Baccalaureate days arrive at New College

By Derek Devine

New College student Eli Weiss defends his thesis at a recent baccalaureate examination.
New College student Eli Weiss defends his thesis at a recent baccalaureate examination. Photo by: Rachel Nogues

Each spring, thesis students at New College showcase their expertise as they present a baccalaureate examination. The audience — typically a mix of faculty members, classmates and close friends — tune in to a passion-filled presentation and intellectual conversation that signifies the final step of their undergraduate experience.

A baccalaureate examination is an oral defense of the student’s performance in three areas: senior thesis, area of concentration, and the student’s overall undergraduate education. Students choose a thesis topic in the fall and conduct endless hours of research while working hands-on with key faculty members to structure the thesis. The examination is a culmination of four or more years of work where students display their expertise, prepared for the outside world.

For Maribeth Clark, associate professor of music at New College, baccalaureate exams become a moment when the idea of an academic community as a conversation becomes real and students enter into it with their own work.

“Those of us who are professors know that in order to do our work, we engage with others through our writing, at conferences, in our data gathering, lab work, performances and shows,” says Clark. “Baccalaureate exams are an opportunity for the student to be the expert and see how other experts react to the outcome of their thesis or project. It is an opportunity for meaningful reflection for both faculty and students.”

The baccalaureate committee, made up of a senior thesis sponsor and at least two other faculty members, conducts the examination. The committee assesses students’ ability to express ideas and information orally, and provides feedback and a final performance evaluation.

Passing the baccalaureate examination is the capstone of the continuous cycle of research and experiences students have throughout their time at New College, from students’ first independent study project to completion of the final thesis. Students work alongside faculty members to enroll in and design courses that foster a sense of critical thinking and encourage participation on campus and in the community. How students have chosen to participate in academic, artistic and social communities during their time at New College comes together at the time of examination.

New College sets aside Baccalaureate/Reading Days during which no classes meet and thesis students complete the required baccalaureate examination. For nonthesis students, this time is essential as they prepare for the end of the semester, including the final week of examination, advising and evaluation. Many also take the opportunity to observe their friends’ baccalaureate examinations and get a preview of what awaits them during their final semester at New College.

New College holds baccalaureate examinations two to three weeks prior to the semester’s end. The dates reserved for baccalaureate exams during the Spring 2019 semester are April 22-24 and May 9-10.

For more information on New College’s academic programing click here. https://www.ncf.edu/admissions/why-new-college/unique-academic-program/

— Derek Devine is the social media manager at New College of Florida.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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