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Whether artistic or analytical, senior projects reflect students’ knowledge and understanding of a subject, say BYUH professors

A man writing on paper with a black and gold pen. He is wearing a blue button-up shirt.
Each major has a different senior project at BYUH.

Deans and professors from four different BYU–Hawaii programs describe the major projects required for seniors to graduate. From art shows to a 20-page paper, each senior project is specific to their major and allows students to research and explore a topic of their choosing.


Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Letters Patricia Patrick said seniors in the English Program must present an argument, theme or idea of their choice with scholarly research. She said there are professional or creative options, but it must be 15-20 pages, citing 12-20 academic sources.

Examples of creative options include movie scripts, poems and commentaries or prefaces on short stories, she explained. Upon completion, she said, seniors present a condensed version of their final project to faculty members. The presentation should last 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for questions from the audience.

“A good senior thesis reflects that you spend a good amount of time reflecting on it, thinking about it [and that you were] willing to revise your own thinking and ideas,” Patrick said.

Visual Arts

To complete a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in the Visual Arts Program, seniors must complete a multiple-part project that includes a research paper, 100 sketches, a presentation and a BFA show, said Jihae Kwon, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts & Letters.

Media students utilize print, two- and three-dimensional art work, as well as motion graphics, packaging design, etc, Kwon explained.

Kwon said this year students chose themes such as spiritual self-discovery, the hero’s journey and respect for Hawaiian history. The 100 sketches must relate to their topic, explained Kwon. Students propose their sketches and research on what they hope to create and their intended medium.

In the two-week BFA show, students present their work at the McKay Auditorium Lobby. The final project must include graphic design elements, Kwon added, such as typography, composition, logos, etc.

Communication, Media and Culture

Mason Allred, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts & Letters, said for their capstone project, seniors in the Communication, Media and Culture Program must write a 20-page paper on a topic of their choice and analyze any media relevant to their topic. Some examples of past topics include: the use of fear in political discourse, feminism in Disney princess movies and representations of mental illness in films, explained Allred.

He added this capstone project is split across two courses. In COMM 360, or Communication Theory and Method, students pick their topic and conduct preliminary research; then, in COMM 490 or Senior Seminar, students implement their own analysis on their topics.

Allred said one of the goals is for students to “look at the media in a new way” or “set up a research design to notice or analyze something no one else has thought of.”

The capstone project showcases a student’s knowledge, ability to analyze media and apply theory, explained Allred, and it helps them gain a better appreciation for media and culture.

Exercise and Sport Science

Joel Reece, an associate professor in the Faculty of Sciences, said seniors in the Exercise and Sport Science Program are required to conduct a two-part research project over two semesters.

During the first semester, he said, seniors research a topic of their choice and develop a research question related to it. “You have to find studies that have already done stuff in that area, and then see what they’re saying needs to be done next.”

Performance enhancement tests, descriptive studies and correlational studies are some of the general topics, Reece shared.

During the second semester, students conduct an experiment, he added. He said they must submit an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application that qualifies an individual to conduct their research. The application must explain what the project is and that it is safe for participants.