Senior Independent Projects Give Students the Courage to Take a Risk

Independent study is an essential aspect of a St. Stephen’s education. Each year, Upper School students are presented with a number of opportunities to explore and pursue ideas they are interested in and passionate about. These initiatives encourage students to think beyond their own needs, to inspire one another and to apply what they have learned in the classroom to make a positive difference in our world. 
During the fall semester, seniors are afforded a chance to pursue a passion project that piques their curiosity. As part of the process, interested seniors submit an application and an initial proposal for consideration to Jodi Blount and a small committee of faculty and staff members.
“It’s not for every senior, but we definitely have around 20 that apply every year,” says Jodi Blount, Ph.D., fine arts and piano instructor and director of the Senior Independent Projects program.

If selected, students are able to complete two of their academic classes early, five weeks before graduation, to focus that time on their senior project. This year’s proposals ranged from a political podcast about young voters to a short film, interviewing and shadowing medical doctors, new murals for the Chapel and more.

Designed by former college counselor Jonah O'Hara, Blount says the goal of the program is to give self-motivated students time to take risks and explore something outside of daily classes and extracurriculars. And through the years, students have pursued a variety of interests.

“The good thing is, it's super broad and super open,” says Blount. “We've had projects from students that have started cell biology, to another student who made a rocking chair, to another who researched the history of St. Stephen's and we have even had students do all kinds of coding. It's neat that it's up to them.”
Aspiring software engineer Maddox Harper ’24 has spent the last several weeks working on a Verbally Interactive Storytelling Robot (VISoR). He has applied the knowledge he has gained in some of his classes to design and build his robot.
“Although my career goal is to code strictly for the purpose of creating something digital, I also love to experiment with technology that is unfamiliar to me whether it be a new programming language or even if it lies closer on the side of physical labor,” says Harper. “This VISoR allows me to bridge the gap between expressing my creativity through code and building something tangible."
Blount says one of the many exciting aspects of her job is guiding students through their projects and watching the students grow and extend their skill set in preparation for college and beyond.
“I like that this program is designed for those that enjoy outside work and being more self-motivated and driven and not in the normal academic boundaries,” says Blount. “It's a great opportunity for them to shine.”
Harper and nine other seniors will soon present their final projects in chapel. To learn more about each of the senior independent projects click here.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213