Library’s Comps Coffee House supports senior projects

The senior comprehensive project is Allegheny College’s most rigorous and significant requirement for students to complete their education. Seniors refer to the semester they work on their projects as “comping season.” The Maytum Center for Student Success and The Writing Center hosted a “Comps Coffee House” on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 7 to 11 p.m. in the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library Collaboratory.

The event is scheduled to occur two more times on Thursday, March 16, and Tuesday, April 11, to give students several opportunities to receive help from writing consultants or take advantage of the quiet place to work alongside other students, according to Third- and Fourth-Year Class Dean Jonathon May.

“This idea actually came from survey results that we did with the senior class,” May said. “So, Alexis Hart — the director of the Writing Center — and myself came together to talk about how we could offer support and more resources to seniors who are comping.”

According to the survey results, May said students mainly were looking for social spaces and support rather than resources on how to improve their writing or develop their projects.

“They wanted a space where they could come together, sit together, write together and feel that sense of camaraderie and accountability,” May said. “We really were thinking they would want faculty to come in and do presentations talking about how to put together a senior comp, but they shared with us that they felt prepared for their junior seminars and they felt prepared from their departments to actually tackle the comp.”

The event began with students sharing the title or topic of their senior project which was intended to have a community-building effect on the group. The first half-hour was centered around venting, where students could talk about their challenges and highlights in their project process. The event provided writing tips, coffee, cookies and water.

Bill Nese, ’23, heard about the event through flyers and May reached out to him about attending the event.

“I thought it was cool that I had a space to work on my comp,” Nese said. “I know originally it was supposed to be once-a-week for an hour, but even the once-a-month thing is nice because I like that we have time to set aside to edit what I have and feel more confident about it.”

Nese said that one of the benefits of being in a space where everyone is working on the same goal is that he has more motivation and is not distracted as easily.

Writing consultant Rebecca Pechmann, ’24, said seniors do not generally utilize writing consultants outside of the event, but within the space she did field a few questions.

“I think the most common question I get is people coming in and asking me to look at something to see if it makes sense,” Pechmann said. “I think a lot of the time I am not the same discipline as the comper so I can’t offer discipline-specific suggestions. I can definitely learn about the discipline from the comper and then maybe offer more suggestions, but I think it usually questions about clarity.”

Pechmann said that the best thing a student can do when working on their project is step away from it from time to time to see it from an outside perspective.

“I think a lot of times if you are writing you just get so caught up on what you want to say that it can be hard to look at it with a fresh set of eyes,” Pechmann said. “I think taking even just a short break can be really powerful.”

To prepare upcoming seniors for their senior projects, a panel called “Demystifying Comps” featuring seniors, alumni and faculty will be hosted during Junior Appreciation Week which is from March 20 to March 24, according to May. The purpose of the event is to further support students with the projects in the upcoming year.

“They will talk about their experience and what comping did for them when they got in the job market,” May said. “Those panel talks will be on Monday, March 20, at 7 p.m.”

May said the Comps Coffeehouse will result in higher quality work this year because of the additional set of eyes provided by the writing consultants.

“It’s really going to enhance the work they’re going to be able to produce because I don’t care who you are as a writer, and I write a lot myself,” May said. “When you get an additional set of eyes on your manuscript or your document, that enhances it.”