When Is a Paper More Than Just a Paper?


At St. John’s College, your senior thesis isn’t just a paper.  It’s the culmination of all previous work, a labor of love and a rite of passage all rolled in to one.  And I had the unique privilege of watching the Santa Fe Seniors celebrate the completion of their papers this past Saturday.

Perhaps I should take a few steps back and explain.  I don’t just work for the Admissions Office—I am also one of the Santa Fe Campus’s Senior Residents.  The bumper sticker explanation is that there are six of us who are either members of the staff or the faculty who have decided to live on campus.  We take turns chaperoning official college functions and being on-call for any emergencies that should arise.  But mostly, we are a resource for students—a sounding board, a source of support, and a person to answer your question whether it be about Dante or doing laundry.  And ultimately I think that last reason is why we all choose to be Senior Residents.

I knew when I wrote my own paper two years ago that it was one hell of an experience.  I was proud of the work that I put into it and I could tell how much it had really driven home the finer points of my SJC education.  But I don’t think I was able to see how much fun it was until I was given the opportunity to be on the outside looking in by chaperoning the Senior Essay Party.  Seeing the smiles on the faces of the well-dressed students as they rang the bell in Weigle Hall, or the excitement as they showed their friends the bound copies that they would be submitting to the President in just a few moments, made me remember how very much the people at this college that I celebrated that milestone with made a difference in not just my experience, but also my education.  A BIG difference.

The beauty of a St. John’s education is that while our Academic Program asks that our students study the same works, each one of us has a very personal and in some ways different experience because of the voices that are in the classroom with us.  No two junior lab classes have the same discussion about Faraday’s writings.  Each sophomore Seminar may decide to explore different aspects of Augustine’s Confessions.  And senior language classes tend to have more impassioned conversations whether it be about Flaubert or Baudelaire, but it seems that the content always varies from class to class.

And the truly great thing about the senior thesis is that the college has handed its students an opportunity to explore anything from the program in greater detail.  Talk about having the chance to really make this education your own!  I doubt the students that were celebrating last Saturday night have had the opportunity to realize this yet.  But I sincerely hope that they have all realized how very proud they should be of themselves.  As an alumnus, a staff member, a Senior Resident, and, in many cases, a friend, I’m exceptionally proud of all of them and really enjoyed being able to witness their celebrations and successes!  Congratulations to all of the seniors in Santa Fe and Annapolis on this outstanding accomplishment–and a special thank you to Santa Fe Seniors India Cochrane and Hannah Herbst for sharing their smiling faces with us in the photo above!



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