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SMC seniors cap off year with comp projects

Erica Rangel | Tuesday, November 9, 2004

For many Saint Mary’s seniors with little more than a semester left, only one major assignment stands in their way – the senior comprehensive.Commonly known as the “comp,” the graduation requirement aims to be a capstone for each student’s major.Comp requirements generally vary from major to major. Business majors complete a group case project and 25 to 30 page paper on a company, while music majors select a 19th or 20th century piece to present and perform. Science and math majors work on research projects, and liberal arts major comps generally include a paper and exam. Depending on the major, comps can begin junior or senior year and last one to two semesters. Senior Jodie Emerick says her comp may have led to late nights, but she does not regret all the hard work put into it. “It was demanding but has helped me to see how all the different parts of the business major come together, ” she said.Some schools have programs like Saint Mary’s, while others have “capstone courses,” and some require students to write senior theses. Faculty dean Patrick White said some colleges have even modeled their senior comp programs after Saint Mary’s. “Other colleges have occasionally asked for our advice on how we structured our advance writing and comps, because they are looking to establish such a program,” White said.White said comps offer students something tangible to take out into the real world.”They give each student the opportunity to show the breadth and depth of her understanding of her major [and the] … ability to produce a significant piece of work in her major,” White said. With seniors feeling nervous about approaching comp due dates, the tension is flowing over into the minds of junior students as well. “Just seeing what the seniors are going through now makes me a bit nervous about what my last year at Saint Mary’s will be like,” junior Talia Matury-Vacaro said.However, this experience provides future alumnae with confidence to handle the research, writing and thinking necessary to tackle any problem, project or task in the real world. “Alumnae surveys invariably identify the senior comprehensive as the most important activity of their experience in the biology department,” biology department chair Thomas Platt saidWhite said despite the long hours keeping students from other activities ultimately the comp is worthwhile.”Life beyond college is full of little and not-so-little projects that are like our comps, and Saint Mary’s students, according to employers and graduate professional school advisors are able to handle anything thrown at them,” he said.