Aristotle, Bernini, Tolkien: Old Teachers are Forever New in the Junior Project

by Thomas More College on May 15, 2012

“The Junior Project is a rite of passage at Thomas More College,” said recent alumna Aja Cowhig.  “To be able to say that you completed—and passed—your Junior Project is a tremendous feat.”

Each year, Thomas More College juniors work one-on-one with a professor to study, over the course of a semester, a major writer, idea, or body of literature.  Students have chosen to focus the content of their projects on a philosophical idea, a novel, a body of poetry by a certain author, a series of political treaties, the writings of a saint or theologian, the works of a particular painter, or the music of a composer.

“I have loved Tolkien for as long as I can remember,” said junior Marielle Gage. “I was thrilled with the opportunity to foster my interest and really immerse myself in his works, especially after studying him during the College’s Oxford Program last year.”

The Project allows students to delve deeply into a subject matter that is of particular interest to them.

“It is insufficient to simply read a certain work or mechanically memorize the lines of a poem,” said Lucy Domina, Class of 2010. “You truly must engage deeply the core of a text, idea, composition, or conversation and hit upon how, why, and in what way things come together to become what they are.

At the close of each semester, after hundreds of hours devoted to reading and reflecting, Thomas More College juniors present their Junior Projects before a panel of professors.

“I will never forget this moment,” said Lucy.  “Relying solely upon a short page of points, a handful of written quotes, and primarily my memory, I entered the Helm Room of the Library. I took my place at the head of the long wooden table—a seat usually reserved for the professor. There I sat in the role of the teacher, dressed in formal attire, conversing with my professors over the topic I studied so intensively that semester.”

“The JP is stressful,” said senior Molly Lloyd. “During that semester I had to push myself, but about halfway through the presentation I thought, ‘wow, this is really fun!’”

The purpose of the Junior Project is to allow students to study for the joy of learning, and not merely to “get a good grade.” In fact, no grade is given despite the project being required to graduate. Students at Thomas More are taught that to learn is a gift, and to be able to express what you have learned is an even greater gift—and even a duty.

The class of 2013 Junior Projects:

J. R. R. Tolkien

Baroque Painting

G. K. Chesterton

Karl Marx


Robert Penn Warren


Gerard Manley Hopkins

Josef Pieper


A Short Story (composition)

Benedict XVI on: Culture


Benedict XVI on: Deus Caritas Est

De Koninck on: Primary of the Common Good

C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters

Milton’s Paradise Lost

Plato’s Political Thought

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