Toward the completion of senior year, students are required to be involved in a five-week Senior Project. This project can include an internship, mentorship, faculty-run seminar, or independent project of the student’s design. Senior Projects allow students to bring their accumulated academic and personal skills to an off-campus learning experience. Projects can take place on the Academy campus, in the professional community of Albuquerque, the United States, or the world, depending upon a student’s individual project choice.
Students bring their experiences back to the classroom by sharing them with classmates and teachers through Presentations of Learning. The goal of Senior Projects is to provide a guided transitional-learning opportunity that allows seniors to experiment with independent planning, study, work, and personal responsibility off-campus, with continued guidance and support from the school.
Senior Projects provide an opportunity for students to experiment with different learning and working environments and professions, while guided and supported by on-campus faculty and off-campus sponsors.
Most students are encouraged to choose some form of this option. An internship is an arrangement with an off-campus business or individual in which a student serves as an apprentice or intern, learning a specific trade, profession, or avocation. The purpose of a student’s choice of internship may be to assist in the selection of an appropriate major field of study in college, to explore an occupation of interest, or to pursue a program of formalized instruction that is not offered at the Academy.
30 hour internship. Thirty hours per week and/or six hours of internship participation per weekday is required. This option is considered full-time, and students generally do not take classes on the Academy campus in this option, though it is allowed.
20 hour internship. Twenty hours per week and/or four hours per day of internship participation per weekday is required. Students remain enrolled and participate in at least one or two on-campus courses/APs.
With either of these two options, the following applies:
- School activity is limited to continuing in up to two courses.
- An on-campus sponsor and an off-campus sponsor/supervisor are required.
- A one-hour weekly on-campus meeting with the on-campus sponsor is required.
- No monetary compensation is allowed for student’s work.
- Since the value of an internship experience diminishes with fewer hours, students are encouraged to take on as many hours as possible to receive full value, with no less than 20 hours per week.
- If a student is taking a course or class off-campus, 75 to 100 hours of instructional time are required.
A mentorship is focused work, one-on-one with a faculty member in a discipline of interest or particular expertise for the student. Work and supervision occurs on the Academy campus. A student may want to continue work in progress or advance in a field of study beyond what the regular curriculum has offered. The mentorship option is not for students who want to begin work in a new area of interest.
- Students must have 20 hours per week and/or four hours per day of project work including three hours per week of direct instruction/supervision by the mentor
- Students must stay enrolled in at least one on-campus course/AP.
- Students must have 15 hours per week and/or 3 hours per day of project work including three hours per week of direct instruction/supervision by the mentor.
- Students must stay enrolled in at least two on-campus courses/AP.
Seminars will be offered by Academy faculty on-campus, generally with groups of three to eight students. The purpose of a seminar is to explore an idea or topic in depth with one or more faculty as co-learners — to form a “community of inquiry” around a topic that holds the enthusiasm of everyone involved. Topics fall under the general headings of arts, humanities, and sciences, though inter-disciplinary seminars are encouraged. Each seminar group will determine expectations and culminating projects.
- Students must stay enrolled in at least two on-campus courses.
- Participation in a seminar is for 6-8 hours per week.
It is rare that a student is granted the opportunity to work independently. Individual students who have an idea for truly exceptional independent work may submit a proposal for a self-directed project. The application process is rigorous — a student must establish very clear goals, objectives, and assessment mechanisms, submit a detailed calendar and bibliography, and employ the research and techniques generally accepted by scholars or professionals in the chosen field of inquiry. The application process and timeline for self-directed work are separate and unique from the general application process.
Examples of past independent work similar to what might be approved again include:
- “The Urban Condition: A Look Into Girls’ Issues Through the Lenses of Evolution” (a 30-page research paper)
- “3-D Dynamic Modeling of Mixing Tank Using Velocity Encoded NMR” (a publishable quality research paper written in conjunction with medical lab research detailing the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance in the study of fluid dynamics)
- Claymation film-making (employed ten hours a day, every day of project for one minute of film)
- “A Sociological Assessment of Homosexuals in Film” (research paper)