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For her honors thesis, Danielle Schreier ’07 (New York, N.Y.) combined her passions for art and animal rights to produce the documentary Giving Thanks.

The film, which runs 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26 in Oechsle Hall auditorium, room 224, focuses a critical eye on the Thanksgiving tradition of turkey dinner.

“My thesis is an hour-long film focused on the tradition of Thanksgiving,” explains Schreier, a double major in art and environmental & social justice. “There are so many wonderful ways to give thanks for all that we have in our lives, but it seems ironic to me that we ‘give thanks’ by eating an animal. The media presents Thanksgiving turkeys as eager to find a spot on our dinner plates – nothing could be further from the truth. I hope my viewers leave the film with a feel for that irony.”

Schreier visited numerous local turkey farms during the months leading up to Thanksgiving in 2006, conducting interviews with farmers and documenting conditions. She also interviewed national experts including Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation; Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns; and Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s largest farm animal protection organization.

“Thanksgiving is something that most Americans can relate to,” says Schreier. “The fact that our largest secular holiday is centered on the gluttonous consumption of meat is telling of our culture. Most of the public goes to the supermarket and buys packaged meat without ever thinking about where that animal came from, or that it was ever an animal at all.”

Karina Skvirsky, assistant professor of art, advised Schreier’s thesis, helping the student articulate her project through the medium of video documentary from early conception to editing and post-production.

“While the documentary embraces an animal rights perspective, it also seeks to shed light on the conditions of factory farms and the ramifications of eating mass-produced meat,” says Skvirsky. “Danielle is an excellent student – a hard worker and an analytic thinker – and, most importantly, extremely committed to her principles.”

Schreier is impressed with the guidance she has received from Skvirsky, who has taught at the International Center for Photography and Parsons School of Design in New York City.

“She could not have been more supportive or wonderful,” says Schreier. “Karina is incredibly knowledgeable and talented, and her guidance has proved to be indispensable to my thesis. I could never have asked for a better mentor.”

Schreier adds that Lafayette is an outstanding environment for independent study research, and credits the information technology department for its assistance.

“Lafayette professors are amazing, and they have all offered such wonderful support for my thesis film,” she says. “It was so exciting to work in an environment where all my professors were excited to hear about my progress. Many sent me tips and articles when they saw something related to Thanksgiving or turkeys in the media.”

Skvirsky believes honors theses allow students to conduct high-quality research in areas that truly interest them.

“The honors thesis that Lafayette offers students is a wonderful opportunity for them to study a subject in-depth and use the knowledge and skill base they have acquired through their college education to apply it to something they really care about,” she says.

While Skvirsky believes Schreier’s project could launch a career in documentary film, the student has other plans for her future. Schreier plans to work at a non-profit animal rights organization after graduation and attend law school to focus on animal law. She plans to use her law degree to work as a litigator at a non-profit animal rights organization.

Schreier is a member of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection and volunteers at the S.P.C.A.

Honors theses are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year; 21 students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News