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Senior Thesis Presentations

Senior Thesis Presentations

 

Culminating many years of rigorous academic effort and accomplishment, Veritas Academy Seniors face their final hurdle in the Senior Thesis capstone event in which each student presents a 20-minute memorized oral presentation on a topic they have researched for the entire year, followed by a 20-minute defense before a panel of judges.

The top 16 students in the Class of 2018 will present in the Senior Thesis competition to be held Monday-Thursday, April 23-26, with the Final Fourum being Friday, April 27.  This will be followed by the remaining advanced senior thesis presentations to be held Monday-Wednesday, April 30-May 2.  The detailed schedule of presentations can be found below.

 
RHETORIC COURSE

All students who will complete a thesis will enroll in Rhetoric. This course meets twice weekly for an hour. There are daily speaking exercises to refine the students’ public speaking presence. Additionally, students are taught effective research methods and how to craft winsome arguments for their speeches.

ADVISORS

Each student will be assigned an advisor. The advisors are volunteers whose goal is to help the student along the way. Students are required to meet with their advisors six times throughout the course of the year, but they should feel free to meet more frequently if desired.

GRADERS

Each student will be assigned a grader. The grader will assess each checkpoint and ensure that adequate progress is being made. There will be three main drafts that will receive a full mark-up by the grader.

 
OVERVIEW

The final draft of the research paper is due at an assigned date around the end of March or beginning of April. At this point, some students will be selected (Note: students will be graded using the Senior Thesis rubric; any who submit a passing paper at this deadline will be “selected”) and invited to participate in the Senior Thesis Competition. Students who are not selected for the competition or decline the invitation will present either in the evening the following week or during the day throughout the month of May. The students are then seeded by their grade in the course, and the nightly schedules are based off of that seeding. Details of all three tracks are as follows:

TRACK I: ADVANCED SENIOR THESIS COMPETITION (TOP 16)

The students who accept the invitation will present on a public stage the last week of April. Their speeches must be memorized and their panelists will include one or more experts in their fields of study. The winners from each night will present again in the Final Fourum at the end of the week. Each nightly winner will receive a small scholarship to be credited to his/her college bookstore, and the Final Fourum winner will receive an additional $2,000 scholarship that has historically been sponsored by the Reid, Collins & Tsai team of trial attorneys in Austin.

Students who successfully present in the April competition will receive credit on their transcripts for “Advanced Senior Thesis,” and their GPA will be weighted as an advanced course. These students will also be eligible for the Distinguished Diploma if they meet all the other criteria for this honor.

Judging Criteria – Winners for thesis are selected by a team of four (the Final Fourum quorum) that deliberate late into the night each night of the competition (discussions usually last for three or more hours). Presentation quality is definitely a factor in determining who wins, but it is not the factor, as the thesis is a yearlong project requiring deep research, quality writing, and the thoughtful crafting of the message to be delivered. The four members of the panel consider the five canons of rhetoric, the Q&A session, and other factors. They are outlined below:

INVENTION - The crafting of argument: Has the student used all means available to him/her to craft his/her arguments? Are the arguments sound and convincing? How is the logic? Are the arguments supported by a wealth of evidence? Are they well wrought?

ARRANGEMENT - The ordering of the speech: Is the argument easy to follow? Is the proposition clearly stated? How are the transitions? Did the listener ever feel lost? Was each section clearly separated from the others? Was there a piece of evidence or an argument that was in the incorrect place or would have worked better elsewhere?

STYLE - The, well, style of the speech: Are there memorable phrases? Was the speech fun and easy to listen to? Did the speech ever become boring or burdensome? Was the student winsome? Were the sentences carefully crafted? Did the student use any notable tropes orschemesin crafting his/her words? Was it repetitive? Was it, in a word, sonorous?

MEMORY - This one is pretty self-explanatory: Did the student have ready, fluid recall of his/her speech? Did s/he ever have to check his/her notes (this doesn't hurt the grade, it's just for comparison)? Were the student’s "hiccups" large or small?

DELIVERY - The quality of performance: How were the gestures? How was the cadence? Was the delivery wooden? Did the audience feel nervous for the student, or put at ease? Did the student seem natural and at home on stage? Did s/he make eye contact with the audience? How was his/her poise?

Q&A PORTION - Did the student answer the questions to the satisfaction of the judges? Did s/he demonstrate deference and humbleness? Did s/he interrupt? Did his/her answers reveal a depth of research, or did it reveal holes in the research? Did the student have ready answers for the most pressing questions (the ones s/he should really know)? Did s/he have knowledge of the source material and pertinent studies? Did the Q&A period reveal any large holes in the student’s reasoning?

"OSES" - These are measured for both the speech and Q&A portion. They are the three modes of appeal:

Ethos - Did the speaker establish him/herself as trustworthy, well read, informed, and morally upright? Did s/he make moral arguments from this already established solid ground?

Pathos - Did the speaker craft his/her arguments in such a way as to tug at the heartstrings of the audience? Did these arguments seem contrived? Did the student stealthily guide (in a moral way, of course) the emotions of the audience?

Logos - Was the student’s speech and Q&A free of fallacy, and was it logically sound?

TRACK II: ADVANCED SENIOR THESIS PRESENTATIONS

Students who wish to earn the advanced senior thesis, but are not in the top 16, will present in the evening during the week after the competition.  The expectations and grading are the same as during the competition, but they are not eligible for the scholarship.  Students who successfully present will receive credit on their transcripts for “Advanced Senior Thesis,” and their GPA will be weighted as an advanced course. These students will also be eligible for the Distinguished Diploma if they meet all the other criteria for this honor.

 
TRACK III: MAY SENIOR THESIS PRESENTATIONS

Some students may elect to present during the school day in the month of May. Veritas will not publicize the schedule for these presentations, but students may invite anyone they want to attend. The presentation quality should be excellent, but the speech does not have to be memorized. The panel of judges will consist primarily—or perhaps entirely—of members of the Veritas faculty, staff and/or board. Students presenting in May will be eligible for the Veritas diploma if they meet all the other criteria for this honor. Their papers and presentations will be assessed using the same rubric applied to the advanced senior theses (sans Memory), however, they will be afforded a 10-point curve. Their transcripts will read “Senior Thesis,” and their GPAs will not be weighted for this class.


Monday, April 23 at Austin Ridge Bible Church Southwest - Sanctuary (Top 16)

In her thesis, Angelica Arana will argue for the repeal of the Robin Hood Act from the state of Texas. She will explain how the Robin Hood Act is unconstitutional and provides unequal funding to both property-poor and property-wealthy public school districts in Texas. Angelica hopes to reveal the current problems in school funding and the profound effect it has on cities like Austin.

In her thesis, Emma Krone will argue for the passing of the Mental Health in Schools Act. This bill seeks to increase the federal funding for Project AWARE, a pre-existing program that helps equip public schools with the resources to address mental illness in adolescents through school-based mental health care. Emma will highlight the importance of early intervention and prevention, and why schools are the most effective and efficient places for this mental health care. 

In her thesis, Honesty is the Best Policy, Cynthia Swartzel will reveal the medical malpractice epidemic in modern health care. She will then advocate for a nationwide institution of medical error disclosure and apology programs. After examining financial, legal, and ethical arguments, Cynthia will maintain that we can be idle no longer: the healthcare system must normalize honesty.

In her thesis, Madelyn Wibbenmeyer will argue that states should adjust their laws to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18. She will address the loopholes in laws that allow children to be coerced into marriages before they can legally consent to sex. She will present the harmful physical and mental effects of early wedlock and show that children are not ready to make the serious decision of marriage.


Tuesday, April 24 at Austin Ridge Bible Church Southwest - Youth Room (Top 16)

Catharine Anderson's thesis, Healthcare or Wealthcare?, advocates for the institution of a universal healthcare system in America. After describing the ills that infect America’s current healthcare system, she will explain how the Bismarck model of universal healthcare would cure them. She will discuss the benefits of this system in terms of expenditure, effectiveness, and equality. She hopes to present a new perspective on this issue that will enhance her audience’s understanding of it.

In the Fall of 2017, Truitt Jenkins planned to argue that the United States federal corporate tax rate be lowered to 20%, in his thesis. This actually occurred in December of 2017 leading him to argue that the United States federal corporate tax rate should not be changed from what is currently ideal regardless of who holds office. He will explain how the recently lowered rate increases government revenue, keeps businesses in the United States, and expands the wealth of all Americans. 

In her thesis, Sarah Henselman will propose that federal and state funding for roads and bridges be increased. She will explain the current climate of transportation infrastructure: an unacceptable state of disrepair. She will outline the effects poor roads and bridges have on not only the economy but on safety and quality of life. She will also highlight the positive effect better roads have on employment. Sarah hopes that her thesis will spark conversation about a topic often forgotten and lead to changes for the better.

In her thesis, Ashlyn Thompson will argue that the mentally ill need to be given access to assisted outpatient treatment, or AOT, a treatment that will improve mental health as well as providing beneficial social interaction. She then presents a solution to this problem: each state should adopt an involuntary assisted outpatient treatment law. She will point out the positive effects of AOT on the violence and homelessness of the mentally ill, as well as its impact on identifying mental illness. Ashlyn hopes that her thesis will inspire her audience to care for the mentally ill and ensure that their needs are met using the proper kind of treatment.


Wednesday, April 25 at Austin Ridge Bible Church Southwest - Youth Room (Top 16)

In her thesis, Mary Dunsmore will argue that prisons run by private companies, for profit, should not be used by the federal government. She will examine different aspects of prisons and compare the privately run facilities with the government run facilities as well as discuss fundamental flaws in the system currently in place. 

In his thesis, Coby Wilson will be presenting his on the drawbacks of publicly funded Major League sports stadiums.

In her thesis, inspired by her mom’s 11 year career as a hospice nurse, Savannah Taylor will argue that the way Medicare reimburses hospice organizations for their services to the terminally ill is inadequate. This is due to the corruption it causes, the effect it has on the patients, and the variety of patient need. She proposes that these issues can be improved by instituting a four tiered reimbursement rate within the most commonly used form of hospice, Routine Home Care. Savannah hopes her thesis will remind everyone to pay attention to the way we care for people at the end of their life, just as we would want for ourselves and our relatives. 

In her thesis, Lily Wendt will argue that the United States government should mandate that states offer in-home foster care services under the Fostering Connections Act for youth until they reach age 21, as opposed to 18 in many states. She will point out the challenges that youth aging out of foster care face because of this quick transition from full government dependence to complete independence, and explain the positive impact extended care has made in states where it is already mandated.  


Thursday, April 26 at Austin Ridge Bible Church Southwest - Youth Room (Top 16)

In her thesis, Ashley Aurit will argue for the banning of collision sports for all children under the age of 18. She will speak to how repeated head trauma interferes with the development of the brain and increases a child’s risk of developing fatal brain diseases. Ashley hopes her thesis will inspire society to protect children’s brains and preserve their future mental health and quality of life.

In his thesis, Travis Cantwell will argue that the United States should remove the practice of nation-building from its foreign policy toolbox. Characterized by political unrest, prolonged occupation times, and sky-high costs to American taxpayers, he argues nation-building corrodes the reputation of our military both at home and abroad.  Recent examples include involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo. Detailed in his thesis is the bleak track record of this practice and the consequences of failed operations. Travis hopes to see change from U.S. foreign policy-makers to sustainable, effective action with defined goals to combat the failed-state problem.

Karsen Chalmers will be presenting her thesis addressing the current drug crisis and the reasons for implementing federally funded, state-run drug courts. She will be arguing that drug courts provide a far better addiction treatment for low-level drug offenders than the current criminal drug conviction process.

Peyton Price’s thesis will address the need for change in the American zoo system. After identifying the three areas in which this change is needed, she will introduce a solution: mandatory accreditation of all zoos by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Peyton will cover the AZA’s aptitude for increasing conservation action, visitor education, and animal welfare in zoos, as well as highlight why the current standards in these areas must be raised. Through her thesis, Peyton hopes to raise awareness of this widespread yet little-known issue.


Friday, April 27 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room
Four presenters will advance to the Final Fourum and have the opportunity to compete for the Senior Thesis laureate and a scholarship from the Reid Collins & Tsai LLP team of trial attorneys. 

In her thesis, Emma Krone will argue for the passing of the Mental Health in Schools Act. This bill seeks to increase the federal funding for Project AWARE, a pre-existing program that helps equip public schools with the resources to address mental illness in adolescents through school-based mental health care. Emma will highlight the importance of early intervention and prevention, and why schools are the most effective and efficient places for this mental health care. 

In her thesis, Sarah Henselman will propose that federal and state funding for roads and bridges be increased. She will explain the current climate of transportation infrastructure: an unacceptable state of disrepair. She will outline the effects poor roads and bridges have on not only the economy but on safety and quality of life. She will also highlight the positive effect better roads have on employment. Sarah hopes that her thesis will spark conversation about a topic often forgotten and lead to changes for the better.

In her thesis, Lily Wendt will argue that the United States government should mandate that states offer in-home foster care services under the Fostering Connections Act for youth until they reach age 21, as opposed to 18 in many states. She will point out the challenges that youth aging out of foster care face because of this quick transition from full government dependence to complete independence, and explain the positive impact extended care has made in states where it is already mandated.  

Peyton Price’s thesis will address the need for change in the American zoo system. After identifying the three areas in which this change is needed, she will introduce a solution: mandatory accreditation of all zoos by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Peyton will cover the AZA’s aptitude for increasing conservation action, visitor education, and animal welfare in zoos, as well as highlight why the current standards in these areas must be raised. Through her thesis, Peyton hopes to raise awareness of this widespread yet little-known issue.


Monday, April 30 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room

In her thesis, Madeline Simpkins will be arguing that the state of Texas should allow for six out of the twelve weeks provided for by the Family and Medical Leave of 1993 for maternity leave should be paid. She will be presenting how six weeks of paid maternity leave will allow for more women to use maternity leave, therefore providing relief for mothers so that they may recover both mentally and physically. She will also highlight how this would allow for improved gender diversity and performance of companies and the economy. Madeline hopes that this will inspire the audience to be more supportive of paid maternity leave programs. 

In his thesis, Cole Ransdell will argue that the immigration process needs to be more streamlined. He presents a solution to this problem: we need to adjust how many immigrants can come in from more populous countries. He will show the current problems in the process including the long wait times and the various benefits of legal immigration. Cole wishes to shed a positive light on the hardships legal immigrants endure in order to come to this country and how can we help.

In her thesis, Lilly Shaw will argue that the subminimum wage system in restaurants should be abolished and replaced by an alternative system of pay. Waiters and waitresses are essential to American society. Because of the subminimum wage system, however, these workers struggle to provide for themselves. She will explain that the subminimum wage in restaurants increases the poverty rate and leads to tolerance of sexual advances, and then she will explain her alternative system of pay. Lilly hopes that her thesis will raise awareness for the struggle of hard workers in the restaurant industry. 

In her thesis, Isabella Knox will argue against cutting federal funding from sanctuary cities. She will present evidence against the misconceptions commonly held against sanctuary city policies such as their correlation to increased crime. She will discuss the financial repercussions that cities may experience if they are forced to reject their policies and comply with ICE detainers. Finally, Isabella will explain why the actions of these cities are constitutional and how the currently stated policies of these regions all operate within federal law. 


Tuesday, May 1 at Austin Oaks Church - Community Hall

In his thesis, Scott Diehl will be arguing why the NBA should change the one-and-done rule to a zero-or-three rule for high school recruits. 

In her presentation, Corinna Edgar will address the rampant over-prescription of Benzodiazapine- type anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. She will first recap the history of the drug sub-type itself, as well as the steep increase in Anxiety Diagnoses in the past decade and a half. It has become obvious that this drug has no place in adolescent psychiatric care, due to its highly addictive nature and long-term ramifications of its use. She calls the audience to consider less dangerous medications, such as SSRI's, in conjunction with therapy and counseling to provide a more sustainable, lasting approach to anxiety management.

In her thesis, Lisette Falk will argue the reformation of the American College of Gynecologist’s published standard of care. She highlights the current issues surrounding the standard of care, and argues how the doctors need to educate expecting mothers and focus on the health of the mother before birth and postpartum. 

In his thesis, Kris Gammill will argue that Commercial Pet Breeders must be held to higher standards to ensure that the pets from their facilities are physically and mentally healthy. He will highlight both why these changes are necessary and how they should be implemented.  


Wednesday, May 2 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room

In his thesis, Noah Stewart will argue against the use of torture. He will analyze existing US law on torture, then discuss how it's use compromises national security rather than improves it. Finally, Noah will debunk popular notions that torture is effective and provides helpful information. He aims to improve the US’s standing in the world and methods of intelligence gathering as a whole.   Topic is graphic in nature and parental guidance is suggested for younger children.

In her thesis, Mikaela Vaughan will discuss the hazard of having cognitively and physically unaware drivers over the age of 70 on the roads. She will then discuss the benefits of retesting all drivers over 70 for driving competency every two years in the state of Texas. She argues that incapable senior drivers are a hazard to the safety of others on the road and elderly are more susceptible to injury due to their fragility. Mikaela hopes to motivate her audience to encourage dangerous senior drivers to be retested for driver proficiency. 

In his thesis, James Ligon will argue for the demonopolization of the postal industry in order to benefit consumers and the United States Postal Service. He will discuss the inadequacies of the current post office system, and the possible consequences of a free postal market.

In her thesis, McKenna Bailey will argue that noise pollution in the ocean needs to be reduced. To do this, seismic survey companies need to better implement noise reduction guidelines set in place by various marine protection agencies. She will talk about some examples of safer ways seismic surveys can be conducted. McKenna hopes to inform people of a subject that has been neglected and to inspire others to take better care of our oceans.