It’s mid February and this is actually the first week that seniors are back in classes. After all students returned to campus in mid January, the seniors were allotted a four week writing period to complete their senior theses, which each graduating senior submits in partial fulfillment for their degree. This four week writing period–during which the seniors have neither class nor seminar–is one of the greatest aspects of the process. Seniors are free to wake up at their leisure, schedule their days according to their work habits, and write with abandon. It’s perhaps the only time many of us will get in our lives to write, read, and think about a work of our choice, without any other concerns. Writing period gave seniors the time and space to truly think freely.
To help aid with this stressful, but also wonderful time, the community came together and designated a space on campus open only to seniors: a senior writing lounge. The writing lounge was open 24 hours, there were constantly snacks donated from various offices on campus, there was a Keurig coffee machine (often used into the wee hours of the morning), couches, desks, balloons, and words of encouragement galore! The purpose of the lounge was first and foremost for seniors to write, but it also became a central part of the seniors’ life, offering a space to communicate, socialize, and talk ideas. I often visited the lounge just to have a snack and talk about the joys and pains of the writing process with other seniors going through the same thing. Kelsey Miller in the Alumni office spear-headed this effort, but she involved the entire community in it, which really bolstered the senior class. Every other day, a different office on campus donated a different snack to the senior lounge. Needless to say, it was a great spot.
Because the writing period is so unstructured, the writing process really differs for everyone. Some start early in the fall, others don’t decide what they’re writing on until later in the year, some choose their advisors junior year, others not until much later, some meet with their advisors often, and others are more hands-off. For all the differences, the likeness is that in mid February, each senior hands in a senior thesis and celebrates their achievement. This celebration took place last Saturday at the Hunt House, an off campus house gifted to each current President to live in during their term at the college.
Seniors had to complete their essay on Saturday. Upon completion, seniors bound their essays in folders, and at any time during the day could visit Weigle Hall with their friends to ring the college bell in the bell tower–a symbolic representation of their achievement. Then there were shuttles back and forth between campus and the Hunt House that ran from 7 until 9:30pm. Each senior, as they entered the Hunt House, hung up their coats, handed in their essay, and Mr. Aamot read their essay title and name aloud, after which a gong was struck. Once entered, students mingled with classmates and tutors. There was celebratory food and champagne, and a toast took place at the end of the evening. Upon returning to campus, seniors were collected from the shuttles by juniors and taken to the Great Hall for J-Skit, a skit where juniors reenact and roast the senior class, after which a party followed. The happenings of last Saturday have been tradition for years and years. Victory tasted so sweet when it was surrounded by support and followed by celebration and ceremony.
Senior writing period is just another example of how St. John’s College embodies tradition but creates free thinkers.