The Senior Exercise in anthropology consists of a core of common readings, three seminar meetings at which the seniors and all faculty members in anthropology discuss these readings, and an examination in which students write a take-home exam in response to one question from a list provided by the faculty. The topic of the seminar generally requires an integration of three subdisciplines, and readings are frequently from new books that faculty members are exploring for the first time. The goals of this exercise are to place faculty and students together in the roles of expert and colleague, to critique and analyze readings together orally, and to have each student produce a synthetic essay out of this common experience.
Seminar meetings take place during the early months of the fall semester. After these three meetings, the faculty members construct between two and four essay questions, and students select one for the exam. Students have approximately one month to complete the essay and are encouraged to discuss their ideas with faculty members and to utilize additional sources based on either library research or readings from other classes. The essay due date falls just before the Thanksgiving break. Faculty members evaluate the papers and students are notified in writing about their performance in December. Each student's paper is read by a member of the faculty, who will also provide written and/or oral comments. If a paper is considered for distinction or a rewrite we will elicit a second faculty member to evaluate the work. Some students may be asked to rewrite that paper at this point.
Faculty members judge student performance not merely on the quality of the essay (clarity, insight, and technical proficiency) but also on participation in the whole process of the exercise itself, especially the timely submission of the essay, as well as thoughtful and active participation in the discussions. Any extensions for completing the Senior Exercise must be approved by the dean for academic advising and support, following the same procedures in place for obtaining an Incomplete for any course.