By Magdalena Dajka, ‘20
Last week, four intrepid members of the Thomas More College junior class came before their professors to defend their Junior Project. A unique aspect of the College’s curriculum, the Junior Project is a semester-long focused examination of a great work of Western thought. In their third year, each student selects a work and spends a semester researching it under the guidance of a faculty advisor. At the end of the period of study, the student presents and discusses his findings with a panel of three faculty members during an hour-long defense. The College officially describes the defense process as follows: “The student must demonstrate not only depth of insight into the particular readings completed, but breadth and eloquence; in short, he demonstrates that he has been attentive not only for a semester, but has worked to integrate the knowledge of his various courses with the emergent interests that he has in a particular area.”
As most students attest, it is during the junior year at the College when all the courses taken and knowledge gained over the previous two years begin to take shape and form a whole; it is also in the junior year that students take rigorous philosophy courses and are introduced to the seminal thinkers of modernity. The Junior Project is part of this intellectual development; it allows the student to become intimately familiar with a particular work or author and to see the connections between his topic of interest and all other studies at the College. Not only does the Junior Project provide solid preparation for the Senior Thesis—it also gives the student a greater appreciation for the rigorous intellectual formation which Thomas More College offers, as well as the maturity and confidence to put that formation to the service of researching a topic and engaging in a formal conversation about it with his professors.
The week of Junior Project presentations is always an exciting time at Thomas More College, as the students support and encourage their classmates and friends in what all recognize as a “rite of passage.” This most recent first round of Junior Projects took place the week after the Thanksgiving break—all others will occur early next semester. Four juniors who had been preparing diligently for weeks presented their findings on works ranging from Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, to Edith Stein’s Essays on Women. In most instances, the Junior Projects are open to students, who sit in rows of chairs adjacent to the conference table in the Helm Room. They do not ask questions or engage directly in the defense; rather, they are there to support their classmates, to witness their friend’s defense, and to learn more about a work with which they may or may have familiarity.
Once a junior has finished defending his project and is waiting for the faculty panel’s decision on whether he passed or failed, the student body gathers on the hill in front of the White House. When the student walks out of the front door of the library in token of his passing (which was the case for all of these Junior Projects), the onlookers raise a cheer and take turns congratulating their fellow student—perhaps there will be flowers for the young lady or a rousing folksong for the young man. No one knows when or how this practice became an informal tradition, but it testifies to the beautiful interplay between the academic life and the rich community culture of Thomas More College. We look forward to the next round of Junior Project defenses this coming February.
Thomas More College
Junior Project Defense Schedule
|TIME & PLACE||STUDENT & TOPIC||ADVISOR||MODERATOR||3RD FELLOW|
|Tuesday, December 3, 4:45–5:45 p.m., Helm Room||Taylor Sbat, Edith Stein, Essays on Woman||D. Kitzinger||Thompson||Fraser|
|Wednesday, December 4, 1:15–2:15 p.m., Helm Room||Owen Zaleski, Shakespeare, Hamlet||W. Fahey||Fraser||Powers|
|Thursday, December 5, 4:45–5:45 p.m., Helm Room||Patrick Kuplack, Gerard Manley Hopkins||A. Fahey||Fraser||Powers|
|Friday, December 6, 1:15–2:15 p.m., Helm Room||Sean Tuffy, Marlowe, Dr. Faustus||Fraser||W. Fahey||A. Fahey|