CSCI 410
Senior Seminar


TR 8:15-9:30 am


MC Reynolds 316


Dr. Gabriel Ferrer
(501) 450-3879
Office Hours


A combination of readings, writing assignments, oral presentations, and independent project work integrates the lessons from each student’s undergraduate studies. Students assess the content of formal writing about computing subjects, investigate ethical and social issues in computing, and complete a substantial independent capstone project. Students also prepare themselves for professional work by resume writing and the creation of a professional portfolio.

Learning Goals

By the end of the course, you will:

Career Competencies

This course will particularly develop the following Career Competencies:


The calendar represents the most up-to-date plan and is subject to revision!

Date Topic Notes/readings/due dates
Aug 22 Syllabus & discussion  
Aug 24 Workshop project ideas Grade contract due
Aug 29 Workshop project proposals
Project proposal due
Aug 31 Workshop resumes Resume/CV due
Sep 5 Discussion: setbacks Revised project proposal & work plan due
Sep 7 Communication I: presentations  
Sep 12 Communication II: writing Readings: Feamster; Pinker; Raibert
Sep 14 Workshop cover letters Cover letter due
Sep 19 Abstracts & Introductions  
Sep 21 Special guest: Erin Cassell  
  VP of Product and Engineering at ARI Recruiting  
Sep 26 Progress presentations I  
Sep 28 Progress presentations II Contract evaluations due
Oct 3 Workshop abstracts Abstract due
Oct 5 No class; Instructor traveling
Oct 10 Workshop introductions Introduction due
Oct 12 No class; Fall Break  
Oct 17 Classic paper presentations  
Oct 19 Classic paper presentations  
Oct 24 Ask Dr. Ferrer Anything day  
Oct 26 No class; Instructor traveling
Oct 31 Workshop background Background due
Nov 2 Discussion: ethics Reading: ACM Code of Ethics, sections 1 & 2
Ethics of Generative AI
Nov 7 Discussion: social media, culture & diversity Readings: Cal Newport: Why You Should Quit Social Media; The Murderer; How to be an ally to women in tech
Nov 9 Workshop body sections Body draft I due
Nov 14 Discussion: IP & copyright Reading: What is Copyright?; History of Copyright Law in the US; Interview with Lawrence Lessig
    Optionally, if you are interested and have a lot of time, you can look at this comprehensive Copyright Timeline.
Nov 16 Special guest: Steve Winslow  
  Counsel at Boston Technology Law, PLLC  
Nov 21 Feedback meetings with Dr. Ferrer (no class) Body draft II due
Nov 23 Thanksgiving  
Nov 28 Feedback meetings with Dr. Ferrer (no class)  
Nov 30 Feedback meetings with Dr. Ferrer (no class)  
Dec 5 Final presentations (2pm-5pm)  
???   Final paper due date specified by your contract


Specifications grading

Every assignment has a specification that must be met in order to demonstrate mastery of the relevant learning outcomes and obtain credit for the assignment. The instructor will give feedback on assignments that do not yet meet the specification, and you will have the opportunity to revise until meeting the specification. In what follows, “completing” an assignment refers to meeting the specification.

Revising written assignments

If a submitted written assignment does not meet the specification:

Revising presentations

If a presentation (other than the final presentation) does not meet the specification for presentations:

There is no opportunity to redo a final presentation that does not meet the specification.

Grading contracts

In this course, you determine your own final grade: you will prepare and submit for my approval a grading contract explaining your chosen final grade and what you will do to achieve it. You will then earn your chosen final grade by fulfilling the agreed-upon contract.

This may be different than what you are used to. Professor Cathy Davidson of CUNY perfectly sums up the reasons for doing things this way:

The advantage of contract grading is that you, the student, decide how much work you wish to do this semester; if you complete that work on time and satisfactorily, you will receive the grade for which you contracted. This means planning ahead, thinking about all of your obligations and responsibilities this semester and also determining what grade you want or need in this course. The advantage of contract grading to the professor is no whining, no special pleading, on the student’s part. If you complete the work you contracted for, you get the grade. Done. I respect the student who only needs a C, who has other obligations that preclude doing all of the requirements to earn an A in the course, and who contracts for the C and carries out the contract perfectly.

Required components of a grading contract

There is no specific format required for a grading contract, but it must have the following components:

Grading contract submission

You must turn in an initial proposed grading contract by the end of the day on August 24. After the initial submission, I may require some revisions before I approve your contract.

Contract evaluation and adjustment

Two times during the semester (September 28 and November 2) you are required to reflect on your progress in the course and complete a one-page evaluation of your work, comparing it against what you agreed to in your grading contract. Your evaluation should answer questions such as the following:

Your evaluation is also an opportunity to request an adjustment to your contract in either direction. If you find that you will be unable to meet the obligations of your contract, you may request to move to the next lowest grade and its requirements. Contrariwise, if you find that you’ve been performing above the obligations of your contract, you may request to fulfill the requirements for the next higher grade.

Note, however, that you don’t have to wait for an evaluation to adjust your contract. If your life has really gone off the rails (or if, say, you are finding the class easier and more enjoyable than you thought!) just come and talk to me about adjusting your contract.

A, B, and C grades

D and F grades

[Adapted from Cathy Davidson.] You cannot intentionally contract for a grade of D (and certainly not for an F). However, I reserve the right to award a grade of D or F to anyone who fails to meet their contractual obligations in a systematic way. A “D” grade denotes some minimal fulfilling of the contract; an “F” denotes absence of enough satisfactory work, as contracted, to warrant passing of the course. Both a “D” and “F” denote a breakdown of the contractual relationship.


Writing assignments

Writing rubric

The writing rubric linked above, or appropriate portions of it, will be used to assess writing assignments in this course. In order to receive credit, a writing assignment:

This course carries W2 credit. As such, it will feature a significant amount of various forms of writing, including multiple rounds of drafts and revisions based on feedback. Here is a list of writing assignments by due date. You are encouraged to use LaTeX for all writing assignments, though it is required only for your capstone document.


There will be short readings assigned throughout the semester to serve as a basis for in-class discussion. See the calendar above for an up-to-date list.


Presentation rubric

The presentation rubric linked above will be used to assess writing assignments in this course. In order to receive credit, a presentation:

Over the course of the semester you will give several presentations. You should put careful thought into preparing each presentation. What story do you want to tell? How can you most effectively communicate it with your audience? Your presentations must use appropriate visual aids, such as slides or a whiteboard/chalkboard.

Classic Literature

Classic literature presentation signup

In pairs, students will pick a paper, book, or other classic computing literature and sign up for a presentation slot. Here is a list of suggested classic papers or books in computer science you could choose to present:

See also this list by Michael Eisenberg. Not everything on that list is appropriate/feasible: ask me if something on that list catches your fancy.

If there is a particular area of computer science you are interested in, you are also encouraged to try to find a seminal paper in that field to present, or to ask one of the CS faculty for help in identifying an appropriate paper in that area.

Capstone Project

You will complete a substantial, individual capstone project which should tie together multiple things you have learned throughout your time at Hendrix. The capstone project could take many forms. Some ideas include:

You are encouraged to talk with me or another member of the computer science faculty to discuss potential ideas for your project.

You may optionally undertake a year-long thesis project, which must be a research project, and is a prerequisite for graduating with distinction. You must discuss this with a potential faculty mentor and commit to a year-long thesis by Tuesday, September 5. The student and advisor will work together to create an Odyssey proposal for UR credit.

Note that after September 5 you may not “upgrade” a semester project into a year-long thesis; however, the opposite is always an option: if you start out doing a year-long thesis but decide by the end of the semester that you do not wish to continue, you may “downgrade” it to a semester capstone project with no penalty.

Note: all the above deadlines still apply even if you undertake a year-long thesis; but in that case you will be turning in a partial version of your thesis rather than a finished draft. Consult with me or your advisor to figure out what makes the most sense for your specific project.

The capstone project itself will be evaluated by the department faculty and assigned a capstone grade that is distinct from the course grade. The faculty will employ this capstone rubric in the evaluation process.


Due: Thursday, 31 August

You should make either a resume or a curriculum vitae (CV). A resume is appropriate if you are interested in obtaining a non-academic job. A CV may be appropriate if you intend to apply to graduate schools.

On the date it is due, bring in 3 printed copies of your resume or CV, so you can easily share it with classmates.

Here are a few resources explaining what should go in a resume or a CV:

There are tons of other explanations and examples online; just search for more examples.

Cover Letter

Due: Thursday, 14 September

You should write a one-page cover letter or personal statement, tailored to a particular type of opportunity. If possible, you should find a specific job advertisement or graduate program you are interested in, and tailor your cover letter to that.

On the date it is due, bring in 3 printed copies of your cover letter so you can easily share it with classmates. You should also be prepared to share a link to a particular job advertisement or graduate program you are targeting. If you are not targeting a specific opportunity, then you should bring a 1-paragraph description of the sort of opportunity you intend to target.

Here are a few resources from Career Services with tips and examples on writing a cover letter:


Abstract/Introduction examples

Career resources


You must write your capstone project or thesis document using LaTeX on the overleaf site. You are encouraged, but not required, to complete other writing assignments using LaTeX as well.


Bailey Library’s mission is to collaborate and empower all members of our community so that they become their best selves, cherish the scope of human knowledge, and positively contribute to the world. Whether face-to-face or remote, librarians are happy to help locate quality resources supporting research and classroom work and to assist with the critical evaluation of academic information. Librarians and Library Associates provide individual research assistance by appointment and video chat or by email. The library building is open Mon-Thurs 8 am-12 midnight, Sat 12 noon-5 pm, Sun 4 pm-12 midnight, and access to the library’s online resources is available 24/7. You can visit the library’s website for more information, to book an appointment, and to access the library’s Discovery search, Class Guides, and databases.

Writing center

The Writing Center is a community of peers ready to assist you with your writing projects, in all genres and fields, and at any stage of development. We work with you in one-on-one meetings that you can book in advance or request during our office hours. To book appointments, and for more information, visit contact We look forward to working with you!

Health & wellness

If you are struggling with your health in a way that makes it difficult for you to fulfill your responsibilities in the course, please let me know! I would love to work with you to come up with reasonable and realistic accommodations to help you succeed in the course. There are also several resources available to all Hendrix students, even remotely:

Expectations and policies

Although you and I play different roles in the course, we both have your learning as a common goal. There are things I expect from you as a student in the course, but there are also things you can expect of me as the course instructor and facilitator.

If I am not fulfilling my responsibilities outlined below, you are welcome (and encouraged!) to discuss it with me. I will also initiate a conversation if you are not fulfilling yours. However, none of us will meet all of the expectations perfectly—me included!—so it’s also important that we have grace and patience with one another.

What I expect from you What you can expect from me
  • Check your email and Teams for occasional course announcements.
  • Let me know via email or Teams message if you will need to miss class for some reason.
  • Let me know as soon as possible if you feel you are struggling, would like extra help, or have something going on that will affect your engagement in the course or your ability to fulfill your responsibilities.
  • Clearly communicate expectations, assignment details and dates.
  • Return grades and feedback on submitted work within 7 days of submission.
  • Respond to emails within 24 hours.
  • Come prepared to fully engage in class meetings, with distractions minimized, to the best of your ability.
  • Have a concrete plan for how we will spend each class meeting, prepared to lead you through the plan.
  • Make myself available to meet outside of class, and give you my full attention during a meeting.
  • Be committed to your learning, open to feedback and willing to respond in substantive ways to your suggestions or concerns.

Learning Accommodations

It is the policy of Hendrix College to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal and state law. Any student who needs accommodation in relation to a recognized disability should inform the instructor at the beginning of the course. Students should also contact Julie Brown in the Office of Academic Success (505.2954; to begin the accommodation process.