Capstone Thesis Program
“Christianity reveals the sacredness of the word—a truly divine gift to man. For this reason, our speech is endowed with tremendous power. . . . It can sow the seeds of a question, of the possibility of a different approach to life, of the desire to know more. We have no idea, in fact, how we constantly influence one another by our words. . . . To control speech is to recover its seriousness and its sacredness.” Alexander Schmemann
At The Geneva School, words are at the heart of what we do. As our students grow in wisdom and virtue, they learn that eloquent speech has power, whether for good or ill. In their final year of rhetoric studies, students focus on deliberative speech, which moves an audience toward responsible action in accordance with what is good and fitting. Seniors come to understand that to make a good argument requires them to consider an idea in a reasoned way, to take a clear and specific stand, and to go to great lengths to understand and refute opposing viewpoints. Their training culminates in the Capstone Thesis, a well-researched and carefully articulated argument about a contemporary issue that is presented according to classical arrangement and defended before faculty members, parents, and peers.
Each senior is assigned a mentor who helps the student narrow and clarify their argument, gives feedback on their writing, and provides encouragement. During the course of the year, students visit a research library, read, reflect, discuss, and interview an authority on their subject, all in an attempt to learn all they can about the history of their issue and to situate it within the greater conversation about what is good. Then, with their particular audience in mind, they explain what they have learned and propose a way forward, writing and rewriting the different sections of their thesis before presenting it to the public. It should be noted that the thesis represents the student’s own understanding and does not necessarily reflect the position of the school or the student’s mentor.
In order to succeed in this challenging task, seniors must commit to growing in a number of skills and habits: careful research, clear and organized writing, judicious time management, humble response to criticism, tenacious commitment to truth. These skills and habits will serve them well in college and in life, whether they use them to write a research paper, a business proposal, or an impassioned plea before a school board or city council. But we hope that beyond these practical benefits, the Capstone Thesis will help the students get in touch with—and maintain—a passion for making the world a better place, guided by a love for God and his creation.
Each year, one senior is awarded the Capstone Thesis Award. The 2023 recipient of this award crafted a thesis paper whose argument, despite its complexity, was cogent and which marched along in an organized, readable, and compelling manner. Her reading throughout the year was wide and deep, and in her thinking and writing she was, according to her thesis mentor, “unrelenting in her pursuit of clarity.” She delivered and defended her thesis with eloquence and poise and passion, but also a winsome humility and openness.
In recognition of the excellence of her thesis entitled “Resurrection Takes Practice,” the 2023 Capstone Thesis Award was given to Aubrey Clark.