History graduate student Nadine Ross took first place in UT’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis competition with her research on citizenship and national belonging, specifically for people of mixed-race descent in Nazi Germany.
The competition, hosted by the Graduate Studies School, gives doctoral candidates three minutes and a single PowerPoint slide to present their research to a non-academic audience. Ross will represent the school at the regional 3MT competition this March.
“It was really challenging, because there’s so many things you want to say, but you only have three minutes so you have to get to the heart of what your research is about,” Ross said.
Ross studied how mixed-heritage individuals in Germany coped with not being accepted by their country.
“My research demonstrates the central nature of national identity to our self-understanding,” Ross said during her presentation. “It revolves around the ideas of citizenship and what it means to be a citizen and to belong, and that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
Ross centered her presentation on the story of an Afro-German man during WWII who was denaturalized, or lost his citizenship, because of his mixed race and was later drafted into the German military.
“In Germany, they’re still having discussions about what it means to be German,” Ross said. “Even if we take it outside the German context, there’s a lot of societies that are re-evaluating what it means to belong to any particular state, and how you define belonging.”
Eighteen other graduate students presented their theses and were judged by non-academic volunteers during the event on Feb. 3.
John Dalton, assistant dean of the Graduate Studies School, said Ross was chosen over her competitors for her interesting topic and presentation skills.
“It was an extremely difficult choice,” Dalton said. “Nadine was very well-spoken, very polished, and at the end she did a great job explaining her research.”
Graduate studies dean Marvin Hackert said he decided to bring the international competition to UT after attending a 3MT event at another school.
“I was impressed by the quality of the presentations,” Hackert said. “In general, those of us in higher education could do a much better job of communicating to the public the great research that’s going on by our students.”
The regional competition will be held in Annapolis, Maryland on March 4.