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Student Scholarship

At Covenant, students in every discipline dedicate a portion of their senior year to integrating their faith and scholarship in a senior project or thesis focused on an area, idea, or venture they are passionate about. Highlighted below are selections that provide a cross section of senior integration projects (SIPs) from the arts, sciences, and humanities.


pencil & watercolor on rag paper

Emily Andrews ’14 | Art


I make marks. I make patterns. I make paintings. Sometimes those three merge together into one. I am interested in the act of making, the process it takes to get somewhere, more than the end product—the place in which one ends up. It all starts with a grid. The grid is helpful to me. It keeps my mind organized, it keeps my marks intentional. The grid gives me parameters within which I make my own rules and, occasionally, break them.



In the Image of God He Created Them: A Theology of Disability

Matthew O’Hearn ’14 | Biblical & Theological Studies


As a handicapped individual seeking to follow the Lord’s calling into ministry, I decided to write my SIP on this topic in hopes of providing the church with a basic theology from which to approach the topic of disability and the church’s call to minister to the disabled. My thesis was that a biblical theology of disability calls the church to engage in ministry as a reflection of the heart of God as His representatives in the world today, and in recognition of the truth that God works through our weaknesses (including disability).


My project examined the culture within the church that tends to downplay disability as an abnormality in a world of normality, and acknowledged the need for a robust theology of disability. I have come to the conclusion that there are four applications that should govern how we engage in ministry to and with the disabled: welcoming the disabled into our Christian fellowship, walking with the disabled daily and caring for their needs, lamenting the brokenness of life alongside the disabled, and recognizing the unique contributions of the disabled to the church.



The Neuroscience of Religious Experience

Jake Groenendyk ’14 | Biology

I originally became interested in neuroscience as a SIP topic through a research program at Georgia Regents University, during the summer before my senior year. Eventually, I narrowed my focus to the neuroscience of religious experience. I wanted to better understand how our brains processed Christianity, and how, as Christians, we ought to process these mysterious lumps of synapsing meat between our ears.


Through the process of writing a SIP at the intersection of biology, psychology, and philosophy, appreciating Covenant’s interdisciplinary learning community became an action rather than a catchphrase. I learned that it matters that we have bodies. I learned that it is possible that God does use physical differences in our brains to bring us to love Him. This worried me at first, but then what else would we expect Him to use?


Even if scientists of the future determine a neurochemical pathway leading to faith, I would not feel threatened. To describe the mechanics of a process does not render the process itself invalid. Perhaps the safest conclusion I can reach after months of thought on the topic of neuroscience and religion is that there is a lot I don’t know and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.



Lost in the Pursuit of Profit: A Christian Stakeholder Response to Milton Friedman’s Shareholder Theory

Andrew Christenberry ’14 | Business


In 1970, Milton Friedman published a provocative article in New York Times Magazine entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” As a result of this article, two differing perspectives emerged in the dialogue of business ethicists. Friedman’s perspective became known as “shareholder theory,” and R.E. Freeman’s perspective became known as “stakeholder theory.”


The thoughts of these two men went on to codify a conversation between the two emerging camps of business practitioners. In light of the relatively recent emergence of these two camps, my goals in contributing to this conversation were twofold: (1) to present a concise, yet informative recapitulation of both shareholder theory and stakeholder theory and (2) to clearly discuss the dominant views of stakeholder theory advocates in the business academy.


I offered a personal response to this debate, arguing that stakeholder theory provides the most helpful view of business as it functions in a world that is in desperate need of redemption. By looking at this debate from a Reformed Christian perspective, it is my hope that this discussion of business, and its true responsibilities in society, will create a helpful and meaningful framework for Christian business practitioners. To this end, I focused on the need to create a deeper, God-honoring sense of purpose and significance within God’s image-bearers who have been called to work in business.



The Return to the River: The Story of Chattanooga’s Transformation, as Told by Its Residents

Ellen Davis ’14 | English


To know and love a person is to know his or her story, and the same can be said for places. In order to tell a story about both people and place, I chose to write a feature journalism piece on Chattanooga, as told by its residents. I chose to tell the story with a focus on “old” Chattanooga: the blue collar, dirty, small town that thousands of manufacturing workers called home just thirty years ago.


After inquiring about the whereabouts of laid-off factory employees with every interviewee, only to discover that no one knew, I realized that I still needed to highlight this demographic. This was, to me, a gaping hole in Chattanooga culture. If no one—not the kind-hearted, Christian manufacturing employers, nor some of the most civic-minded people in the city—was aware of this demographic, then who was serving these men and women?


I hoped that, by sharing the story of old Chattanooga, its dependence on manufacturing, and its loss of thousands of jobs from deindustrialization, I could influence readers to consider their city’s history, to discover their own stories of place, and to seek out those demographics that are so often forgotten.



Blah, Blah, Blah: Making Sense of Nonsense in Irish Vocal Music

Catherine Mullins ’14 | Music


During the summer preceding my senior year, I worked on formulating ideas for possible choral compositions, poring over countless poems in hopes of finding the perfect text to set. Rather than texts, however, I felt myself drawn to lilting, an Irish practice in which a singer makes up nonsense words, called vocables, to traditional Celtic dance tunes. From a childhood experience, I was under the impression that lilting followed a simple system: for each vocable (and I thought there were not many), there would be one particular rhythmic pattern assigned. I quickly learned that I was wrong—the lilting I listened to featured a variety of vocables applied to the same rhythmic pattern.


Still convinced that there must be a discernible relationship between vocables and music governing the organization of lilting, I set out to find the system myself. I wanted to demonstrate, through a case study, certain features and patterns that may characterize traditional lilting. While my analysis produced no conclusive evidence for the relationship of relative pitch to vocables, there was a striking correspondence between vocables and musical accents. In short, I found patterns—just not the simple, rhythm-vocable pattern I once thought existed.