Tutorials, Junior Project, & Senior Thesis

He is at home in any society, he has common ground with every class; he knows when to speak and when to be silent; he is able to converse, he is able to listen; he can ask a question pertinently, and gain a lesson seasonably, when he has nothing to impart himself; he is ever ready, yet never in the way; he is a pleasant companion, and a comrade you can depend upon; he knows when to be serious and when to trifle, and he has a sure tact which enables him to trifle with gracefulness and to be serious with effect.
–from John Henry Cardinal Newman’s The Idea of a University

Most contemporary courses of study in higher education aim at the production of a specialized skill that will be immediately profitable in the modern economy.  Liberal education, however, aims at the production of a certain kind of human being, a man or woman whose soul is characterized by a love for what is noble and whose speech and action are compelling witnesses to the value of a life spent in pursuit of the good.  At Thomas More College, even those parts of the curriculum which are devoted to specialized learning have a crucial role to play in integral human formation.

TutorialThe College’s tutorial system provides an opportunity for individual students to shape a portion of their course of studies.  Students take one tutorial course in each of their last four semesters of study. Some students will choose to pursue their own personally-tailored course of study in a particular academic discipline.  Others may opt for a systematic testing of different talents and subjects.  In the Junior Tutorials, the classes may be arranged around an author, a genre, a time period, or a problem.  The Senior Tutorials are organized according to more conventional academic disciplines, such as Classics or Literature, or to vocational pursuits, such as Architecture or Education.  In either case, the small size of the tutorials provides for careful training in thinking, writing, and speaking, so that students might further hone the abilities they have gained from the common curriculum.

In the case of the Junior Project—a course of independent reading leading to an oral presentation and examination—and the Senior Thesis, individual student interest and creativity are given a still sharper focus.  The goal of these exercises is less to prove expertise than it is to bring to a level of polish and maturity those skills of analysis, judgment, and exposition that are the very backbone of any liberal education worthy of the name.  These exercises are meant to be the fruits of the whole educational experience and to prove that each student has personally appropriated the wisdom and eloquence that the whole community seeks in common.

Courses within the tutorial system include:

Junior Tutorials
(2 semesters of 3 credit hours each during third year of studies)
The Tutorial System is the vehicle for the exploration of topics that are of special interest of students and professors in small groups dedicated to closely-guided reading, writing, and discussion.

The Junior Tutorials seek to pursue (in greater depth and along particular branches of knowledge) a special subject treated more broadly in the common curriculum, and may be defined according to an author or text, a genre or period, or a question or theme.  Examples might include:  Sophocles, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the Novel, the Pre-Socratics, Descartes & Cartesianism, Nietzsche & Post-Modernism, Periclean Athens, the Crusades, Epistemology, Totalitarianism, Byzantium, Augustine’s Sermons on the Psalms, Aquinas’s Commentary on St. John’s Gospel, or the Pontificate of John Paul II.

Junior Project
(required, no credits during third year of studies)
Arising out of the junior tutorials, this project and examination are the testing grounds for early mastery of the material in the curriculum; both focus upon an author and works of special interest to the particular student.   Working independently, the student prepares over the course of his junior year for an oral examination before a faculty panel.  The student must demonstrate not only depth of insight into the particular readings completed, but breadth and eloquence; in short, he demonstrates that he has been attentive not only for a semester, but has worked to integrate the knowledge of his various courses with the emergent interests that he has in a particular area.

Senior Tutorials
(2 semesters of 3 credits each during fourth year of studies)
The Senior tutorials provide an opportunity for the in-depth examination of a common topic and the honing of essential scholarly skills as well as for a period of directed reflection upon the student’s response to his vocation.  The tutorials are organized around either conventional academic disciplines (Classics, History, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, and Theology) or, at times, more directly vocational disciplines, such as Architecture, Economics, Education, and the Law.

Senior Thesis & Comprehensive Examination
(2 semesters of 2 credits each during fourth year of studies)
During the last year of study, the student prepares, writes, and presents a thesis accompanied by a formal address on a topic chosen with the guidance of a faculty mentor.  The defense is given publicly and involves both a comprehensive examination, and a précis and speech that afford the opportunity for further review and reflection upon the totality of his studies.