Graduation with Distinction

We encourage all majors to pursue graduation with distinction by writing a thesis. You can earn one of three levels of recognition for your work: Distinction, High Distinction, and Highest Distinction. A departmental committee will determine the level of distinction on the basis of the oral examination, the conduct of the research, and the quality of the written thesis. This committee will include your supervising professor and two other faculty members from the department.


  • French Majors: minimum 3.3 GPA overall, 3.3 in the major
  • Italian Major: minimum 3.3 GPA overall, 3.3 in the major
  • Portuguese Major: 3.3 GPA overall, 3.3 in the major
  • Romance Studies Major: 3.3 GPA overall, 3.3 in the major
  • Spanish Major: minimum 3.3 GPA overall, 3.5 in the major

Your grade point average must be sustained until graduation.

How to Apply

Students interested in pursuing graduation with distinction should obtain more information and submit an application to Room 107 in the Languages Building. You must complete the application no later than the end of registration for the fall semester of your senior year. You must also approach the professor who will supervise your thesis work.

Application Form

Download the Graduation with Distinction application

During your senior year, you will register in the fall for a research independent study course, conducted in the target language, and during this time you will choose your thesis topic. In the spring semester, you will register for the independent study course designated as Honors Thesis, and will write your thesis under the direction of your supervising professor.



Fall Semester
Senior Year

Spring Semester
Senior Year

French FRENCH493 - Research Independent Study FRENCH495 - Honors Thesis
Italian ITALIAN493 - Research Independent Study ITALIAN495 - Honors Thesis
Portuguese PORTUGUE493 - Research Independent Study PORTUGUE495 - Honors Thesis
Romance Studies ROMST393 - Research Independent Study ROMST 495 - Honors Thesis
Spanish SPANISH493 - Research Independent Study SPANISH496 - Honors Thesis

Thesis Product

Your thesis, offered in support of candidacy for graduation with distinction, will be a written document of approximately 40 pages in length.

Evaluation Process

You will defend your thesis (in the foreign language of your major) before the committee no later than the last day of classes. The defense will be conducted orally and usually lasts approximately 45 minutes to an hour.

Projects from 2018

Graduation with High Distinction:

Joshua Neuhaus, Romance Studies
Advisor: Gustavo Furtado

Graduation with Highest Distinction:

Madeline Thornton, French Studies
Advisor: Deb Reisinger
Thesis: Maternal and Reproductive Health Experiences of Francophone Refugee Women Living in Durham, North Carolina

Projects from 2017

Graduation with Distinction:

Victoria Johnson, French Studies
Advisor: Helen Solterer
Thesis: L'art et la terreur dans l'après-attentats, Paris 2015 – Fred Le Chevalier et Renald Luzier

Jailene Vazquez, Romance Studies (Graduation with Distinction in a Field Outside the Student's Major)
Advisor: Michele Longino
Thesis: Fictionalized Italian Gender Relations Through Ferrante and Ammaniti

Graduation with Highest Distinction:

Emily Aarons, Spanish Studies
Advisor: Joan Clifford
Thesis: Comunicación y confianza: La influencia cultural en la comunicación entre doctores y pacientes latinos en Durham

Lydia Bradford, Romance Studies
Advisor: Deborah Jenson
Thesis: Lavi pwezi kreyòl ayisyen soti nan lane 1975 rive 2000: yon vitrin idantite ak rezistans lengwistik

Benjamin Brissette, Spanish Studies
Advisor: Elvira Vilches
Thesis: La República de las Letras: De escribanos y letrados a escribientes y lectores 

Daniel Lam, French Studies
Advisor: Julie Tetel
Thesis: Une perspective non-créoliste de la complexité des créoles: Une analyse comparative de la complexité cachée en créole haïtien et en vietnamien

Vania Ma, Spanish Studies
Advisor: Richard Rosa
Thesis: Come be my guest (or not): National Identity, Hospitality, and Construction of a Literary Genealogy of Haitian-Dominican Bordering Ideologies in Three Dominican Foundational Fictions

Hannah Morris, French Studies
Advisor: Helen Solterer
Thesis: Une Biographie Critique de Marie-Thérèse Eyquem : Pionnière du Sport, du Féminisme, et de la Politique

Projects from 2016

Graduation with High Distinction:

Benjamin Scharf, French Studies
Advisor: Laurent Dubois
Thesis: La marchandisation de vin Bordelais: Comment l'histoire a changé l'industrie de vin en Bordeaux

Graduation with Highest Distinction:

Quinn Holmquist, Romance Studies
Advisor: Laurent Dubois
Thesis: Strange Chains: How Language Keeps non-English Speakers Out of the Justice System - Or Locks Them In

Laurie Hwang, French Studies
Advisor: Deborah Jenson
Thesis: Ceci n’est pas une pipe: A Comparison of French and U.S. Health Research on the Neurodevelopmental and Epigenetic Effects of Tobacco Exposure on Vulnerable Populations

Projects from 2013

Graduation with Distinction:

Brittany Nicole Coleman, French Studies
Advisor: Deborah Jenson
Thesis: Séduction, Politique et Vie Privée: L’Affaire DSK, un Catalyseur Social dans La France Contemporaine

High Distinction:

Joseph S. Kim; French Studies
Advisor: Laurent Dubois
Thesis: L’élève a donné la leçon au maître: Senegal vs. France in the 2002 World Cup

Anna Lynn Gravier; Spanish Studies
Advisor: Liliana Paredes
Thesis: Empowerment, Ethics and Intercultural Competence in Short-Term Medical Missions in the Dominican Republic

Highest Distinction:

Lauren Alicia Dixon; French Studies
Advisor: Anne-Gaëlle Saliot and Anne Garréta
Thesis: Hervé Guibert: Prophète, Saint et Martyr

Lauren Williams Niculescu; Italian Studies
Advisor: Martin Eisner
Thesis: Rifeo: Un’Immagine della Giustizia, Roma, e Dante

Nelly-Ange Tchouatang Kontchou; Italian Studies
Advisors: Luciana Fellin and Richard Rosa
Thesis: A Comparative Sociological Investigation of the Conceptions and Perceptions of Mental Health and Illness in Arica, Chile and Rome, Italy

Jennifer Rose Denike; Romance Studies
Advisor: Deborah Jenson
Thesis: A History of the Early Haitian Medical Establishment: Slaves to Doctors in Haiti

Anne Oliver McDonough, Romance Studies
Advisor: Deborah Jenson
Thesis: Pèdisyon and Indispozisyon: Reproductive Illness and Embodied Experience in Haiti

Evan Michael Leon; Spanish Studies
Advisor: Richard Rosa
Thesis: Límites y Linderos: Una interpretación decolonial de los conflictos territoriales en la Región Norte de Esmeraldas durante los finales del siglo XIX