Portrait of Nicholas Lasinsky '23, curator of The Hundred Tongues of Rumour exhibition on display in the Rebecca and Rick White Gallery. Photo by Patrick Montero

What They Learned: Nick Lasinsky ’23

For his thesis, the double major in history and English examined the effect of built space upon a mining community.

Nick Lasinsky’s senior thesis was inspired by an internship with the National Park Service in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The double major in history and English says that his internship allowed him to more fully examine the effect of built space upon a mining community. 

One of Lasinsky’s biggest takeaways was the depth of every topic he examined.

“My thesis clocked in on the lengthy side—119 pages—but I could have written even more if I had the time and energy,” Lasinsky said. “What is so amazing about history is the way that it uncovers the layers upon layers of stories stacked beneath just about anything in the modern world. After writing this thesis, I literally cannot look at a building without insensitively picking it apart—wondering about the power dynamics behind its design and use. This kind of intense analysis literally changed the way that I look at the world. Close examination pays off. In history, the harder you look, the more you will see; the deeper you dig, the more you will uncover—and that was a thrilling lesson to learn.”

The Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, native hopes that his research fulfilled that guiding mission of historical work: consolidating and synthesizing disparate scraps into a story that makes sense. 

“Before my project, for example, very few individuals had written on the Calumet & Hecla Copper Mining Company Hospital,” said Lasinsky. “There were plenty of primary sources, blueprints, some news articles, a couple of paragraphs jotted here or there. But nobody had yet taken the time to sit with the hospital, to gather all of its sources, look at them as a whole, and start to draw conclusions from its design. That cultivation, that exhaustive gathering and thoughtful meditation on the fragments of the past is what the best history achieves.”

Associate Professor of History Andrew Friedman was the guiding force behind his thesis, transforming it from a confused amalgam of observations into focused and refined argument. 

“My proposal initially consisted of a vague interest in the built world of the copper mining town of Calumet, Michigan,” Lasinsky said. “Professor Friedman helped me to hone in on four specific buildings (school, library, hospital, theater), and examine each structure’s relationship to built power, resistance, and corporate paternalism.” 

Lasinsky’s thesis has greatly influenced his future career path as he discusses his short and long term plans.

“In the short term, I plan to work at the Northampton County archives near Easton, Pennsylvania as an archives technician, and then transition to a graduate program in Library Science,” Lasinsky said. “I hope to work with physical archives in a hands-on capacity for my career, and the thesis offered me the chance to operate as a researcher, giving me a sense of what archival patrons are after. It’s a viewpoint that I hope to be able to leverage in my time as an archivist!”

In his final reflections of his work and looking back on his research, Lasinsky concludes that “writing a history thesis takes sacrifice.”

“My final copy is the product of late nights, exhaustive reading, frustrating feedback, endless edits, and many agonizing dead ends,” Lasinsky said. “Writing is hard! But it’s also rewarding, and it rewards those who go the extra mile. I highly recommend that anyone doing a thesis that relies on extensive writing sets aside the time and energy each week to pour a little of themselves into the work. It’s an incredible opportunity that many of us will never get again; take advantage of that chance, because there is no feeling like the satisfaction of producing something you can be deeply proud of.”

“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.