By Zach Cihlar
Somewhere at Brandeis, two sociology professors and an economics professor are reading over a 94-page thesis discussing the impact and importance of a large-scale infrastructure project that begins in China and extends through to Eastern Europe and into countries in Northern Africa. The thesis blends sociological and economic research, which interplay for an analysis on the development of a $1-3 trillion project that will connect via land and sea many countries throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa, including Nepal.
The project, One Belt, One Road (OBOR), inspired Bidushi Adhikari ’17 to write a nearly 100-page thesis researching the effects of the large-scale project on the development of Nepal. She took her interest in economics and sociology and incorporated her background as a Nepal native to influence the direction of her research. “I wanted to kind of contribute to the literature written about Nepal,” she said, while also mentioning that research on Nepal is not as prevalent in American institutions.
Adhikari, a sociology and economics double major, developed her interest in development economics throughout her time at Brandeis. She decided to balance out the quantitative nature of the social science with the qualitative reasoning of sociology.
The senior finished her sociology major in her junior year of her Brandeis tenure and decided to pursue a sociology thesis that incorporated her interest in development economics while examining a country she has personal ties to. The interdisciplinary quality of the sociology thesis pushed Adhikari to pursue her research in that subject as compared to the strict guidelines required of the economics thesis. This allowed her to incorporate research in political science, economics and other non-sociology-related areas.
Through these loose guidelines, Adhikari addressed questions such as: “Why is OBOR so important? Why is it so big? What is it going to change?” and others. Each chapter of her thesis looks at a different question related to the development of Nepal and how it may be affected by OBOR.
This focus, however, was not Adhikari’s original thesis proposal. During the summer before her senior year, Adhikari spent her time gathering data through interviews for a disparate but similar topic, also focused on development in Nepal.
Initially, the senior sought to research local and national relief organizations working in Nepal in the wake of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015. This proposal, however, underwent a lengthy acceptance, and she was unable to collect enough data to proceed with the project. After more deliberation, she chose her current thesis topic, which allowed her to expand the topic. “I am happy with that because it allowed me to speak more broadly about Nepal, but also more broadly about development and developmental aid in the global south,” she reflected.
She has worked closely with her advisors since, one of whom is Prof. Ricardo Lopez (ECON/BUS/LALS) in the economics department. As the professor for International Trade Theory, Adhikari had worked with him before, but it was a new experience “to interact with them in that kind of depth,” she said. Another advisor of hers, Prof. Gowri Vijayakumar (SOC/SAS), also worked with her personally through the planning stages. Vijayakumar worked with Adhikari throughout both semesters of the senior’s final academic year.
Throughout the writing phase of the thesis, Adhikari recalled that she took the process chapter by chapter, researching as necessary to develop an argument in each chapter before moving on to the next. This path, she said, allowed her to spread the due dates of the chapters across the two semesters she worked on the thesis. The chapter due date approach compelled her to manage time efficiently and reach the 94-page length without the struggle of cramming. “If I had waited even a month before the thesis was due, I don’t know if I could have put it together to my satisfaction,” she said.
Adhikari recently submitted the hefty first draft to her three advisors. After an arduous year of researching, compiling, citing and writing, Adhikari now waits for her advisors to return her draft, so she can begin finalizing the work and give a final defense of the research she has done on Nepal and OBAR.
“It’s been a rewarding experience,” Adhikari said of all the time she spent working on her thesis. Besides pursuing a variety of interests and contributing to the literature concerning Nepal and its development, she also mentioned that she gained skills both concrete and abstract. “It definitely teaches you writing skills and research analysis skills, but it also teaches you organizational skills and how to pace yourself,” she said.
Her thesis defense will be open to the public and will occur in front of a reading committee. Adhikari will present her topic along with her research and methodology. It will also coincide with a conclusion to her Brandeis experience.
Adhikari is currently looking for jobs in policy-based think tanks that do economic research, which contains aspects of her thesis experience. Ultimately, she said, she wants to attend law school and looks “to bring economics and law and my background and Nepal all together.” But for now, her advisors, the three Brandeis professors, read through her draft, making notes and offering suggestions to help mold the final, 94-page product.