Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Comps: seniors reflect on unique experiences

<ment students begin their Carleton career, they are conditioned to fear the looming beast that stands between them and graduation: the “senior integrative comprehensive Exercise,” or “comps.”

While comps is a universal requirement at Carleton – serving not only as a capstone, but also as a way of preparing for the “real world” – each person’s experience tends to be unique. This is particularly true for students pursuing special majors and those in the fine arts. The following chronicles of three seniors’ experiences with comps highlight the frustrations, joys and growth that come with the integrative exercise.

Emily Ban: Dance 
Emily Ban is a double major in Dance and French and Francophone studies. Ban’s Dance comps consists of three components. The first component is the choreography of a multi-part piece to be performed by Semaphore Dance Company, which she has been working on since junior year. The second is the performance of a solo choreographed by a dancer from the Twin Cities and performing a dance solo. The third and final portion of Ban’s comps is that she designs and coordinates production for the performance of these two pieces.
Throughout the process, Ban said, she “expected to have a really cool experience,” but was shocked at how “incredibly consuming comps would be.”

“I always look forward to doing my comps, and I really want to pursue it,” she said.

Ban said that working on her dance comps made her want to keep choreographing throughout the rest of her life. 
In reflection and advice for prospective dance majors, as well as all kinds of underclassmen, Ban stresses the importance of “choosing a major with comps in mind.”
“If you are not interested in the comps, maybe think about the decision to declare that major, because comps is an experience that you really want to invest yourself fully in, and it will consume your life,” she said.

Ban’s comps will be performed during the third week of spring term.

Hannah Trees: Special Major
Hannah Trees is special majoring in “Self, Community and Interpretation.” She is compsing with the religion department, writing an analysis of the modern/post-modern existentialist movement, which focuses on analyzing the work of existential theological thinkers such as Soren Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich.

Her current experience with comps has led Trees to offer candid advice to future compsers.

“Don’t start from scratch,” Trees said of choosing a comps topic. “Think about your coursework and what your background is in, and go from there. It is more important to do a comps that is feasible over what is interesting.
 “It’s hard to feel capable if you have only taken one class in what you are compsing in,” she added.

For many students, comps is a dreaded and impossibly stressful experience. Trees views the opposite, saying she was “surprised people make a big deal about comps, when they really shouldn’t.”

“While comps may be a capstone to your Carleton career, it is really just another research project, one that most people have done before,” she said.

Trees mentioned that a major problem with working on comps is that it coincides with planning your life after Carleton.

“Its hard to concentrate on comps when you are worried about your future,” she said. “Often you have to work on both at the same time.”

Hannah Lucal: Studio Art
Hannah Lucal is a studio art major with an emphasis on film photography. Her comps is rooted in women’s health activism and gender-based violence.

In conceiving her comps, Lucal coordinated with the HOPE Center, a Faribault-based organization dealing with sexual and domestic violence. Through the center, she connected with two survivors of gender-based violence and constructed a comps project that reflects on how sexual violence exists in the world around her.

Lucal largely enjoyed the independent study aspect of comps.

“I was able to actually speak with individuals and connect with the community beyond Carleton,” she said. “It was more engaging than doing a project in the library or Boliou.”

Lucal emphasized how comps helped her in focusing on her future.

“I am fortunate that because I am at a liberal arts school and an art major, my comps allowed me to combine what I love to do in art with something I really want to work on in the future, which is women’s health activism and gender-based violence,” she said.

Every senior has a different take on the idea of comps, but in any case, it is something every budding Carl will have to face.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *