January 25, 2012

Martin Yeager

The Knox Student (TKS): What is your Honors project?

Martin Yeager (MY): I am looking at the governments of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt and their relationship with the United States for the past 70ish years since World War II, and I’m trying to assess the perception of the U.S. at the end of that time … so right before the Arab Spring starts.

TKS: What exactly are you doing to investigate this topic?

MY: I’m just looking at monographs, usually, about the Middle East and the U.S. or a specific country and the U.S. or a specific time period in U.S.-Middle East relations. I’ve covered the first probably 30-40 years pretty in-depth, but the later years are more covered by political theorists rather than historians, which is good because it’s a political science project as well as a history project, but it’s weird to go in the readings from historical facts to political evaluation.

TKS: How did you become interested in U.S.-Middle East relations?

MY: I was in middle school when [9/11] happened, but that was kind of the discovery of the Middle East and Islam for me. I had no idea what part of the world that was or what that religion was until Sept. 11, and I was just kind of fascinated because we were so involved for … the next ten years. Once I started really getting interested in history, I really wanted to look at how history has affected what we’re doing now.

TKS: What do you want to do after Knox?

MY: Immediately after college, I’m going to take a year or two off before grad school and try to get a series of internships or jobs … involved in politics and hopefully international politics in some way, whether that’s with the State Department or some kind of non-governmental organization. … And then my dream for grad school would be to go to Tel Aviv University. They have a peace and conflict negotiation masters program. It’s a year and a half, and they teach you either Arabic or Hebrew. So, if I have one or two years of political job experience, and then I have a master’s degree from Tel Aviv University in peace and conflict negotiation and I’ve learned either Arabic or Hebrew, I’ve got a ticket into something. I would like to work in international politics as a career.

TKS: How has your project prepared you for graduate school and your future in general?

MY: It’s the first independent research project I think I’ve had. In class, you get to pick out a topic and write a 20-page paper on it, but they’re all sort of limited by content of the class or the teacher’s suggestions, and the time period. … But the Honors is all year, and it’s whatever you want to make it. It encourages innovation, personal creativity and individual initiative. You have to schedule yourself, and you have to be aware of how much time you have left in the term and the week.

People outside of Knox aren’t familiar with the term “Honors project,” so I always describe it as a thesis. … I’m not terribly familiar with the graduate school world, but writing a 100 plus page paper, that seems pretty thesis-like.

TKS: What advice do you have for students who are thinking about doing Honors?

MY: It’s all up to you. You have to create your own schedule completely, and you decide what your proposal’s going to look like. There’s almost no guidelines as to what goes into the proposal. And get started researching it right away at the beginning of fall term even before you’re accepted because then, if you pick a topic that you love and you start researching it, you’re just going to kind of get hooked on it, which is exactly what you want. It’s your own personal quest. … What are you looking to get out of the experience?

Anna Meier

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