As part of the McDaniel Plan, every McDaniel student needs to complete a culminating project their senior year. These projects, commonly referred to “capstones” or “senior seminars,” depending on the major, are a way for students to embark on a major project of their choosing within their major.
Because I’ll be doing my senior sem in English in the fall, last week, I attended two full sessions of senior sem presentations to get a feel for what the presentation aspect of the English senior sem is like. (I had also planned on attending today’s session, but I decided that I desperately needed to take a nap.)
During the presentation time, senior English majors have 20 minutes to present some of the main ideas of their capstone papers, which are at least 25 pages long. In two afternoons, I got to see seven excellent presentations, ranging from rhetorical analyses of topics such as the SCAR Project and beer blogs written by women, to readings of creative nonfiction pieces that were both heartbreaking and powerful.
I’m really glad that I went to two entire sessions instead of just going during the times my friends were presenting. I learned about a lot of fascinating topics and heard some compelling life stories. Going to full sessions was also reassuring. People tend to get really freaked out about their presentations, which is completely understandable, but I found that once things got rolling, the atmosphere in the room was actually pretty relaxed. If the presenters slipped up, it was not the end of the world, and it was clear that everyone who came to watch the presentations (many with tea or coffee in tow) were there to enjoy them, not to make the presenters feel nervous. I hope I’ll be able to remember this atmosphere leading up to my own presentation at the end of next semester!
Once the semester ends and summer starts, I hope to start some preliminary reading, research, and material gathering for my own senior sem paper so that I can hit the ground running come fall. My plan is to do a rhetorical analysis of autobiographical web comics that focus on clinical depression, and I’ll be writing about comics that I’ve encountered on Tumblr, as well as comics from the blog Hyperbole and a Half. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s a topic I’m passionate about, so it will be a fun and rewarding way to bring together all the skills I’ve learned in my rhetoric, writing, and even literature classes to create a meaningful project.