Spring break is normally a time for students to relax and unwind. Not Xenia Schneider. The senior spent her spring break this year presenting a paper based on her senior thesis at a conference sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. Schneider's paper was one of the few undergraduate papers accepted.

Xenia Schneider, '09
Leadership Studies and Latin American and Iberian Studies
Honors, Donchian Fellow, Jablin Fellow
Captain, UR tennis team, JSGA Senate, SAAC member, Peer Advising Associate, LAC instructor in German and Spanish

As a child growing up near Frankfurt, Germany, Xenia Schneider never wanted Barbie dolls and toys like other children. Instead, she wanted dogs and to live on a farm.

"I've always been a fan of animals and nature and the environment," said Schneider. "Growing up I had a French sheepdog - a Briard, which are rare in Germany - named Bijou that I took everywhere."

So when it came time for Schneider to decide during her junior honors tutorial what her research topic would be for her senior thesis, she settled on what seemed like the perfect topic: the ethical treatment of animals.

"I knew that I should research something that I was really passionate about, especially since it would be such a long process," said Schneider, a recipient of this year's James MacGregor Burns Award.  

She briefly considered focusing on World War II or a topic in business but ultimately decided on animals - even though she says at first she was a little embarrassed that people might think it was a childish topic. As Schneider discovered, there is nothing childish about researching a topic that you're passionate about and one that critically examines how another living being is treated.   

Schneider's interest in the topic was sparked last summer when she received a grant through the Donchian Foundation that allowed her to do research on the subject and write a paper titled "A New Approach to the Ethical Treatment of Animals: The Equal Protection of the Rights of All Beings." That research, she says, wound up being her thesis in summary. The research took her nearly three months and countless hours of pouring over the writings of philosophers such as Peter Singer, Immanuel Kant and John Rawls, but the end result was well worth it.  

At the suggestion of her adviser in the Jepson School, Dr. Terry Price, Schneider submitted her paper in a student paper competition sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. During exam week, she received an e-mail that her paper had been accepted - and that she would be presenting at the APPE's annual meeting in March.

"The conference was a great chance to go, present and get the experience," Schneider said. "Especially since I definitely want to get a master's degree and maybe a doctorate."

Her research also had an added benefit: "It kind of helped me figure out things for myself and where I stand on certain issues. For instance, I eat meat, but I also own animals. So for me, this was a personal quest to figure out where I stand."

As a result of her research, Schneider says she has reduced her meat consumption by 90 percent. Although she says she is not against people eating meat, she firmly believes that one should not kill animals unless the animal has been raised humanely and it is done for food.

And yes, in case you're wondering: that includes spiders.