English seniors begin final project

by Kelsey Brooks

When your major hinges on a single project, it can be understandably stressful.

Senior Teressa Weigel is one student who balances the stress with the rewards of the English senior project.

“It’s a very important project that English majors have to do,” Weigel said. “It gives you a chance to do something you don’t do in class. You can do whatever you want, take chances and dive in. It’s grad-level work and makes graduate school seem a little less scary.”

Graduation for an English major comes with one stipulation – a final project. This year, 23 seniors are completing one – a record number for the school. Professor Todd Lieber, the chair of the department, isn’t surprised by the high number of seniors with English majors.

“There’s been a steady increase in English and the other humanities over the last dozen years,” Lieber said.

The number of students working on senior projects this semester could cause more stress for the English faculty. Every senior works one-on-one with an English faculty member on a final project, which means that the faculty will have more students to work with and more projects to evaluate than in past years.

The project itself can be a research project or a creative work, and students are free to choose their own topic. For example, he or she can choose to focus on a particular author or work, or the student could write a piece of fiction, nonfiction or a series of poems. By the end of the semester, the student is required to turn in a 20-page paper, which is then distributed to the full-time English faculty.

The faculty members are Professor CoryAnne Harrigan, Assistant Professor of Literature, Rhetoric and Composition Beth Jorgenson, Lieber, Professor Nancy St. Clair, Professor Mel Wilk, and Assistant Professor David Wolf. They all read each project and then schedule a time to meet with its author for an oral defense and discussion of the piece.

According to Lieber, there are two main reasons the English Department requires students to do a senior project. By requiring it, Simpson gives students the opportunity to spend a semester on a topic they’re interested in that might not be covered in detail in their classes. Lieber said the department’s overall goal is to test the English majors’ ability to create a solid piece of individual work.

Despite the challenge of the senior project, Weigel said it’s worth it.

“There is a lot of pressure, I mean you stand up in front of five English faculty members, and the pressure is on because you want to do well,” Weigel said. “There aren’t that many parameters, so it’s at your will to do with it what you want.”

Weigel is writing a creative piece for her senior project.

“I am doing a personal essay about life-changing events, so there is a pressure of sharing,” she said. “It is hard to put into words because you want them to grasp the impact.”

According to sophomore Sheena Smitley, the number of English majors at Simpson is likely to stay high.

“With the amazing professors such as Nancy St. Clair, the number of people converting to English majors is definitely capable of increasing,” she said.

Smitley expects the project to be difficult, but worthwhile.

“Because I am not yet a senior and have not experienced the senior project, I can’t say anything other than it seems like an adequate testing of my abilities, and of how well I know the area.”

Weigel knows how she feels about it.

“It helps further your stated literary theory and it’s an awesome opportunity to see how it all works together,” Weigel said.