Ian McLaughlin is a senior graduating in August with a B.A. in History and a minor in Latin American Studies. Throughout his time at BYU, McLaughlin’s superb writing and research ability has been recognized by many organizations. To name a few, his paper “‘Is it wrong to want to help build up God’s kingdom?’: Gendered Networks and Patronage among Early Brigham Young Academy Students” was awarded the Susan Young Gates Award for Best Women’s Studies paper. McLaughlin was also selected as a 2018 Summer Fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship to work closely with Terryl Givens and Steve Peck on early Mormon views of evolution. Within the Honors Program, McLaughlin was selected to present his Honors 320 Great Questions Essay “Pieces of the Same Puzzle? A Meditation on the Value of an Integrated Life” at the 2018 Honors Conference and named a Robert K. Thomas Scholar for Winter 2019.
Ian McLaughlin recently received prestigious recognition for his work on his Honors thesis, "’The Paternal Care of a Patriot Legislature’: Legislative Instructions, Rhetorics of Representation, and the Contested Boundaries of the Political Nation in Revolutionary War-Era Ireland, 1779-1785”. His Honors thesis was accepted to the “Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society Conference” in Belfast, Northern Ireland. McLaughlin chose to apply to this conference rather than a more general venue because he wanted feedback from specialists of the era.
McLaughlin explains that the idea for his Honors thesis came from writing a paper for his classes. He chose to write a paper about Ireland because of his ethnic heritage, and wanted to explore the political atmosphere, one of his areas of interest. After finishing a ten-page paper, McLaughlin realized that he had “struck scholarly gold-- there was something big to say here, and nobody else had said it before!” He expanded his paper in his Honors thesis and continued to revise his findings.
In his Honors thesis, McLaughlin concludes that during the time of the American Revolution, “Irish voters rejected one notion of representation in favor of another. Essentially, they rejected the notion that representatives should be independent agents, insisting to the contrary that they should follow the will of their constituents. In doing so, they challenged the aristocratic worldview of the eighteenth century in favor of something more democratic.” This view of democracy and representation is reflected in our own expectations and in current debates of political scientists.
For those who want to engage in original research and present at prestigious conferences as well, McLaughlin recommends:
- “Start early!
- Be proactive about telling your professor how they can help you. Do not wait for them to call you in-- ask them to review a draft/outline, or even to just talk about how your research is going.
- Have confidence in yourself and your research when you apply for a conference; don't aim low.
- Apply to a venue where you will get useful feedback rather than somewhere you think you will be easily accepted, or conversely, only because the venue is prestigious.”
McLaughlin’s mother had participated in the Honors Program when she was at BYU so he knew it was something he wanted to pursue. “Over the years my faith was rewarded by wonderful directors and administrators, excellent and enriching coursework, events, and friendships.” McLaughlin says the BYU Honors Program has been hugely formative in his intellectual development. “It would be impossible to narrow down a favorite experience, but the list surely includes: founding the interdisciplinary Polysophical Society discussion club, serving on the Honors Student Leadership Council, the 320 experience (both as a student and as a TA), and hanging out in the Honors Office.”
McLaughlin’s recommendation to incoming Honors students might be surprising: slow down. “I worry that students tend to view the Honors Program as a sort of fast track to graduation for smart kids. I had so many friends who would take 18 or 21 credits a semester; I occasionally did as well. But eventually, I realized that making time to think, to read for fun, to have long conversations, to attend lectures and participate in service opportunities that don’t have direct bearing on your immediate goals or add glitz to your resumé tends to improve the quality and depth of your ideas—not mention your quality of life—much more than squeezing in another class or part-time job would.”
In the fall, McLaughlin plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Political Science at Columbia.
Every year a number of BYU Honors Program students are recognized for their academic achievements through various awards, scholarships, fellowships, and acceptances into prestigious universities for graduate work. Academic Excellence is the first pillar of the Honors Program and we are proud to see what our students accomplish.