The senior thesis is the capstone project of an Oakcrest student’s education and a cherished academic tradition at the end of the school year. Working with a faculty advisor, each senior writes an in-depth, 10-15 page research paper on a topic of her choosing from an interdisciplinary perspective.
The most valuable outcome of the senior thesis is the chance for students to enhance skills that are the foundation of future academic success. This capstone experience is a true celebration of genuine scholarship. It exhibits our students’ creativity, intellectual engagement, mental discipline and the ability to meet new challenges.
Traditionally, Seniors present their theses to the whole school in a formal presentation. Although seniors will not be able to present at the school building this year, they are not letting the challenges of distance learning stop them from forging ahead with this beloved tradition. During these next two weeks, the Class of 2020 will begin Virtual Senior Thesis presentations, to be held over Zoom for a live audience that will include family, teachers, thesis advisors, the senior class, and any interested sophomores and juniors.
English teachers, Lisa Kenna and Caeli Beckert, who lead the senior thesis process, felt that it was important to move forward with the presentations, since they form some of the most memorable accomplishments of the Oakcrest educational experience. “Through the past eight years, the thesis project historically has become a treasured academic component and a valued experience that carries forward into students’ college life,” they note. “We often hear from Oakcrest graduates in college how beneficial the senior thesis becomes within their studies and assignments.”
This year’s theses represent a wide variety of academic interests on the part of the seniors. Topics include:
The Bard in Broadway: How Shakespeare’s Works Influence Modern Theatre
“Courage, Dear Heart”: The Necessity of Courage in Leading a Flourishing Life
How the Pagan Achilles and Pagan Heroes Differ from Christian Heroes Like Joan of Arc, and What Makes a True Hero
True Freedom and Human Fulfillment: American Literature’s Portrayal of the American Dream
The thesis is both a challenging and dynamic process, one in which each student hones her skills in research and persuasive writing. It requires intense organization and planning, and students build on the basics of explication, analysis and synthesis they’ve learned over the years. At the beginning of the thesis process, each student picks her topic and is assigned an advisor who meets with her and guides her through the project. The advisor is a member of the Oakcrest faculty or staff who has interest or expertise in the subject the senior is writing on. She helps with everything from acting as a sounding board for ideas to reviewing a student’s rough drafts. This year seniors also took a public speaking class with Oakcrest theatre director Dr. Kristin O’Malley in preparation for their oral presentations.
Ms. Kenna and Ms. Beckert are confident that in spite of the challenges, this year of presentations will be one to remember. “This will be a bold statement of the dedication of the seniors to their thesis this year and a manifestation of their commitment to persevere until the very end,” they say. “The presentation will not only be a mark of their achievement at Oakcrest, but it will also stand as a testimony of courage to their classmates and to their teachers.”
In the midst of the challenging circumstances, Oakcrest School is celebrating the members of its senior class, who have been admitted into universities around the country, including the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Virginia, The College of William & Mary, and Boston College. See the full list of Class of 2020 college acceptances.