Senior Thesis Presentations: Class of 2020
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 2020 will present in the Senior Thesis competition to be held Monday-Thursday, April 20-23, 2020 with the Final Fourum on Friday, April 24. This will be followed by the remaining advanced senior thesis presentations to be held the following week.
As soon as the detailed schedule of presentations is finalized, it will be located below.
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 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:
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?
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.
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.