While a masters thesis isn’t required for either of our graduate programs here at St. John’s, students do have the option to write one, and I decided to write one as part of my masters in Eastern Classics. Much like all essays here at St. John’s, the masters essay is a bit different than your typical thesis. It’s not a piece of research, but rather a sustained engagement with a particular question and particular text.
This was relatively familiar to me since I’m a graduate of the undergraduate program here at St. John’s. I always really enjoyed the essay writing process; it was a really helpful way to work out difficult questions I had, or problems I was stuck on. So I was naturally eager to return to essay writing in the graduate program, and jumped at the chance to add a masters essay.
The masters essay bears some similarity to the senior essay. I connected with a faculty advisor and submitted a submitted a topic proposal the semester before I intended to complete the essay, and then turned in a 30-60 page final product a month into the new semester. For students in the Master of Liberal Arts, the similarities are heightened by the fact that the essay can take the place of a preceptorial, giving them a reduced class load while they work on it, although they still have seminar and a tutorial. In the Eastern Classics, the essay is simply in addition to your course load.
I actually really appreciated this; while the senior essay was an amazing opportunity to drop almost all other responsibilities and focus solely on producing a piece of writing, the masters essay gave me a chance to figure out how to produce a significant piece of writing while still attending to other responsibilities, which will be important to me as. long as I have a job and want to keep writing! For the first time, I feel like I have a strong grasp on how to juggle the type of writing I enjoyed doing as an undergraduate with the responsibilities I have now.
In addition, working with a faculty advisor was as amazing as ever. The tutors are an incredibly brilliant bunch, but more than that they really care about working with students—it’s what they came to St. John’s to do! The support I got from my advisor was not only critical to the essay writing process, it also helped me to clarify the direction of my own thinking and interests more broadly, in a way that I think will be incredibly helpful after the end of my masters program.
Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to submit a masters essay, and I would recommend it to anyone currently studying at or considering the Graduate Institute.