Biology major senior Heather Forsythe is using one of her favorite childhood books series, Harry Potter, to create a memorable Schedler Honor’s College thesis.
Forsythe grew up in North Little Rock reading Harry Potter, inadvertently using it as an outlet that helped her enjoy reading in third grade. As she got older, she realized how much she valued the lore and how it followed her throughout her life, which sparked her initial idea for her thesis. She said she realized that many people her age had used Harry Potter as a means of finding themselves and founding long-term friendships.
Harry Potter, in her opinion, wasn’t bound by cultures. When time to declare her honors thesis topic, she considered her Harry Potter concept a joke because she was a mega-fan. However, she began planning study abroad itineraries that followed in line with the series’ author J.K. Rowling’s life.
“I wanted there to be a tangible outlet for people my age or older to go study abroad to learn about Harry Potter and think of it as…academic,” Forsythe said.
Reality set in and she decided to make her dream trip a serious endeavor. When she initially pitched her idea to professors, they were skeptical, but they eventually came around. Forsythe said they began to adjust once she elaborated on her idea. From there, she started her written thesis topic: how Millennials have been affected by the Harry Potter series.
“The professors I talked about the thesis to really loved it,” Heather said, “In fact, the biology professor that I did research with was thrilled, because she read Harry Potter to her son while he was growing up.”
Forsythe recalled an exemplary book called Harry Potter and the Millennials collaborated by several universities on the study of the politics of people who read Harry Potter and those who did not. Subjects who read the series were more likely to be liberal, accepting of minorities and LGBT people and prone to act less authoritarian.
The same results were reflected in readers whose parents barred them from reading the series as children because of the books’ witchcraft theme. Forsythe said the series inspired and shaped young minds into certain behaviors and allowances, changing the outlook of a whole fan cohort. This phenomena led to inspire multiple forms of fan fiction and organizations such as Quidditch teams and Harry Potter cosplays.
The project serves as a tangible outlet for people to tie Harry Potter into their study abroad itineraries to help see the series as a substantial academic. After graduating from UCA in spring 2016, Forsythe hopes to join a biology graduate school program. If she has a chance to get into a school with a Harry Potter study abroad program, which are offered in Oregon and California, she hopes to blend her muggle work in biology with her childhood fantasy.
Forsythe’s adventures can be read on her blog, justrowlingthroughlife.wordpress.com.