Graduate Liberal Studies

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The capstone requirement of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program is the Master’s Project. Drawing on the skills and knowledge acquired from coursework, each student designs – in consultation with a supervising professor – an independent project that is personally and academically meaningful. The Master’s Project, which includes but is not limited to written analysis, may involve academic research, applied research or creative work. This collection was created in 2014, and capstone projects completed before that time are not hosted in DukeSpace.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 177
  • ItemOpen Access
    Can Chinese Tourists Support Nature-Based Tourism?
    (2022-11) Xu, Di
    Nature-based tourism is an important form of tourism, which uses natural resources as the basis for the development of tourism projects and attracts tourists to watch or interact with nature for the purpose of relaxation, education, and pleasure. Since China is now the largest single source of tourists for the world’s tourism industry, understanding Chinese tourists’ perception of nature and their behaviors and preferences when participating in nature-based tourism is helpful for the further development of nature-based tourism. This paper first reviews the theories created by Chinese literati on the relationship between humans and nature and their development in history, then analyzes Chinese tourists’ use, attitudes, and feedback on natural attractions through direct and indirect measures. Then this paper uses SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to explore the advantages and disadvantages of developing nature-based tourism in China, and finally proposes policy recommendations based on the above research.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Realism in Ancient History Documentaries
    (2022-11-23) Yu, Jie
    This project focuses on the representation of realism in ancient history documentaries. While documentaries are often distinguished from fictional films for the general public by their intimate connection to reality and their strong persuasiveness, the fictional component of documentaries is higher than spectators’ expectations. Compared to other types of documentaries, the time and space distance between the producers of ancient history documentaries and the original material leads to the problem that ancient history documentaries face a greater challenge in authenticity. In order to seek the documentary mission of recording reality and to bring it closer to spectators’ expected authenticity, exploring the issue from the perspective of realistic expressions in ancient history documentaries is meaningful. Therefore, by combining theory and practice, based on realism-related theories, this project explores the expressive techniques in ancient history documentaries and provides examples and reflections on theoretical practice in filming experience. This project proposes the impossibility of restoring reality in films and emphasizes that the realism in ancient history documentaries should be pursued with a belief in the way of conducting a ritual. The results are evaluations of the realistic tendency of the commonly used expression techniques in ancient history documentaries and confirm the importance of research investments and filmmakers’ commitment during practice.
  • ItemEmbargo
    An Interpretive History of the Lower Deep River Region, NC
    (2022-04-15) Wicker, Cole W.
    How can interpreting the regional history of the lower Deep River region of North Carolina inform land conservation for future generational use, education, and recreation? I explore the Lower Deep River Region, NC, and its mining heritage in hopes of understanding how land conservation efforts can use interpretive history as a guiding framework. With the approval of a regional state trail, ever expanding public parks, and the threat of impending commercial development, the region sits at the precipice of change. In the paper, I examine the region's past, including its indigenous and early histories, as well as its coal mining and industrial heritage, and I contextualize these stories alongside available interpretive resources. I explore themes of race and labor in a temporal and spatial manner as a guiding methodical framework. Using historic maps and spatial sources, I reconstruct the Deep River’s history and bring the buried, lost, and disappearing past into the present. The river’s past informs how certain places, markers, or seemingly naturalized objects become integral in the regional conservation dialogue. In addition to the written component below, I include a website ( that allows the public to engage with the material at an individual pace.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Volleyball, but Make it Sexy: Mediated Representations of Female Athletes
    (2022-05-06) Rosseland-Harrison, Frances
    The female athlete experience is complicated and beautiful. Women were long excluded from the world of sport and looked at as “masculine” when they did compete. To combat this fear of seeing “less feminine” women, sport organizers and mass media overcompensated; now we see sportswomen wearing less. This trend is especially evident in my own sport of volleyball. By examining the evolution of the beach volleyball uniform and media representation of the sport, I hope to map patterns that can be tracked in other female sports. I will call on frameworks established by researchers Linda Fuller, Paul Davis, and Janet Fink to help us understand how meaningful differences in media coverage of female athletics shape consumption of female sports and impact the female athletes themselves. To situate the work in context, I will provide a historical perspective on female athletics, looking at the rise of popular media and its impact on women’s sports. When sex is used to sell sports, female athletes become pawns in an unwinnable game.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Co-location Opportunities for Dynamic Use of Existing and Proposed School Buildings
    (2022-04-13) Etin, Bozhena
    We have, on average, 1,098 to 2,168 annual school closures per year. That means thousands of school buildings need to be repurposed every year or they will stand vacant, become vandalized, and bring blight and a sense of abandonment to their neighborhoods. However, at the same time, there is an ever-growing need for affordable housing, community centers, meeting and workspaces, childcare facilities, parks and recreation areas, and other community spaces that can be accommodated within these structures. In this paper, I analyze the typology of the school building through history, and through some notable examples, demonstrate how school buildings can be adapted to other uses in the community. I also present examples of schools and community spaces sharing common buildings and the unique opportunities this co-location provides for the students as well as community members. The ultimate takeaway for this paper is to show that a school building is not just a place we send our kids to get an education. It can and should be a place for all people in the community to feel a part of and welcomed
  • ItemEmbargo
    Preparing for Widowhood - While Your Husband is Still Living
    (2022-07-11) Rose, Jill
    Research on widowhood challenges has suggested that married women, with unhealthy husbands, should consider preparing in advance for widowhood. However, many women might have an easier transition into widowhood if some preparation tasks or actions are completed while married. What is often overlooked is that these widowhood challenges exist, and that married women can either prepare for them while married or react to them when widowed. Analyzing the transcripts from 70 interviews that were conducted over three months, the results of this study show that there are opportunities and benefits for married women to prepare in advance for widowhood for known widowhood challenges. Some of these preparation tasks and actions are similar to the interventions that widows utilize to overcome the widowhood challenges they encounter. My primary and secondary research findings complement the literature on widowhood challenges, potential widowhood interventions, and how married women might prepare in advance for widowhood while their husbands are still living.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Singularity, Solidarity, and Gender France 1945-1997
    (2022-03) Wharton, Elisabeth
    This paper examines how French Philosopher Mona Ozouf’s theory of French Singularity answers for the state of French feminism at the end of the 20th century. It also examines the historical and moral gaps in this theory and offers social solidarity as an alternative lens through which to understand the theory. Chapter One provides a historical explanation of Ozouf’s response to American feminists’ critique of the French women’s movement. Ozouf attributes the French women’s movement’s relative quiescence after 1945 to the fact that French women benefited from a legacy of female power that existed during the Ancien Régime as well as France’s legacy of social (sexual) mixing. After the French Revolution, Ozouf points to educational privileges (thanks to Rousseau) advanced in service of Republican motherhood that French women enjoyed, making French women’s experience of womanhood superior to that of women in the rest of Europe or the United States. Chapters Two and Three survey Claire Duchen’s historical challenge to Ozouf’s singular representation of the women’s movement in postwar France. This includes longstanding campaigns for legislative removal of laws limiting women’s marital and reproductive rights that laid the groundwork for reforms in the late 1960s and 1970s. Chapter Two also examines internal conflicts between Lacanian Psychanalyse et Politique and the rest of the French second wave women’s movement. Chapter Four proposes an interpretation of French Singularity through Sally Scholz’s theoretical framework of solidarity and demonstrates how French Singularity, once detached from its problematic underpinnings and understood through the lens of social solidarity, stands as a useful historical explanation of French gender relations in the 1990s.
  • ItemOpen Access
    I Knew Home When I Saw it: Mapping RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening
    (2022-05-06) Reeves, David
    This project consists of two parts: 1) an initial, written analysis of Hale County This Morning, This Evening, a 2018 documentary of my home county (Hale County, Alabama) by filmmaker (and former public school coach) RaMell Ross, exploring details of the film through RaMell Ross’s own words, in interviews, about his style, through my personal experiences of the area through research of historical context, and close readings of particular scenes in the film. And 2) an interactive map that offers a deeper understanding of the area, the people, and important places Ross features in the film, drawing on all of the work for part 1 and on an interview between the author and the documentary filmmaker himself. The audio of this interview is included in a separate file. This second part, the story map with visuals and audio, is my most important contribution, the first being detailed research towards, and also an introduction to, the interactive map. Part 2:
  • ItemOpen Access
    Improving the Sales Training Program in the Mexican Notebook Company “Cuadernos Estrella”
    (2022-01-07) Bohorquez Fiano, Andrea
    The purpose of this research is to devise a new learning strategy to train the sales workforce of the Mexican notebook company “Cuadernos Estrella.” The goal of the Human Resources (HR) department of the company is to standardize the existing in-person sales training program and develop a novel online training for 2022. Therefore, this research presents an extensive literature exploration of capacity development, adult learning theory, performance-based learning models, sales training basics, and virtual and blended learning in order to devise an optimal learning strategy for the company. I conclude by providing a range of best practices and recommendations on sales training, as well as a roadmap with a work plan to develop a blended learning strategy for the sales training in 2022. Building primarily on the ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate) model, the roadmap includes actionable next steps for the HR department to enhance the existing sales program. Since the purpose of this research is merely theoretical, the roadmap focuses on the first two phases of the model: analysis and design. My research aims to inform the HR department on best practices for future training development and contribute to enhancing the overall sales operations of the company.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Effect of Social Isolation on Adolescents During COVID-19
    (2021-04) Malki, Lana
    My initial hypothesis was that adolescents may carry into adulthood the potential residual effects of social isolation on behavioral changes. To draw a holistic picture of the situation at hand, I went on a quest through different disciplines to test my hypothesis's credibility. First, I examined historical events by following adolescents who lived in similar circumstances. I was looking for helpful trajectories that can be implemented in the current situation to detect any common behavioral patterns. Unable to find a satisfying answer, I have come, through this research, to realize that the question I was asking is complicated and not readily open to historical comparison. By visiting the neurodevelopmental literature, I learned that social isolation could cause a hormonal and neurological imbalance that may shift from a goal-oriented to a habit-like behavior. Equipped with this knowledge, I ventured next into the world of psychology. I aimed to learn from human development theories and to draw a trajectory of the potential long-term damage on the cohort in question. With the abundance of information, I worked on testing and adapting my initial hypothesis. This took me also, inevitably, into issues related to the context where adolescents would normally reside for much of their day: school. I also realized that my interdisciplinary quest was missing a significant factor: social media. I started my research on social media expecting to confirm the negative effect of long hours of exposure to social media, only to be pulled into a complicated, potentially helpful, and useful virtual world that I barely knew. I realized that I could not apply my knowledge as an adult to the age group in question because, practically, many of them are living through the pandemic in a different world: the virtual world.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Opportunity Zones: Potential Economic and Community Impacts in Durham and Johnston Counties, North Carolina
    (2021-11-19) Delgado, Randy
    The 2017 Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included a provision for creating "Opportunity Zones" to spur investment in disadvantaged communities. The Act provided that funds invested in these zones (plus an additional amount of "new money") will enable investors to postpone taxes on capital gains from other investments, and also reduce their tax rate if the investment is kept for more than ten years. What is the possible economic and social impact of these Opportunity Zones both nationally and in North Carolina? This paper reviews hundreds of investment funds and projects that have been created to channel private capital into Opportunity Zones. It then looks at zones in Durham County (7 zones) and in Johnston County, North Carolina (4 zones). In Johnston County the opportunity tracts will likely attract investors seeking market-rate returns, result in more temporary economic impact and little to no social impact. In Durham County the opportunity tracts will likely attract investors seeking equitable development and have the potential to achieve longer term social impacts. It will be important to consider how the Opportunity Zone program interacts with other government subsidies (e.g., New Market Tax Credits) available to investors.
  • ItemEmbargo
    Fatal Automobile Crashes in North Carolina: A Historical and Present-Day Portrait of Grief
    (2021-07-26) Minai, Leanora
    Between 1899 and 2018, nearly 3.8 million people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on roadways in the United States. An average of 100 people died in wrecks every day in the country in 2018. There are names and faces behind the figures, but the catastrophic toll of the automobile has become normalized, dismissed as an expected consequence that comes with the symbol of freedom. This study explores the ways in which bereaved people cope and maintain bonds through practices and remembrance objects after losing a loved one in a fatal automobile crash. Through in-depth interviews with nine family members in North Carolina, and an illustrative sampling of individual and community grief expression following passenger car deaths over the past century, an original portrait is offered of the personal aftermath of deadly car crashes in North Carolina. This work is set in the broader historical context of the rise of the motor car in the United States, where significant automobile safety advances did not arrive until the late 1960s. By drawing on archival collections, as well as photographic material and historical newspaper accounts, this project offers a unique view of an area of research that has received little or insufficient study.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The World of Eurydice
    (2021-03) Jin, Suiyuan
    As a creative project with an exhibition as its final presentation, my graduation project is a series of explorations of people trapped in private space, memory, and daily prayer psychology under the epidemic situation. My project consists of two parts. The first part, including drawings on paper and a foam sculpture, is the construction of the hell of memory, which explores the relationship between mourning and consumption. The second part is about the relationship between human spiritual desires and everyday objects. It is mainly an installation work, including some paintings, sculptures, and a short film played by a projector. Through the transformation and sanctifying of everyday objects, I explore the early witchcraft consciousness of human prayer rituals, restore religion and witchcraft rituals to the original prayer paradigm, and suggest the metaphorical connection between private apartment space and the closed spiritual world of individuals under the epidemic.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Swaying between Grace and Pomposity: The Imagined Modernity of Soong Mayling
    (2021-04) Liu, Qianyu Thea
    This paper is centrally concerned with the inconsistencies between the practices of the Orientalized modernity and the Chinese indigenous sociocultural situation in the Republic of China. I focus on Soong Mayling, the first lady of Generalissimo and President Chiang Kai-shek, by tracing her early education in the US, marriage life, as well as her political involvement after returning to China. I examine Orientalized figures’ attempts and possibilities to reconcile the discrepancies that existed between western countries and China. I argue that Soong and her husband endeavored to take outer forms of the West to construct their imagined naive modernity. Their ignorance of Chinese culture and a complete adaptation of linear (evolutionary) ideology cut their reforms off from Chinese people’s sentiments. Their reforms were inconsistent with China’s socio-cultural situation and found no echo in people’s hearts. Failure was inevitable. For sources, the core of the paper is mainly drawn from the speeches, written works, and diaries of Soong Mayling and Chiang Kai-shek, while a major portion of this paper includes news from both China domestic and worldwide newspapers and magazines. I have also supplemented this information with the works and diaries of several intellectuals such as Hu Shih, Sun Yat-sen, and Lin Yutang to enrich my portrait of Soong Mayling.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Making and Unmaking of Guiyu: The Global Center of E-waste
    (2021-06-01) Feng, Yuqiao
    As the industry of electronic devices rapidly develops, the disposal and recycling of e-waste become an issue at stake. Despite the constant effort of both governments and Non-Governmental Organization, exportation to developing countries remains one of the major approaches for the first world to dispose their hazardous e-waste. Developing countries in Asia and Africa are such perfect destinations for e-waste dumping for their cheap labor and the lack of environmental regulation. Without adequate precaution and proper handling guide, human health and environmental integrity are under threat in these areas. China, being the largest electronics manufacture country, aside from dealing with the considerable amount of domestic e-waste, also faces multiple challenges in regulating the importation of e-waste. In addition to discuss the historical background, current situation, and possible future of e-waste trading on a global level, this project focuses on Guiyu, China, a small southern town which is considered one of the largest e-waste centers in the world. Taking Guiyu as an example, this paper aims to reveal the complexity surrounding the disposal and recycling of e-waste and the potential harm on human health of informal recycle activities. Tracing back the history of e-waste trading in Guiyu helps understand the how did the business become dominant industry. The economic and social context and the shared cultural belief of Chaoshan people also play key roles in the local e-waste recycle development. The paper suggests possible upstream and downstream solutions as well. The paper relies on secondary sources including academic journals, local newspaper, and public documents. Visual and audio material such as documentaries and interview footages are also important resources for the project. Related works that had been conducted within the Chinese language sphere are important sources for this project. To combine local perspective in the process of research, the paper largely depends on articles and official reports that are written in Chinese. Due to the difficulty in obtaining reliable and objective report on the result of the industrial park in Guiyu, the future of Guiyu and its e-waste business remains uncertain.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Emperor’s Two Bodies
    (2021-04-28) MERLI, OLIVIA G.
    In the early third century, the body of the emperor came to play an increasingly important role in the dynastic politics of the Roman empire. But the role or, better, the function of the emperor’s body became in the short reign of Elagabalus (218-222) a highly contested issue. For the Severan house Elagabalus’ beautiful, youthful body was seen as a “natural” body that would support the dynastic claim. At the same time, Elagabalus himself and perhaps his mother built a new conception of the emperor’s body that was characterized by Elagabalus’ quest to merge with his god. In this quest Elagabalus sought to transform his body and the imperial body in ways that certain powerful groups in Rome viewed as a religious and political danger for the empire. In this thesis I combine diverse types of sources, such as coins, inscriptions, portraits, and literary accounts, to reconstruct the representation of the body of this emperor. I show how the cross-gender and the cross-behavior that the literary sources ascribe to Elagabalus’ unrestrained sexuality helps to explain his immersion into worship, seeking unity with his god. This brought the relation of Elagabalus’ natural and imperial body to a breaking point, leading to his destruction.  
  • ItemOpen Access
    Russian Literary Conflicts over the Antinihilist Novel, 1861-1881
    (2021-04-05) Ali, Muhammad
    This thesis examines the representation of nihilism in antinihilist and radical novels written in post-emancipation Tsarist Russia, between 1861 and 1881. During this period, nihilism emerged as a social and political phenomenon and contributed not only to the emerging differences between the generation of the “superfluous men” (1840s) and of the prominent literary critics (1860s), but also to the radicalization of a segment of society. As a result, it was actively discussed and debated in most of the literature produced in this period. I have limited my analysis to three of the major works written during this time: Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, Nikolai Chernyshevsky's What Is To Be Done?, and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Demons. Through my analysis of literary conflicts within these novels, I have explicated connections between the novels, identified influences over the authors, and explored how representations of nihilism evolved within Russian society during the 1860s and the 1870s.
  • ItemOpen Access
    An Analysis of Shaping of Female Characters in Films Directed by Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Chinese Diasporic Female Directors
    (2021-04) An, Hongyu
    This thesis intends to examine the shaping of female characters in films directed by Chinese female directors. Six films are selected as examples: The Crossing (Guo chun tian, Bai Xue, 2019), Angels Wear White (Jia nian hua, Vivian Qu, 2017), Love Education (Xiang ai xiang qin, Sylvia Chang, 2017), Dear Ex (Shei Xian Ai Shang Ta De, Mag Hsu and Chih-Yen Hsu, 2018), Song of the Exile (Ke tu qiu hen, Ann Hui, 1990), and The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019). The selected films are divided into three groups: those directed by mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Chinese diasporic women. By comparing the female characters with their counterparts and by analyzing the character shaping and identity formation of the female protagonists in these films, this thesis will discuss the commonalities and differences among the protagonists. The project is not intended to make general and mechanical conclusions, but to show how a variety of female characters have appeared in recent Chinese films directed by female directors, and how these characters epitomize different groups of women or female identities in the current Chinese society.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Pursuit of Faith: “Navigating Ethics and Self-Referential Documentary”
    (2021-05-07) Wilbur, Sheridan
    This Master’s Project sets out to explore the history of my Irish Catholic, French Canadian, family; using archive materials from my grandmother (super 8mm home films, scanned photographs) and more recent interviews between my grandparents (in person and via Zoom) and functions relationally, a pas de deux between a self (me) and a familial other (my grandparents) rather than an outright self-examination. Given the profound importance of healthy family dynamics in the life of the filmmaker (me), the paper includes the explorations of ethics, and four common principles; “consent, do no harm, protect the vulnerable, and honor viewers' trust” as guiding benchmarks in my own process. My goal through this project is to explore my family experience in all its complexity and place it into present day context and constraints of coronavirus, while examining other films (and literature about films) to inform the choices I make; ethically, structurally and stylistically for this autobiographical documentary. In keeping with this ambition, the essay formulates an ethics, a way, to think about the nature of autobiographical film in its possible relation to memory, the elusive ‘truth’ and understanding family religion and culture. Primarily analytical, the paper presents the ethics of my autobiographical documentary film by looking at a variety of self representations in film and literature and domestic ethnographic research. Like all autobiographical works, in writing, painting or film, my master’s project is a journey towards self understanding, and admittedly, self construction. The analytical paper focuses on my documentary, the ethical issues that arise while conducting domestic ethnography (the careful description and explication of culture) and the editing choices I drew from first person documentaries to connect those who came before us to those who come after us. Sarah Polley’s ‘Stories We Tell’ largely serves to inform me on storytelling and defining ‘truth’ whereas Alan Berliner’s ‘Nobody’s Business’ serves as a framework on editing choices. Berliner has a lot to inform about the underbelly of Kodachrome versions of family life; he reveals the importance to capture the surface rather than the depth of family life, beyond the filmed holidays, birthdays and anniversaries to fully grasp that only after this smooth facade and promenade of well-behaved children orchestrated for the occasion is where the ‘truest’ family dynamic lies. The paper both brings to the surface ethical issues in the life of a documentarian, and examines these ethical issues in the context of others autobiographical documentaries. Written to reflect the power of memory, intergenerational history and the healing power of stories, the film spotlights self-relations and self-growth, embodies the interconnections among self, other and the world, and awakens one’s own humanity in the process of sharing, telling and the process of filmmaking.
  • ItemOpen Access
    On the Stability of Moral Judgment Over Time
    (2020-11) Rehren, Paul
    Stability over time is often seen as a signature feature of moral judgment. Yet to date, little focused empirical examination of this assumption exists. In this study, we compare the stability over time of moral judgments about acts in sacrificial dilemmas, moral judgments about the items on the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, and moral judgments about the items on the Morality-as-Cooperation Questionnaire. We find that on three metrics of stability over time, the different types of moral judgment all performed similarly. We also found that changes in moral judgment, when they occurred, could not be easily explained by people changing their mind in light of reasons. We discuss potential implications of our findings for moral psychology and moral philosophy.