2022 James L. Fisher Outstanding Thesis Award Winners – News

The James L. Fisher Outstanding Theses Competition is designed to promote recognition of the highest quality graduate theses from each college.

The 2022 competition was open to students who obtained their master’s degree and completed their thesis during the calendar year of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. Here are the winners from colleges and universities.

Matthew Nalefsky,
University winner

Matthew W. Nalefski, University Laureate

MA in History

Thesis: The Abolitionist Promise of Revolution: America’s Banning of the Atlantic Slave Trade and the Long Road to Emancipation, 1820-1862

Thesis committee: Dr. Ross Kennedy (co-chair); Mr. Ronald Gifford (co-chair); and Dr. Stewart Winger

Thesis committee member Dr. Stewart Winger describes what Matthew is working on during his thesis studies. Matthew studies pre-war American history and uses a truly impressive array of sources that includes dozens of court cases, newspapers, letters and government reports, as well as an exhaustive number of secondary sources. , all in service of its federal government review. the government’s commitment – or lack thereof – to the international anti-slavery cause. It also included several interesting and illuminating appendices which were themselves detailed enough to warrant their own introduction. Matthew attacks the idea that the federal government in the pre-war period was in the grip of a “slave power” that was so successful in stifling efforts to end slavery that the issue has rarely even been mentioned in the halls of Congress. Looking to the seas, Matthew argues persuasively that the U.S. federal government was working hard as a nation among nations to cooperate in eliminating the transatlantic slave trade led by England and supported by other European nations. and African.
Matthew’s dissertation explores the United States’ involvement in the destruction of the international slave trade after its abolition in 1808, studying its impact on American sovereignty, the advent of the Civil War, and abolitionism. Long ignored by historians, the United States’ attempts from 1808 to 1862 to abolish the illegal international slave trade have the potential to change the historiographical understanding of abolitionism in the prewar period. Slavery was not eradicated overnight, a fact we wholeheartedly accept, but neither has the international slave trade. The parallel evolution of abolitionism, on the one hand, combined with the diplomatic, legal, and anti-slavery mechanisms associated with the slave trade, on the other, ultimately created the elements necessary for the eventual abolition of the institution. Ignoring attempts to stop the international slave trade obscured the complexity of abolitionism in the United States. To emphasize the commitment of the United States to the suppression of the slave trade is to complicate the image of an entirely consenting American government, which served as a puppet for the slavocracy, and demonstrates that in the end account, the abolitionist promise of the revolution has been kept.

Quynh Nhu Nguyen, 1st University Finalist

MS in Applied Statistics

MS in Quantitative Economics

Thesis: Statistical modeling of data breach risks: identification and notification time

Thesis committee: Dr Maochao Xu (chairman) and Dr Pei Geng

Thesis supervisor Dr. Maochao Xu explains what Nhu is working on during his thesis studies as part of statistical data breach risk modeling. Nhu completed his master’s degree in the Illinois State Department of Economics, then continued his studies in statistics in the mathematics department. His thesis was on Emerging Risk – Data Breach Risk, one of the most devastating risks imposed on society and its citizens as they can lead to serious consequences. This includes breaches that disclose personally identifiable information and company secrets, enhance identity theft, and cause significant financial loss. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislation has been enacted by all US states and territories that requires data breach notification after the breach incident. Due to the unique nature of cyber risk, the flaw is often discovered after days, months, or even years. The longer a breach goes unaddressed, the more data is leaked and the greater the overall impact, financial and otherwise.

It is very difficult to predict the cost of a cyber incident due to the complex nature of cyber risk. However, it is unavoidable that insurance companies offer cyber insurance policies. The time it takes to identify an incident and the time it takes to notice the people involved are two important elements in determining the cost of a cyber incident. In this work, Nhu initialized the study on these two metrics via statistical modeling approaches. Nhu proposed a novel approach to impute missing data and developed a dependency model to capture the complex pattern exhibited by these two measures. The empirical study showed that the proposed approach has a satisfactory predictive performance and is superior to other commonly used models.

Melissa L. Quimby, College Laureate

Melissa L. Quimby, College Laureate
Melissa L. Quimby,
college winner

MS in Community and Applied Economic Development (Sociology)

Thesis: Aid Worker Burnout as an Injury: Policy Implications for the Aid Sector

Thesis Committee: Dr. Michael L. Dougherty (Chair); Dr. Chris Wellin; and Dr. Marion Willetts

Melissa’s master’s thesis focused on the phenomenon of burnout among aid and development workers, an interest born out of her own career in aid and the burnout that she personally experienced and witnessed around her. According to the chair of her thesis committee, Dr. Michael L. Dougherty, Melissa sensed that there was something unique about the character of burnout experienced in the aid sector, and she undertook understand it and design policy interventions to address it. Melissa collected a considerable amount of rich qualitative data, drawing on her extensive professional network. The main idea of ​​his dissertation research was that structural conditions in the aid sector, broadly defined, which have funding systems at their root, cause a disproportionate amount of burnout among aid workers. She also identified other more visible factors – work stress and a corporate culture of individualism and machismo, among others. But the identification of “hidden” sectoral factors makes a significant contribution to the literature on the sociology of organizations.

Melissa researched the concept of burnout as the “injury” inflicted on workers by poorly structured organizations in a highly competitive industry. This research explores the motivating factors that lead a person to a career in humanitarian work and the organizational strategies that they believe best prevent symptoms.

Bethany N. Wohrley, College Laureate

Bethany Wohrley, College Laureate
Bethany Wohrley, College Laureate

MS in Agricultural Science

Thesis: Snail establishment in response to corn residue management and harvest date

Thesis Committee: Dr. Nicholas Heller (Chair); Dr. Ken Smiciklas; and Dr. Bill Perry

Bethany’s master’s thesis focused on cover crops and how they are a key management strategy for mitigating the negative environmental impacts of agriculture. However, only 3% of Illinois’ acreage reports planting cover crops, largely due to a lack of direct financial incentive. Arabis (Thlaspi arvense L.) is a commercial cover crop that could provide a solution to this problem by providing an environmental benefit as well as an economic return. Although it has achieved profitable yields in clean, well-managed breeding plots, pennycress faces establishment challenges when planted after corn in an agricultural setting. Therefore, the objective of this research project was to evaluate different agronomic management strategies to improve the growth of pennycress under field conditions after maize harvest.
Thesis committee chair Dr. Nicholas Heller said Bethany is a determined researcher who did a lot of field research for her thesis studies. Field research involves unique challenges that Bethany has diligently tackled. She faced obstacles related to machinery and weather and still managed to plant her project every spring when supplies were hard to come by. She weeded, watered, and collected data all year round: corn in the spring and summer, pennycress in the fall, winter, and spring, and soybeans in the summer and fall. She collected and hand-processed her samples for each segment of the project. Beyond agriculture, the significance of Bethany’s research extends to addressing anthropomorphic eutrophication, climate change, reducing fossil fuel use, and increasing farmer profits. Bethany has worked with pennycress, which will be used as a cover crop to reduce nutrient loss from fields, but unlike traditional cover crops, pennycress produces oilseeds that will be harvested and sold to earn farmers more money without applying synthetic fertilizer. An important part of his analysis was precision farming technologies to study the whole system, including the cash crops of the two seasons adjacent to the cultivation of pennycress, and his use of multivariate data analysis to make sense to the immense amount of data it has collected.

An outstanding thesis from a master’s program will be submitted to a regional competition sponsored by the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools. Participation in the regional competition will promote a positive image of higher education at Illinois State University among its neighboring institutions and ensure student recognition.

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