L&S Honors Program

College of Letters & Science
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Sample Humanities Green Sheet Proposals

The following are examples of successful Green Sheet proposals. They are concise, appropriately detailed and align with proposal guidelines in the Green Sheet Information handout.

East Asian Languages and Literature 350: Introduction to Taoism

Chinese Kungfu that involves the use of 'qi' or vital energy can be roughly divided into two major classes - the Northern and Southern styles. The Northern style of Kungfu is inspired by Buddhist teachings and most schools are thought to be derived from Shaolin martial arts. In contrast, the Southern style is linked to Taoist mythical figures, the most famous of which being Zhang Sanfeng, the founder of the Taiji style of kungfu.

For the honors project, I hope to link to link the modern practices of Southern style Chinese Kungfu, namely baguazhang, taijiquan and xingyiquan, to their roots in Taoist philosophy. To achieve this, I will be examining ancient medical texts found together with a copy of the Laozi, a seminal piece on Taoist philosophy, at Mawangdui and compare the medical 'martial arts' at the time of Laozi to uncover the evolution of martial arts in the hands of Taoist martial exponents. I will then proceed to briefly track the evolution of martial arts throughout the various Chinese dynasties in relation to Taoism and also touch on the mythical histories of the three schools of Southern martial arts. In addition, I will also interview a modern practitioner of baguazhang in Madison to understand how the modern martial artist perceives the Taoist philosophy underlying the moves. Hopefully, I will be able to interview a taijiquan practitioner as well. Lastly, I will examine the Taiji practice of 'pushing hands', exposit how such a practice actually relates to Taoist philosophy and how such a practice actually helps the practitioner understand Taoist thought. If time permits and a link can be found, I will also try to show that martial arts is the authentic medium through which the physical practice emphasized by early Taoist is passed down.

In completing this honors project, I hope to understand my culture and heritage better since Taoist philosophy and Chinese martial arts can be considered important influences to the Chinese traditions. As a Baguazhang student, I also hope to improve my martial arts understanding through this project.

History 219: The American Jewish Experience

To earn honors credit for History 219: The American Jewish Experience, Professor Michels and I propose that I write an additional research paper, on a topic that both interests me and is a productive addition to American Jewish history literature. The paper will combine primary and secondary sources, all found outside the assigned course readings.

I have chosen to explore the contradictory relationship between the Jewish strikebreakers and labor racketeers and the Jewish Labor Movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. During the Movement, American Jewish culture (in New York City, especially) was swept up in the ideals of socialism. If this was the case, however, then where do those who willingly opposed the strikes (both strikebreakers, or "scabs," and labor racketeering gangsters) fit into the movement? Strikebreaking seems bluntly oppositional to the Movement, but paradoxically, these individuals often still maintained pro-labor sentiments.

This goes well beyond the usual course requirements by offering a chance to try the research component of studying history, something not normally a part of lecture courses. History 219 usually requires one paper, which uses only the assigned course readings. Conversely, the literature on strikebreakers and labor rackeeteers -- let alone in the context of the Jewish Labor Movement -- is sparse, requiring careful research. My paper will craft a coherent look at this topic for the first time, thereby making a productive contribution to American Jewish and labor studies in addition to deepening my own understanding and appreciation of the topic.

In order to achieve this goal, I will meet with Professor Michels at each stage of the project: initial research, argument formulation, drafting and further research, and writing the final version.

History 434: American Foreign Relations 1901-present

My Honors project will consist of two additional papers that will take the form of an op-ed that would be appropriate for a current day newspaper. These op-eds will allow me to intertwine pressing current day foreign policy issues with the historical context that I have gained from History 434. While our course will cover present day foreign policy, namely human rights protections and the global war on terror, these op-eds will allow me to explore a specific region more in depth. Working on these op-eds in tandem with the standard course reading will allow me to research how ideologies have shaped foreign policy, an extension beyond the normal study of decisions made within government agencies.

My op-eds will focus on Central America and the humanitarian crisis that is occurring on America’s doorstep. Through a historical lens I will be able to provide perspective on how U.S. foreign policy towards these nations during the Cold War lead to the immigration debate we are having today. I will use primary sources such as accounts in the local of Central America, ranging from testimonials of those who suffered human rights abuses in Guatemala to the economic trade data of the indigenous people of Chiapas. I also plan on using primary sources focused on U.S. government officials statements and policy decisions. In my second op-ed I will lay out what foreign policy makers of today outline as viable solutions and how those compare to the solutions of immigration in the past.

In the end I will have two op-eds each 2000-2500 words each. I plan to meet with my professor two times this semester. The first time (October 22) we will review the sources I have found and create a tentative outline of each op-ed. The second meeting (November 19) we will review the drafts of each of the op-eds. We will look specifically at how they compare to current publications on the issue and looking on how I can improve on the historic context of the publication.

This project will allow me to expand my skill set into writing in the present tense about the issues of Central America. I have always had an academic passion for Central America and U.S. involvement in the region. While the American public continues its partisan and fruitless bickering over immigration policy, missing from the debate is the historic context that lead to millions of migrants risking their lives to leave their ancestral homes. Our historic mistakes in supporting (often illegally) oppressive regimes in Central America leaves the U.S. morally responsible for the misfortune and instability that plagues the region. I believe these op-eds will help me develop the writing and research skills that I will need going forward in my hopeful career working in a Foreign Policy think tank or working directly for the U.S. government advising them on policy decisions. In addition, I plan to translate both of these op-eds into Spanish and be able to use them as a writing sample for future job applications.