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 & Christian Thought, our students focus on deliberative speech, which moves an audience toward responsible action in accordance with what is good and fitting. Their training culminates in the Capstone Thesis, a well-researched and carefully articulated argument presented according to classical arrangement and defended before faculty members, parents, and peers.
By the time they reach their senior year, Geneva students have had numerous opportunities to practice logical thinking and public speaking. They 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, establishing their credibility along the way. The Capstone Thesis gives the students a “laboratory” to put these skills of persuasion into practice. With the goal of promoting human flourishing, seniors dig deep into the history of a contemporary issue or problem, looking at its causes and previous attempts to explain or rectify it. Then they propose their solution.
Each senior is assigned a mentor to help them narrow and clarify their argument, give feedback on writing and delivery, and provide encouragement and accountability. During the course of the year, students visit a research library, read, reflect, discuss, and write and revise a number of drafts as well as a short deliberative speech, an annotated bibliography, and a report on a personal interview they conduct with an authority on their topic.
All Geneva seniors write the thesis paper and deliver it as a classical oration. The skills of research, organization, critical thinking, and persuasive eloquence in writing and speaking that the students develop through this project serve them well in college and in life, whether they use them to write a college 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 helps 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.
Capstone Thesis Award
Each year, at graduation, one student from the senior class is awarded the Capstone Thesis Award. In recognition for her urgent yet hopeful call for new treatment options for victims of concussion, I’m proud to present this year’s Capstone Thesis Award to Christina Hering.
Christina approached this daunting task with seriousness and enthusiasm, with a dogged determination to persevere through difficulty, and with a joyful desire to bring clarity and hope to others. Her thesis paper demonstrated a remarkable ability to combine lucid descriptions of personal experience with a careful synthesis of recent scholarship. And if you were lucky enough to hear her speaking and defending her oration, you know that it was authoritative, eloquent, and compelling.
Christina’s thesis is entitled “What’s Wrong with Me? Understanding the Reality of Concussions and Their Treatments” You may read it and/or watch it by using the links below: