Senior Comps

Oxy student Miriam Hamburger in front of her senior comps project

Senior “comps,” or comprehensives, reflect Oxy’s educational philosophy of learning deeply and independently.

Comps are the senior-year theses, field research projects, art exhibits, presentations or creative works required by academic majors at Oxy to demonstrate mastery of the subject. Each discipline defines its expectations differently, but they all challenge students to expand and excel intellectually, and place the capstone on their educational experience.

A U.S. News & World Report survey of senior academic officers nationwide included Occidental among the top 12 institutions “with stellar examples of senior capstones” (in the good company of Brown, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale). The comps experience is rigorous but rewarding, resulting in a substantive intellectual contribution and a launching pad for future professional or graduate work.

You might draw your comps inspiration from your diverse surroundings in Los Angeles or your research and exploration abroad. Whether the subject is the emotional geographies of the Great Migration, the international politics of the Butterfly Effect, or generating music using artificial intelligence, senior comps inspire many Oxy students to unimagined heights. They are a distinctive and memorable part of an Oxy education.


Past Senior Comps Projects
 

Zander Silverman ’17
UEP major

Zander explored the potential benefits of an afterschool skateboard mentoring program pairing college students with middle-schoolers in the Pasadena Unified School District. “It was incredibly fun and invigorating to get to interact with the kids,” he says. “Every interview I had inspired me and pushed me to work harder.”

 

Chelsea Blankenchip ’17
Biochemistry major

After reading a wealth of scientific literature, Chelsea chose to examine the intersection of viruses and bacteria, specifically how viruses could be used to detect bacterial pathogens. The most important thing she took away from her comp “was the ability to work independently,” Chelsea says. A side benefit? Boosting her self-confidence about public speaking. “I was happy that I was able to complete my presentation, despite all the nerves leading up to it.”

 

Toby Ellentuck ’17
Media Arts and Culture major

Inspired by an Oxy class called Sustainable Justice, Toby studied how reality TV shows like “House Hunters” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” contributed to the subprime mortgage and housing crisis—and how the demise of the Sears catalog’s “Modern Home” kits (sold from 1908 until 1940) dovetailed with the Great Depression.

 

Miriam Hamburger ’17
Religious Studies major

Miriam explored how “Native American art and its subsequent marginalization reveals discrimination within the Western art world and how art is a political tool in challenging such an oppressive framework.” The music and images of the DJ collective A Tribe Called Red, shown here, can be looked to as a guide for “art as activism,” Hamburger writes.

 

Cynthia Magallanes-Gonzales ’17
Sociology major

Cynthia interviewed more than 28 refugee mothers from poor or developing countries who took work in Morocco to better provide for their families back home. A quote from one of the women provided the main title for her comp: “I’m not a good mother now, but I will be in the future.” After graduation, she returned to the country on a Fulbright Scholarship to expand her comp research.