Why the Senior Thesis Matters

A marble statue of a woman.

Although most community members know that the senior thesis project is the pinnacle of the Ridgeview experience, some may not fully understand its significance.

On the most basic level, the assignment reflects the completion of the Latin trivium, utilizing most directly the final stage: rhetoric. It requires the expression of ideas not simply memorized, but reasoned out and strung together in a thorough, logical way.

More radically, it embodies Ridgeview’s primary purpose: to provide minds with a liberal arts education – an education concerned with freedom of the mind – in a world where most education has become emotionally charged and vocationally directed.

Those who have attended a thesis understand that, though products of the mind, presentations are neither emotionless nor impractical. Instead, Ridgeview seniors interweave the questions of how they should live and why they believe this to be true.

These are questions that very few adults can answer, in my experience. Surely, very few people examine themselves this deeply. Ridgeview seniors are asked to give eloquent solutions to humanity’s problems not because it is easy, but because it is necessary. These young adults are not required to be right, but they are required to provide evidence for why their view is good, beautiful, and true.

And, in my experience, all of them are able to touch on these, and most are able to grasp them firmly. Every thesis is backed by the Greek concepts of freedom and order, the Medieval comparisons of right and might, the American struggles of change and stability,  the modern questions of cruelty and humanity, and so much more. When each student has grappled with such questions, their answers contain immense experience and depth.

Thus, the senior thesis becomes both a graduate’s justification and Ridgeview’s validation. Ridgeview has often quoted Goethe, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” And thus, in asking eighteen-year-olds a timeless question, Ridgeview invites them into the conversation the faculty has worked so hard to prepare them for.

If you want to know why a Ridgeview education matters, attend a couple theses. The students speak for themselves, boldly and eloquently. I would also encourage you to keep up with Alumna in Residence over the next couple months as graduates reflect on their own senior theses, offer advice, and explain why their theses still matter.

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