Class of 2020: Scripps’ 13th Annual Capstone Day Delivers Virtual Symposia

This story is part of our “Celebrate the Class of 2020” series. Click here for more!

Since 2008, Scripps College’s Capstone Day has highlighted outstanding senior thesis projects. Nominated by faculty, senior presenters share original projects in a range of disciplines and media—the culmination of the thinking, writing, and research they’ve been working on towards their degree.

“Capstone Day 2020 provides an opportunity for families and friends to step into our classrooms virtually and get a glimpse into the outstanding scholarship produced by our students,” said Scripps College President Lara Tiedens in a video address at the start of Capstone Day.

This year, Capstone Day took place on Zoom, with 46 students presenting their work in 12 video sessions.

“Despite the loss of access to libraries, laboratories, studios, kilns, pianos, practice rooms, and many other resources, our seniors produced outstanding, creative senior theses,” says Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Biology Jennifer Armstrong. “We are pleased that by moving our students’ thesis presentations from the classroom to the computer screen, Capstone Day 2020 is now accessible to friends and family across the world.”

“I’m excited I was able to share Capstone Day with my family. They don’t often get the chance to see my academic projects firsthand, and they can’t wait to see the results of all my hard work this semester!” says Leah Kaye Nadir ’20, a dual major in psychology and music. Her thesis presents a series of lesson plans that demonstrate how “movable-do solfege,” a system of naming notes in a music scale based upon their function, can be used to introduce young students to the fundamentals of functional harmony.

Nina Zietlow ’20, a dual major in Middle East and North Africa studies and humanities, presented her thesis, “(Re)reading Fanon: Tracing Revolutionary Negotiations within the Algerian Colonial Dialectic,” which aims to re-center the importance of the Algerian colonial and decolonial processes to the work of psychiatrist and theorist Frantz Fanon. “I owe all my work on this thesis to my professors across the 5Cs,” she says. “I was able to work closely with my readers, Professor of History Andrew Aisenberg and Associate Professor of History at Claremont McKenna Heather Ferguson, [whose] guidance allowed me to write an interdisciplinary thesis that combined my passions for North African studies and critical theory.”

Tova Cohen ’20’s thesis, “The Necessity and Detriment of Shame as Presented in John Calvin’s Institutes,” explores the concept of shame as both formative to Calvin’s theology and essential (and detrimental) to the maintenance of today’s puritanical society. For her, Capstone Day retains its sheen as a virtual event. “I am overjoyed and grateful to have received a nomination from Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Christianity Luis Salés. I’m grateful to everyone who made this research possible.”

Chemistry major Michelle Wang ’20 was going to present her thesis, “Kinetic and Mechanistic Investigations of a Silver-Catalyzed N-Formylation Reaction,” at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in March, but it was canceled. “I’m glad I got one last send-off for my work,” she says of her participation in Capstone Day.

But no Capstone Day is complete without soccer. In years past, Capstone Day has concluded with a friendly—but competitive—match between students and faculty. This year, the tradition lived on, but with a twist: Faculty, staff, and students submitted videos of themselves showing off their skills, which were then compiled into a video montage. Each person is seen passing the ball over to another Scripps community member, highlighting the community’s continued connection and sense of play.

“The whole day, from the scholarship to the soccer, was incredible,” Armstrong says. “The inspiring senior thesis videos are a testament to the resilience of the Class of 2020. Our seniors have displayed flexibility, adaptability, perseverance, and most of all—grit! Scripps College is proud to celebrate the Class of 2020.”