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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Seniors commended for culminating projects

Weekends and nights in Baker-Berry are most Dartmouth students' worst nightmares, but some determined seniors dedicated multiple terms in the library in hopes of realizing the Dartmouth experience to the fullest. Seniors, underclassmen, administrators and faculty gathered at the Top of the Hop Tuesday evening to reflect on senior projects such as honors theses, senior fellowships and culminating work in the arts.

At this year's eighth-annual Academic Gala, sponsored by the Offices of the President, Dean of the College and Dean of the Faculty, seniors shared their experiences with underclassmen in hopes of encouraging participation in similar independent research opportunities.

Through seniors' testaments, gala attendees gained a glimpse into the often hectic yet rewarding world of senior projects.

"Looking back on it, I think it really is Dartmouth done right," said Andrew Verstein '05, who recently completed a philosophy thesis.

Undertaking a senior project constitutes a huge commitment that often requires sacrificing social and other commitments, according to Alexandra Fleming '05, who spoke about writing a thesis in the earth sciences department.

"A very small percentage have the ideal thesis situation," Fleming said. "An even smaller percentage actually come up with the idea on their own."

Unlike an honors thesis, which count as two classes in most departments, the senior fellowship is a unique opportunity for Dartmouth students to spend their senior year completing an intensive independent research project rather than taking classes.

Christopher "Zeke" McMullen-Laird '05 described the Senior Fellowship Program as his reason for attending Dartmouth. McMullen-Laird, hoping to work as a musical conductor, completed his senior fellowship on Mozart. He stressed the importance of fund-raising and having a close personal connection to advisors as essential to a successful senior fellowship.

"I didn't have the classroom, studio, lab, Dartmouth experience at all," he said, emphasizing the program as good preparation for graduate school and tenure reviews.

McMullen-Laird described his fellowship experience as one of long hours spent in his office in the West Wing of Baker Library.

"More than anything it's freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility," he said.

Gala attendees were provided with a conference program, which detailed each senior honors thesis and listed where they received funding. The booklet lists a variety of available funding sources for undergraduate research at Dartmouth, ranging from the John Sloan Dickey Center to the Office of Residential Life.

President James Wright lauded the work of students who chose to complement their undergraduate career with a senior project. He said he viewed participation in a senior project as complimentary to the Dartmouth undergraduate experience as well as students' post-graduate careers.

"Your work will serve as a lifetime of joyful learning," Wright said. "This learning is Dartmouth's eternal purpose."