, and completed a senior honors thesis. Her thesis, “Contemporary Environmental Art: The Multidimensional Relationship Between Black Communities and the American Landscape” was directed by Allison Young. With the completion of her thesis, Perkins is the first LSU Discover Distinguished Undergraduate Researcher from the College of Art + Design.
When did you decide you were going to graduate in three years? Did you come in knowing you were going to graduate early or did you make the decision after you got here?
Yeah, I had no idea. When I started at LSU it was August of 2020, so right after all of the Covid restrictions. I came in wanting to do studio art and chose painting and drawing as my major for the first semester. It was not my favorite because it didn't suit me the way I thought it was going to. Once I switched to art history, I was looking through the degree audit with my advisors, and I started to realize that I had a lot of the credits coming in from high school.
I was worried my first semester would be a waste towards my credits because I didn't know how much of the studio art would match with the art history. Luckily both of my studio classes ended up counting as electives and working out to put me on track to graduate early, so that's when I decided that I wanted to finish a little early, but at that point I still wasn't even planning to write the thesis.
Sometimes I think about it and it's just funny because if I would talk to my freshman year self, she would probably like laugh in my face.
At what point did you decide that you were going to do a thesis?
It was probably at the end of my second year that I decided I would do it. It went very quickly from there because it is a yearlong project. It mostly came about after conversations with my supporters, like my mom who has always been very supportive of my academics and talking with other people that I know in the Honors college. I was worried that it would be too big of a project, but I love how flexible the honors thesis is, so it allowed me to really work one-on-one with Dr. Young to find something meaningful to me as opposed to feeling like I'm doing this big project that isn't personal. So, I decided that I would do it when I realized I could make it my own.
How do you feel like the Honors College supported or facilitated your ability to be able to do the honors thesis?
Yes, I love the Honors College. I always felt like I could reach out to anyone and even if they didn't have an answer for me, they would immediately redirect me to someone who would have the answer. I never felt like I was doing the thesis alone. Dean Earle has been very supportive throughout the thesis writing process and honestly my whole undergraduate career, but I always felt like I had the resources to accomplish the goals I set for myself. I knew that if I had questions I could easily email people like Celia Crifasi and quickly get an answer and know exactly what I need to do next. I also appreciated how many emails the Honors College sent out just with like reminders about how to do something and dates, it really helped me keep a timeline together.
Is there anything you would've done differently having gone through the process?
Sometimes I think about what it would've looked like had I stayed the full four years for undergrad. I don't necessarily wish that I had, but I do think I would've been able to sort of ease into the thesis more than I did. I kind of feel like I started college and got right back out, which can be difficult. But, I'm very proud of myself and I'm excited for the rest of my academic career.
How do you feel like doing completing the thesis will help your future? Like academic and career goals?
I'm really glad that I now have the experience of having written one. I did apply for grad school at LSU, in the Masters of Arts and Teaching program, which has a non-thesis option, but I think because I have the thesis under my belt I feel more comfortable looking at a variety of program options for grad school, I don’t feel limited in what I can do because I knew that I would have a strong writing sample and if I decide to stick with art history I can expand my research. So, I'm glad that I've done it and I know what it takes to complete a long-term research project.