Capstone Initiatives at Emory and Peer & “Aspirational Peer” Institutions
Updated Jan. 30, 2014
Emory’s Sustainability Minor requires a 2-hour capstone, described as the following: “A capstone exercise will deepen student engagement with the issues and perspectives through research, internship, campus project, or other practicum experience. A capstone essay will complete the portfolio. Capstone experiences can be supervised by any appropriate faculty member or study abroad faculty member and may be carried out in a course or non-course experience. Registration in the capstone seminar will provide a community of fellow minors and allow final development of the portfolio.”
The Development Studies minor at Emory culminates in a capstone experience, overseen by a committee of three faculty members. The goal of the capstone experience is for the student to demonstrate knowledge of the following: “historical and theoretical bases of development studies; a rights-based approach to development and how to apply it in particular situations; specific knowledge of at least one domain of practice in development studies (for example, gender, environmental issues, the role of markets, governance, social and cultural analyses, institutions, poverty alleviation, and other development domains); general knowledge of at least one region or country of the developing world; and the ability to integrate an interdisciplinary perspective in analyzing a development issue or problem.
“A senior capstone experience can be any kind of project that draws on what you have learned in your concentration. It is usually completed in close consultation with an advisor. An honors thesis or independent study is one obvious type of capstone. A performance or art opening is another. And, depending on one’s goals, a focused internship or other kind of educational work experience could be another, especially if carried out in consultation with a faculty mentor. We encourage all juniors to include such a project in their senior-year planning.”
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon’s “BXA” Intercollege Degree Program: This program provides students an opportunity to create their own hybrid major across academic and creative units. It includes the options of a Bachelor of Humanities and Arts (BHA), Bachelor of Science and Arts (BSA), or Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) The objectives of the program (written by students in the program) are as follows: Ability to describe the connections between these concentrations and how the student integrates them; ability to communicate ideas textually, visually, and orally; knowledge of how the concentration disciplines intersect with history, society, and culture from local and global perspectives; ability to use cognitive, behavioral, and ethical dimensions within the concentration disciplines to make decisions on individual and social levels; experience in engaging in art research to produce new knowledge both within the CFA concentration and the DC/MSC/SCS concentration; and experience in designing, researching, and completing a large-scale, object-based project that integrates both areas of concentration.
One of the requirements for the BXA program is a senior capstone project, designed to allow the students to integrate the interdisciplinary aspects of their undergraduate curricula into one project. Students enroll in the capstone for the both semesters of their senior year; the first semester is dedicated to a course wherein students explore the research strategies and theoretical issues pertaining to interdisciplinary studies as they begin planning their projects. In this course, students produce a project proposal, annotated bibliography, and “multiple versions of their project pitch.” During the spring semester, students carry out the research and/or creative components of their capstone project, to be presented in May.
Columbia’s Sustainable Development program requires a capstone workshop, through which students integrate course material and theories that they have gained throughout their coursework in order then to apply this knowledge in their collaboration with outside clients to create practical solutions to critical problems.
All Biomedical Engineering majors at Columbia are required to take a two-semester capstone course, “Biomedical Engineering Design.” In this course, students work in teams on an open-ended design project in biomedical engineering.
Cornell’s Global Health minor requires a capstone course, “Explorations in Global Health.”
Cornell University’s BS in International Agricultural and Rural Development program is developed for students interested in the unique interdisciplinary issues of food systems in developing nations and rural areas. Students address poverty and hunger, increase food security, advance science and policy related to sustainable development, and contribute to the economic development of emerging countries. The BS requires a capstone in which students work synergistically and adopt a multidisciplinary approach to produce a group report synthesizing their findings.
Cornell’s Development Sociology BA program requires a capstone course.
Cornell’s Biology and Society program requires a senior seminar that serves as a capstone for the major.
Cornell’s Biological Engineering major also requires a capstone course:
Duke’s undergraduate History program requires students to take a capstone course that “draws on everything that you have learned and asks you to write an original paper based on your own historical research.”
Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s have a joint PPE [Philosophy, Politics, and Economics] program. This certificate program requires a capstone course which “provides students in the PPE program an opportunity to integrate and synthesize the analytical framework and the factual studies analyzed in their other PE classes to produce a substantial research paper that can contribute to the research on the intersection of the three disciplines.”
DukeEngage requires a capstone project after students complete an independent project through the DukeEngage program. One option for fulfilling the capstone requirement is an independent study. Another option is the Re-entry Action Plan for Service, through which they carry out service on campus or elsewhere within the Durham community.
Duke’s undergraduate Evolutionary Anthropology major requires at least one upper-level capstone course.
Engineering majors at Duke are also offered a capstone, BME 460, through which students are paired with health care professionals to build custom assistive, recreational, or therapeutic devices for individuals with disabilities in the local community.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences offers funding (Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards) for undergraduate senior capstone projects. Students must have identified a mentor in order to be eligible for the award.
Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy offers a certificate in civic engagement, for which a capstone project is a required element. The capstone project is carried out in collaboration with a sponsoring organization. Projects are designed as part of a required course for the certificate program, “Theory and Practice of Community Consulting,” wherein methods and theories of research are discussed. Students’ projects must be relevant to the sponsoring organization’s mission and goals and may include: researching and designing a new program for the organization, writing a major policy or fundraising proposal, or conducting a needs assessment or program evaluation.
Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism offers an Integrated Marketing Communications certificate, through which students “develop skills which enable them to understand and analyze consumers in traditional markets and evolving digital communities and networks.” The certificate program has an elective capstone course wherein students work with sponsoring organizations to develop comprehensive marketing communications in real-life settings. Organizations have included clients such as a local YMCA.
University of Pennsylvania
UPenn’s Wharton School of Business requires a senior capstone, a for-credit, interactive business simulation. The capstone provides students with the opportunity to: “gain a better understanding of the complexities and linkages among business functions, learn how to more effectively develop and assess business strategy, enhance communication and leadership skills through team-based decision-making processes, engage in conversations with Wharton alumni about corporate decision making”
UPenn’s Concentration in Communication and Public Services is a program combining individual research opportunities with hands-on experience in the public arena. The concentration requires a capstone thesis project.
The Civic Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania is a four-year program wherein the scholars engage in community service or social advocacy work. The experience culminates in a capstone project aimed at public policy recommendations.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Nursing Undergraduate Honors Program (NUHP) requires a one-credit hour capstone course each semester of the senior year.
The University of Pennsylvania’s undergraduate program in Criminology—the only such program at an Ivy League institution—requires all majors to develop a senior research project as part of their capstone course. The program is quantitatively oriented and students collect and organize data for their thesis.
Princeton’s “Independent Work” program encourages juniors to conduct an independent research project in preparation for the senior thesis to be written the following year. All A.B. students and most B.S.E. students complete a thesis project their senior year. Some departments (such as History) require students to write a “junior paper” (25-35 pp.) each semester of their junior year in preparation for the senior thesis. Each program has its own established guidelines for the thesis project (linked at the below website).
The Anthropology major at Rice University requires a capstone research project consisting of a 15-20 page paper that integrates the coursework that the student has done in the major as well as a public presentation of the research paper.
The English major at Rice requires a capstone course. These courses are seminars that meet once a week for three hours and have a maximum enrollment of ten students. They focus on either a specific genre (in Spring 2014, for example, “drama after 1945”) or a broad category (in Spring 2014, “the grotesque,” examining literature and film from Grimm’s fairy tales to Stanley Kubrick).
Washington University in St. Louis
The English major at the university requires a Capstone portfolio, consisting of a 200-level paper that the student has written, a 400-level paper, and a 3-4 page reflection paper assessing the student’s own improvement between the 200-level paper and 400-level paper (considering skills of organization, argumentation, synthesis, and analysis). Additionally, the student is asked to address any particular learning experiences that s/he has had as an English major that have contributed to the work the student was able to accomplish in the 400-level paper.
The major in International and Area Studies at Washington University in St. Louis also requires a capstone experience, which can be fulfilled one of three ways. First, like in English program, students have the option to complete a major portfolio. This portfolio consists of enrollment in two 400-level courses (taught in different disciplines), enrollment in a 1-credit Portfolio seminar, a 5-7 page written statement on how the major has shaped the way the student views the global issue of his/her focus, a project in an approved digital medium, and two presentations (one public and one to a faculty panel) of the student’s work. The second option is to write a senior Honors thesis. Lastly, students have the option to complete a two-semester, four-credit practicum on scholarly research and editorial methodologies of the interdisciplinary fields encompassed by International and Area Studies. Students in this course form the editorial board for the program’s online undergraduate research journal in addition to organizing an undergraduate International and Area Studies conference.
Washington University in St Louis’s undergraduate major in American Cultural Studies also requires a Capstone project, for which the prerequisites are a multidisciplinary course, completion of approximately half of the required courses for the American Cultural Studies major, the completion of required fieldwork, and a completed project plan including identification of a project advisor. These projects can range from a senior thesis to a blog, set of ethnographic field-notes with interpretative commentary, a photo essay, or museum exhibit and/or another type of educational program.
The university’s Anthropology Department also has an undergraduate Medicine & Society Program, which requires a capstone project, although its specifics are not described on the program website.
The university’s East Asian Languages and Cultures major also requires a Capstone requirement, which can be fulfilled by taking a 400-level seminar listed as a capstone. Students are also required to participate in a Senior symposium in which they give a ten-minute presentation of a paper written for the Capstone course or of their senior thesis (if it is their prime major) or of any term paper written for an upper-level (300 or 400) course (if EALC is their second major).
The Chemistry major also offers capstone experiences, which can be fulfilled either through enrollment in a either Advanced Undergraduate Research in Chemistry or a course Independent Research in Chemistry.