Students in the Upper College (the junior and senior years) are given an astonishing amount of freedom and a daunting amount of responsibility. They pursue coursework in their concentration, take advantage of a huge range of opportunities for individualized study, and produce a senior thesis. We encourage students to study outside and across the boundaries of traditional disciplines—a hallmark of a Simon’s Rock education.
Students who moderate and are admitted to Bard College at Simon’s Rock’s Upper College pursue a curriculum for their last two years that leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree. This curriculum encourages students to design a course of study for the junior and senior years that balances depth of specialization with breadth of interdisciplinary study. Working closely with a faculty committee, each student in the Upper College shapes a coherent, individual program that builds on the strong general education core of the Lower College and offers the opportunity for concentration in areas of particular interest.
One of the elements of the Upper College at Simon’s Rock is a commitment to interdisciplinary study that embodies the faculty’s convictions that the complexities of the world do not fall neatly within the conventional boundaries of academic disciplines and that general education should not end with the AA degree. Another is the requirement that all Upper College students complete a Senior Thesis—by which Simon’s Rock seniors demonstrate that they have developed the ability to think critically, to synthesize, plan, organize, and complete a major independent project, and to express themselves coherently and confidently in writing. A third is the small size of the program, designed to ensure that students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty members who know and care about their interests and goals.
The faculty views the interdisciplinary emphasis of the Upper College as especially appropriate to the unique mission of Simon’s Rock as an early college because it strongly believes that our younger students are best served by being encouraged to explore the breadth of the liberal arts and sciences as undergraduates. The faculty is also convinced that this is the best preparation that students can receive for any professional or career path that they may eventually choose. In the Upper College at Simon’s Rock, students have extensive opportunities for advanced individual work with faculty members. Small classes and seminars, tutorials, and independent studies define its highly individualized character. Internships, extended campus projects, research, fellowships, and performance opportunities enable students to connect their classroom learning with the use of knowledge in the world.
Concentrations and Complements
During Moderation, a student designs a program of study consisting of an area of concentration that has been designed by the faculty at Simon’s Rock. These concentrations (described in the next section) consist of 16–24 credit programs of intermediate and advanced study in a particular area of knowledge. Some concentrations fall within a single academic division or discipline, such as chemistry, psychology, and art history; others, such as African American studies and environmental studies, bring information and perspectives from different fields to bear on a particular locale, population, or subject.
In addition to the concentration, students choose a complement to the concentration that gives evidence of interdisciplinary breadth. The complement is a group of courses (16–24 credits) in a liberal arts subject area that: Fulfills the requirements of a second faculty-designed concentration; constitutes a concentration designed by the student in consultation with his/her moderation committee; or develops the interdisciplinary or disciplinary aspects of the chosen concentration in a meaningful fashion. See Leave to Study Away for policies regarding the application of transfer credits toward program of study requirements.
The Interdisciplinary BA Seminar
To support Simon’s Rock’s emphasis on general education throughout the undergraduate program, each semester the faculty offers interdisciplinary BA seminars on topics of broad interest to BA students. BA students are required to take at least one of these seminars during the course of their junior or senior years.
Specifically designed for BA students, the seminars bring together students and faculty with various interests and experiences to examine topics that cross disciplinary boundaries. Thus these seminars encourage discussion both of the topics at hand and of the modes of analysis applied to them by thinkers from different fields, periods, or philosophical, theoretical, and political positions.
The Senior Thesis
A focus of students’ senior year is the Senior Thesis. A year-long, eight-credit project, it offers seniors the opportunity to complete a significant, extended study that is the culmination of their baccalaureate work at Simon’s Rock. Students are expected to work independently on the thesis projects they have defined and developed themselves while drawing on the resources of a faculty advisor and thesis committee. While projects differ in their modes of analysis and expression (e.g., some include performances or activities), they all result in a substantial written thesis that is bound and placed in the permanent collection of the College library.
In preparation for writing the senior thesis, students submit a preliminary thesis proposal in the spring of their junior year. This proposal, which includes a précis of the proposed subject matter and a list of possible committee members, is reviewed by the Policy and Program Committee, which approves assignments of thesis advisors. Just before the start of the fall semester of their senior year, rising seniors are required to participate in the Senior Thesis Workshop, a two-day orientation to the thesis writing process that presents thesis expectations, research and writing strategies, and an opportunity to work on the thesis proposal. The Senior Workshop concludes with a meeting between students and their respective thesis advisors. Throughout the year, thesis advisors and thesis committees meet regularly with students to evaluate progress and provide guidance.
Recent theses have taken many forms: Critical studies in literature, sociological research, exhibits of paintings or ceramics, musical compositions, novels, plays, translations, groups of poems or short stories, scientific experiments, solutions to significant mathematical problems, choreography, production and performance of dramatic works, economic and environmental impact studies, and combinations of many of these forms.