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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 Class of 2017 Senior Thesis presentations were held Monday-Friday, April 24-28, and we are very proud of all 18 presenters for rising to the occasion and reminding us what the fruit of a classical education looks like. You beautifully embodied the "good man speaking well," and we look forward to the many opportunities you will have to stand up for Truth and change.


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.


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.


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.


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 their theses in May. The students are then seeded by their grade in the course, and the nightly schedules are based off of that seeding. Details of both tracks are as follows:


The students who accept the invitation will present on a public stage the last week of April, promoted with much publicity. 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?


Those students who are not in the competition in April will present their theses 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 24 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room

In her thesis, Sarah Everett will explain the harmful effects artificial turf can have on athletes' bodies and explain why Veritas Academy should have natural grass fields at the new campus. Over the last few years, arguments about the safety of synthetic turf fields has taken root. ESPN, FOX Sports, and other major companies have begun to express their views on these crumb rubber fields on shows like E60: Turf Wars. In many cases, these companies are unsure how to react to the statistics showing the dangers of these fields. 

In her thesis presentation, Elianna Chavez will explain why the state of Nevada should illegalize prostitution.  She argues that women in the legalized sex industry are exposed to physical dangers inside and outside brothels in Nevada. These legal prostitutes are caught in a cycle of drugs, abuse, and financial instability.  She argues that the legal sex industry has created opportunities for illegal prostitution, violence, and sex trafficking to occur. 

In his thesis, Alsten Okpisz will discuss why the United States needs to conform its usage of solitary confinement to United Nations standards in order to uphold their reputation as a nation which values human rights. He cites the high monetary costs and dangerous mental effects among the pressing reasons why this reform needs to take place. 

In his thesis, Jonathan Jasper will argue for the discontinuation of gene-editing technologies in humans which directly change the subject’s DNA. He will provide background information on these so-called germ-line edits, and hopes to caution the audience of one such method of therapy called “CRISPR/Cas9.” He argues these technologies should not be used as they are currently inefficient, operate without the consent of the patients, and infringe upon human nature.

Tuesday, April 25 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room

In his thesis, Nathan Peckman will address the flaws of the ROE, or rules of engagement system, under which U.S. troops operate in combat. Specifically, he will advocate for a reduction of the emphasis the ROE places on protecting noncombatants. He will argue for these changes on the grounds that the current ROE cause unnecessary deaths of troops and civilians, put troops at a psychological disadvantage, and encourage enemy exploitation of the regulations.  

In his thesis, John Burk Merryman will be discussing Artificial Intelligence and why it shouldn’t be regulated in the United States. He will show that AI is vital to keeping a competitive market, explain the superintelligence and why regulating AI is impractical, and reveal how it can help improve humanity. 

In her thesis, Aubrey Bryant will argue for a national increase in the production of nuclear energy in an effort to curb the effects of climate change and meet the nation’s rising energy demand. She will explain how nuclear energy is a safer, cleaner, and more dependable source of energy than alternatives.

In his thesis, Luke Dodson will present the pitfalls of modern-day pornography and its adverse effects on the individual user and society as a whole, calling for enforcement of a stringent, federal statute, which bans pornographic material.  While some may see pornography as an inherent freedom in the U.S., Luke will show that its purpose and nature makes it one of the most pervasive and dangerous digitalized drugs in the world, psychologically and physically enslaving millions.

Wednesday, April 26 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room

In his thesis presentation, Graham Wheelock will address the current flawed state of SWAT units in American police departments. He argues that SWAT teams need more oversight and that putting uniform national standards on SWAT operating procedures will reduce the number of improper and unnecessary raids performed each year. In a time where controversial police shootings seem to be increasing in frequency, new SWAT regulation should improve the quality of specialized police units, and therefore reduce wrongful deaths.

In her thesis presentation, Madeleine McCracken will present reasons for the preservation of the Electoral College in America.  She is arguing that it is essential to America’s checks and balances system, and that it is far more practicable than a national popular vote system.  She also argues that in light of recent technological advances, the presence of actual electors is no longer necessary.

In her thesis, Devon Hood will discuss the Clery Act, which requires universities to publish Annual Security Reports and issue emergency notifications in a timely manner. She will examine the weaknesses and loopholes in the law that have allowed colleges to cover up serious crimes and disregard their students’ safety, especially in cases of sexual assault. She argues that clearer terminology and direct federal oversight will hold universities accountable and protect students and staff from institutional misconduct. 

In her thesis, Shaida Shahinfar will petition for the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act to be passed. By passing this bill, crimes falsely charged against sex trafficking victims, such as prostitution, are able to be permanently erased from their records. By removing these charges, victims are able to not only physically be freed from slavery, once they are rescued, but they are also able to have a clean record. Opportunities such as housing, visas, and tuition will be more easily accessible if charges are removed from their records.

In her thesis presentation, Berkeley Bresemann will be arguing that the United States should increase the number of Syrian refugees it lets into the country. As she discusses the Syrian refugee crisis that has risen to its peak with millions of Syrians in need of assistance, she will prove her stance by describing the safety of the vetting process, how Syrian refugees are an asset to the states, and why the United States has the duty to reduce the Syrian refugee burden that has resulted in over-crowding many other nations.

Thursday, April 27 at Austin Ridge Bible Church - Southwest

In her thesis, Jamie Marmor will address the current lack of effort addressing lockdown procedures and how America can change its efforts to actively ensure security during shooting events, particularly in schools. She will discuss the overview of options-based procedures (run-hide-fight), a new program that has proven to be more useful for institutions in recent years. She will also talk about the leading program for such a procedure, the ALICE Training Institute, and how this company has made an impact on safety in schools.

In her thesis, Erin Copeland aims to prove that the MMR vaccine should be made mandatory in the U.S., regardless of personal beliefs. She will speak to how the MMR vaccine is made, examine disease outbreaks, and discuss the effects of the MMR vaccine.

In his thesis, Joel Harper will argue for the abolishment of cash bail in the American criminal justice system. This discussion is particularly relevant against the backdrop of mass incarceration in America. Joel will cite its inefficacy in deterring future crime, draining social and economic impact, unconstitutionality, and failure to keep the public safe from the truly dangerous 

In her thesis, Emma Bruce will discuss the effects of the National Endowment for the Arts on art and artists. She hopes to demonstrate why the NEA should be defunded, while exploring alternate art funding methods. Her thesis will touch on the effectiveness of the NEA, art censorship, and how government subsidization fits into America’s history and culture.

In his thesis, Brendan Warner will talk about how racial profiling, the use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense, is employed by law enforcement agencies all around the United States. He will argue that this method of policing is harmful not only to citizens, but ineffective and unconstitutional, and thus harmful to law enforcement. Brendan will argue for the End Racial Profiling Act, which aims to address the issue of racial bias

Friday, April 28 at Austin Oaks Church - Upper Room

Four presenters will advance to the Final Fourum and have the opportunity to compete for the Senior Thesis laurel and a scholarship from the Reid Collins & Tsai LLP team of trial attorneys.