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Intelligence Analysis

Written by Anna Christensen, ('22)

Every Honors Capstone presents an opportunity for students to unite their passions, academic discipline, and creativity, creating projects that are unique, engaging, and speak to an issue that the student cares deeply about. There can be no better representation of this combination of academia and enjoyment then Thomas Bryn, a Senior Intelligence Analysis Major with double Minors in Honors and Geographic Science (and a certificate in Geospatial Intelligence), who has devoted his Honors Capstone to analyzing the parallels between the governments and conflicts within our world to that of the Star Wars universe.  

The project began when Thomas and Dr. Frana would gather to “nerd back and forth” for over two hours once a week, discussing the democracies and the intersections of fiction and reality, a collaboration which he describes as “awesome”. Looking at our political climate through the lens of fiction, Thomas created his Capstone entitled: “Star Wars and Political Thought: An Applied Analysis of World Systems Theory, Evolving Warfare, and Justified Rebellion”. 

Rather than focus on the lore of the popular movies, Thomas instead was drawn to seeing how they could draw people in, then challenge them to consider where the action in the cinema may mimic footage shown on the evening news, from guerilla tactics to informational warfare, from the implications of this place far, far away to discussions of what is considered a rebel. “What happens when we peel back the layers that [Star Wars] has created?” Thomas asks. “What does it mean for the broader world, and how can Star Wars act as a simplification of our own political dialogues and dynamics?” By using a universe most are familiar with and applying sociological principles, Thomas is able to break down how political forces control the masses, how ideas and motivations are formed, why rebellions break out, and when audiences are compelled to root for - or against - these rebels. By creating a “realistic perspective of Star Wars”, Thomas manages to intertwine a story he is passionate about with the political environments he has studied throughout his time at JMU.  

“Intertextuality is key,” he reminds. “When do we view rebels as the ‘good guys’ or as terrorists? When are the ‘good guys’ in Star Wars the villains in our world, and vice versa? What does it mean that we view them differently?” 

Capstone aside, Thomas describes the Honors College as a “choose your own adventure”, with his own involving him being an HON 100 teaching fellow, to helping him complete his General Education early through the Honors classes, to even studying abroad. In the Summer of 2018, Thomas studied in London with Dr. Pennington, learning about gothic architecture for a Victorian Honors class. The expedition was fully funded via a scholarship, and Thomas looks forward to being able to revisit the city one day. 

Thomas has also been a dedicated member of the Marching Royal Dukes all four years of college, serving as a Drum Major for his senior year, as well as section leader his sophomore and junior years. The quality of the people and “great program philosophy” served as catalysts for his intention to serve to better “set the tone” for this final bizarre year. Additionally, Thomas served as the President of Tau Beta Sigma, a music service sorority, in addition to being a member of the JMU Student Government as a College of Integrated Science and Engineering Senator. 


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