Students Prepare to Defend Junior Projects | Thomas More College

Students Prepare to Defend Junior Projects

by Bridget Ruffing, ’22

Under normal circumstances, the Junior Project presentations take place at times evenly spread across both semesters of the academic year. Due to the ongoing unpredictable nature of international travel, the class of 2023 had to postpone their semester in Rome until this past fall. To allow students the time to enjoy their semester abroad, the presentations were scheduled to take place in two compressed sessions this semester. 

Thus far, eight students have presented (the full list can be found below). Of them, two students, Grace Richert and Michael Swiatek, have been awarded honors for their presentations and defenses. Miss Richert charmed her panel of faculty members and her audience of fellow students with her discussion of Willa Cather’s One of Ours and the motivations of its protagonist, Claude Wheeler. Regarding her experience working on this project, Miss Richert said:

I found that one of the most enjoyable aspects of working on my Junior Project was the opportunity it afforded me to become better acquainted with the novel as a literary form. Prior to this project, I often found myself struggling both to unpack the numerous elements of a novel—such as the ways in which a character develops and how those changes come about, or what the author might be trying to communicate—and to articulate my thoughts on these elements. It was with these weaknesses in mind that I chose One of Ours: I wanted to challenge myself to think through a novel, pulling out themes and ideas, and to articulate my thoughts in a clear, pleasing manner. The challenge proved delightful: my Junior Project gave me an opportunity to puzzle through one of my favorite American novels, One of Ours, and to become better acquainted with one of my favorite authors and her literary tactics. I now find myself far more confident in approaching any novel.

Mr. Swiatek received the same award for his treatment of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy. During his defense, he and his faculty panel weighed the potential benefits and deficiencies of the consolation offered to Boethius by Lady Philosophy. He also brought to light the ways in which this work, studied by every Thomas More student in Humanities III, impacted his view of life and his experiences as a member of the TMC community. When asked why he chose this work as the subject matter for his Junior Project, Mr. Swiatek explained, “The Consolation showed me that philosophy is not the scary, highly specialized discipline that we make it out to be. It presents philosophy to us in a way that speaks to us. It makes it accessible and relatable. It helps us recognize that philosophy is not something that is beyond our capabilities.”

Both Miss Richert and Mr. Swiatek attest to the benefits they received from devoting their time and energy to studying one work—benefits the Junior Project is designed to impart to all students of Thomas More. When asked to provide some insight into the faculty’s perspective on the role of the Junior Project in the curriculum, Dean Thompson expressed:

Much of the program of studies at Thomas More is common to all and prescribed. By contrast, the Junior Project is a truly independent study—both the selection of the subject and the focus of the presentation are determined by the student. The Junior Project allows students—and the faculty who advise them—to dwell for an extended period on a great work, whether one they have encountered in the curriculum or one that arguably could find a place within it. Having the leisure to ruminate, to ponder a great work both in itself and in relation to other things studied, allows for a breadth and a depth of consideration that the pace of the required courses sometimes makes difficult. The Project also allows the individual student to engage in a more focused and sustained conversation with the faculty than is possible in larger, required courses. The presentation and ensuing conversation give students an opportunity to shine, to manifest their learning and wit, in something dear to their hearts.

Miss Richert certainly found herself presented with this same opportunity. She said, “By spending numerous hours rereading One of Ours, examining Willa Cather’s letters, and perusing various articles that explored different takes on the novel, the Junior Project allowed me to think things through and clearly articulate my thoughts in a logical manner. All the time involved in my Junior Project—reading, researching, thinking, writing, and then the defense itself—was a chance for me to take hold of the novel and make it something of my own.”

Everyone has done a remarkable job presenting and defending their Junior Projects thus far, and the entire TMC community eagerly awaits the second and final installment of presentations from the class of 2023. Godspeed, Juniors!

Winter Session:

  • Mr. Patrick Shea, C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory
  • Mr. Judson Bonneville, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Miss Grace Richert, Willa Cather’s One of Ours
  • Mr. Benjamin Wassell, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited
  • Mr. Michael Swiatek, Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Miss Danielle Summers, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
  • Miss Annika DeMaster, St. Augustine’s Tractates on 1 John
  • Mr. Seamus Othot, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

Spring Session:

  • Thomas Greninger, Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed 
  • Sophia Kozinski, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot 
  • Nicholas Hannon, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time 
  • Benedict Lillis, George Orwell’s 1984 
  • Rose Dussault, Beowulf 
  • Jonathan Wright, St. John of the Cross’ Spiritual Canticle 
  • Adam Swift, Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin 
  • Casey Jackson, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden 
  • Andrew Watts, William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
  • Monica Kopeck, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the  d’Urbervilles
  • Paul Harty, Georges Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest
  • Christopher Walters, C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces
  • Bernadette Lloyd, Dream of the Rood


For further reading:

From Hamlet to Hopkins: Students Defend Junior Projects

Junior Projects: Round Two

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