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The Capstone is a culminating academic project experience that is completed within the confines of a semester-length course. Several Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) fields either require a capstone or offer the option to pursue one. In addition to the information below, review Guide to the ALM Capstone Project website.
Types of Capstones
We offer two forms of capstone: Capstone Course (faculty directed) and Capstone Independent Project (student directed).
Capstone Course–Faculty Directed
For the ALM fields of anthropology, biotechnology, creative writing and literature, cybersecurity, data science, English, government, history, information management systems, international relations, management, math for teaching, psychology, religion, and software engineering, capstones are courses designed by faculty members who bring together, in a structured syllabus, all the key learning outcomes of the field of study.
Our cybersecurity, data science, and management capstones ordinarily have a real-world industry partner as the client for your capstone research.
While our creative writing capstone allows for ample room to work on individual artistic projects, but with the added benefit of weekly engagement with peers and the instructor–a supportive writer’s community.
Every effort is made to offer the same precapstone/capstone topics each year (e.g., human development, policy analysis, and social justice); however, topics are subject to change annually.
Good academic standing. You must be good academic standing to register for the capstone. If not, you’ll need to complete additional courses to bring your GPA up to the 3.0 minimum prior to registration. For detailed course description information, including specific registration requirements, such as credit minimums and academic standing requirements, use the Degree Course Search .
Tip: Register on the first day of degree-candidate registration to obtain a seat in these limited-enrollment courses.
The ALM fields of anthropology, biotechnology, creative writing and literature, cybersecurity, data science, English, government, history, international relations, management, psychology, and religion have a required precapstone course that must be completed with a grade of B- or higher.
Mandatory Sequencing of Precapstones/Capstones. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), with the same instructor, and in your final academic year.
Due to heavy workload demands, all your other degree requirements must be fulfilled prior to capstone registration. The capstone must be taken alone as your one-and-only remaining degree requirement. You cannot register in any other courses along with the capstone.
It is critical that you draw upon your entire ALM training to produce a project worthy of a Harvard degree by committing to full-time study in the capstone.
Attempts . You have a maximum of two attempts at the precapstone course to earn the required grade of B- or higher. If after two attempts, you have not fulfilled the requirement (a WD grade is considered an attempt), your degree candidacy will expire. If by not passing the precapstone you fall into poor academic standing, you will need to take additional degree-applicable courses to return to good standing before enrolling in the precapstone for your second and final time.
The second attempt policy is only available if your five-year, degree-completion deadline allows for more time. If you attempt to complete the precapstone in your final year and don’t pass (including a WD grade), your candidacy will automatically expire.
For detailed course description information, visit the Degree Course Search .
Capstone Independent Project–Student Directed
For global development practice, digital media design, journalism, museum studies, and sustainability, capstones are client-based or independent research projects focused on a current issue or problem that has become compelling for you during your course of study. The project represents your academic passion and professional interest. You complete the research individually (journalism) or in a classroom setting with fellow candidates (all other fields).
Journalism candidates should scroll down to Journalism Capstone. The following applies to:
- Global Development Practice
- Digital media design
- Museum studies
Registration in the capstone for the above fields has the following prerequisites: (1) your specific research project must be approved several months in advance (prior to enrolling in the precapstone tutorial), (2) you must successfully complete the precapstone tutorial, and (3) the capstone must be your final, one-and-only remaining degree requirement. You cannot register for any other courses along with the capstone.
There are two major steps to obtain project approval.
Step one: obtain advice right away. Once admitted to the program, meet with your research advisor early and often about your initial capstone research interests. He or she can provide support as well as course selection advice as you develop preliminary ideas. Please note that while every effort is made to support your capstone interest, guidance is not available for all possible projects. Therefore, revision or a change of capstone topic may be necessary.
- For museum studies your capstone will have a main focus on (1) business of museums, (2) collections care, (3) exhibition design, (4) museum education, or (5) technology. Whatever focus you choose, you must have at least two courses completed in that area before enrolling in the precapstone tutorial. If not, your enrollment will not be approved.
- Due to the highly technical nature of their projects, digital media students must meet with their research advisor, Dr. Hongming Wang, to discuss their capstone topics according to the following schedule. Between January 2 and February 15 for summer precapstone and between May 1 and July for the fall precapstone. Appointments can be scheduled through the Degree Candidate Portal.
- Step two: register for the noncredit tutorial. The semester before capstone registration (no earlier), you are required to (1) enroll in the noncredit Precapstone tutorial, (2) visit the Guide to the ALM Capstone Project website to read through the tutorial guidelines, and (3) submit your prework by the required deadline (see below in bold).
Prework demonstrates that you have done enough prior reading and research on your topic to begin the capstone proposal process. Registration in the tutorial is limited to degree candidates who submit quality prework. If your prework is not approved, you will need to spend time revising in order to re-submit for the next offering of the tutorial, if your five-year, degree-completion deadline allows.
Once registered in the noncredit tutorial, you will receive guidance and mentoring while you iterate on your individual capstone proposal until the document reaches a satisfactory quality. The tutorial is not a course in the traditional sense. You work independently on your proposal with your research advisor by submitting multiple proposal drafts and scheduling individual appointments (ordinarily, during the hours of 9-5). You need to make self-directed progress on the proposal without special prompting from the research advisor. While the tutorial is noncredit, your due diligence throughout the semester is required.
If you do not have a proposal that is close to being approved by the semester’s withdrawal deadline, you’ll need to withdraw from the tutorial, delay capstone registration, and re-take the capstone proposal tutorial again in a future semester, if your five-year, degree-completion deadline allows.
- For the fall capstone, you complete the proposal tutorial during the prior summer term: Register for the Summer Precapstone tutorial March 1. Submit the first draft of the preproposal between March 1 and May 15 . Actively participate in the tutorial during the summer and end the term with an approved proposal. Register and complete capstone in fall.
- For the spring capstone, you complete the proposal tutorial during the prior fall term: Register for the Fall Precapstone tutorial when registration opens in mid-July. Submit the first draft of the preproposal between July 18 and August 1 . Actively participate in the tutorial during the fall and end the term with an approved proposal. Register and complete the capstone in spring.
- For the summer capstone, you complete the proposal tutorial during the prior spring: Register for the spring Precapstone tutorial when registration open in early November. Submit the first draft of the preproposal between November 7 and January 2 . Actively participate in the Capstone Proposal Tutorial during the spring and end the term with an approved proposal. Register and complete capstone in summer. This sequence (spring tutorial, summer capstone) is required for international students who need a student visa.
Please note that not all fields offer a capstone each term. Refer to your field’s Degree Course Search for the schedule.
If your capstone will involve the use of human subjects (e.g., subject interviews, surveys, observations), review the Human Subjects section on the Guide to the ALM Capstone Project website to learn Harvard University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval process.
The course, JOUR E-599 , entails a portfolio of several related stories that are completed over the course of one semester. You apply knowledge and skills obtained in the program to complete a significant journalism project under the direction of a professional in the field. Over the course of the capstone semester, you’ll conduct an in-depth investigation of a single topic and emerge with a portfolio of new work suitable for publishing, posting, or broadcasting.
You can register for the capstone once you complete 36 credits, and you work independently to complete the project within a semester timeframe. The capstone can be, and often is, completed at a distance.
To begin the capstone approval process, you schedule an appointment with your research advisor, June Erlick, ( [email protected]) , to discuss your capstone ideas.
While every effort is made to support your capstone interest, guidance is not available for all possible projects. Therefore, revisions or a change of capstone topic may be necessary before it is approved. As in all traditional journalism, projects must take a fair and balanced view by bringing in differing points of view. Projects should not be one-sided or take an advocacy stance.
Once a topic is approved, you submit the first draft of your capstone proposal (visit the Guide to the ALM Capstone Project website to read the Crafting the Capstone Proposal specific guidelines). Ms. Erlick supports you through the fine tuning of the proposal and works with the Journalism program office to identify a capstone director.
A capstone director is a journalism instructor or professional in the field who has expertise relevant to your capstone topic. The final decision about who will serve as director is made by the Journalism program office; however, you are welcome to request a particular instructor. However, we ask that you not contact an instructor directly prior to capstone approval.
You are expected to work independently on your project with support and direction from the director. The capstone director will meet with you several times over the semester to answer questions, discuss your progress, read drafts, and offer feedback. The director also grades the final project.
- Fall capstone: Meet to discuss capstone ideas by May 1. Submit first draft of capstone proposal by June 1.
- Spring capstone: Meet to discuss capstone ideas by September 1. Submit first draft of capstone proposal by October 1.
- Summer capstone: Meet to discuss capstone ideas by February 1. Submit first draft of capstone proposal by March 1
Final Capstone Grade
You need to earn a grade of B- or higher to earn degree credit for the capstone. If you earn a grade below a B– (including a WD), you will need to petition the Administrative Board for permission to enroll in the capstone for one final time. The petition process is only available if your five-year, degree-completion deadline allows for more time. Your candidacy will automatically expire if you do not successfully complete the capstone requirement by your required deadline.
If approved for a second attempt, you may be required to repeat the precapstone course or the non-credit precapstone tutorial. Please note that you cannot choose a different precapstone/capstone sequence to gain additional (more than two) attempts at fulfilling the capstone requirement for your degree.
If by not passing the capstone you fall into poor academic standing, you’ll need to take additional degree-applicable courses to return to good standing before enrolling in the capstone for your second and final time. This is only an option if your five-year, degree-completion deadline allows for more time to take additional courses.
The Board only reviews cases in which extenuating circumstances prevented the successful completion of the capstone.
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What is a Capstone Project in College?
The capstone project in college is the apogee, or completion marker, of a student’s coursework leading to the culmination of their program with a degree in their chosen field of study.
The original definition of a capstone focuses on the actual stone placed at the top of a wall or building, marking the successful completion of the structure. It is a significant and celebrated piece of architecture, considered to be the most important of an entire construction project.
Similarly, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Associate Dean of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences Dr. Jeff Czarnec called the academic capstone project, whether in an undergraduate or graduate program, “the apex of all a student’s work done throughout their college career.”
There is an expectation that they have all the necessary skills and knowledge coming into the capstone course to be successful. “At this point, students have managed to pass all their course work leading up to the capstone,” said Dr. Thomas MacCarty , associate dean of social sciences programs at SNHU. “It is the culmination of everything that has happened to them as students.”
Students have the opportunity to pick a research topic that is of interest to them and run with it. “After having to write research papers in all of their courses prior to [the capstone], the task is not one to dread, but to enjoy. It is their time to shine as students and to enjoy the journey,” MacCarty said.
The capstone is much more important than a requirement and three credits. It can serve as an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge mastery and creative thinking, which may help a graduate stand out from others vying for the same job.
What is Involved in a Capstone Project?
“Students are expected to be ready to enter the world as professionals in their field upon completion of the capstone course,” said MacCarty.
As in many other university courses, the capstone is research-based; the difference being that the student chooses the topic early on, allowing them more freedom to conduct research on their own, unlike in other courses which are more guided. Capstone topics align with the specific discipline of program study. In the social sciences realm, “our focus is on human behavior and cognition, which may be different from a capstone course in business or STEM,” MacCarty said.
In a nutshell, a rough outline of a capstone, according to Czarnec, looks something like this:
- Select a topic and have it approved by the instructor
- Evaluate relevance to the proposal
- Perform necessary research
- Present results in the agreed upon fashion
Are Capstone Projects Difficult?
“Not necessarily,” said Czarnec. “It does force you to be efficient and very specific to topic. No fluff. Straight forward. Razor sharp. The capstone is more of an opportunity to catch your breath, retrace and pull up what you have learned in a more stress-free environment. It helps validate students as learners.”
Depending upon the major and course requirements, there may be opportunities to match students with outside contacts, not only to assist with the capstone project research and problem statement, but to also provide a networking community.
“Not every research project is, nor should they be, the same,” Czarnec said. “Everyone has a different approach.”
What is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Capstone Project?
A capstone is similar to a thesis in that the starting point involves strengths that one needs for a thesis or dissertation work. A student needs to think about the skeletal structure of research and form their theory, hypothesis, and problem statement.
“While a capstone is certainly a scholarly piece of work and does share some aspects of a thesis,” said MacCarty. “The time and detail that is required of a master’s thesis is greater.”
A capstone paper may be 25 pages, where a thesis could be 100 or more, and is a more demanding research paper. If an undergraduate student chooses to further their education and enter into a doctoral program, the capstone project could be an invaluable tool in preparing for a thesis.
It’s All About Student Success
According to Czarnec, capstones of all programs are leading students to the end game. The goal is to develop well-rounded thinkers who can pull their work together in a coherent, articulate, well-organized fashion, while considering the demands of the profession or vocation in which they are interested.
The focus and intent of a capstone should be to create an effective device to assess and measure all that the students have learned throughout their program in an aggregate fashion so they can demonstrate their life-long vocational skills in a nice, neat package. “My goal is for students to leave the program confident about their skills and abilities,” said Czarnec.
According to MacCarty, capstone courses should be structured to support student success in fulfilling program requirements and allow them the opportunity to showcase their academic abilities and skills gained throughout their degree program.
Laurie Smith '14 is a writer, editor and communications specialist. Connect with her on LinkedIn .
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- Book icon Capstone Student Handbook
- Blackboard icon Discipline-Specific Information
- UIC Undergraduate Research
2023 Undergraduate Research Forum Award Winners Heading link Copy link
Honors College Capstone Innovation Award
1st Place (tie): Safiyah Azeez
An App Proposal for Compiling Resources on Islamic Self-development Topics for College Students
- Supervisor: Mark Hallenbeck
- Affiliations: The Honors College
1st Place (tie): Rimla Khan
Fragments of a Child: An Anatomical Review of Childhood Trauma
- Supervisor: Therese Quinn
Winners By Category Heading link Copy link
Winners by category, life sciences.
1st Place: Chelsea Oommen
Inter-Rater Agreement for the Annotation of Neurologic Concepts in Electronic Health Records
- Supervisor: Michael Carrithers
2nd Place (tie): Caroline Dobosz
Priming the Pre-Metastatic Niche in Breast Cancer: The Effect of GSL-Rich Adiposomes
- Supervisor: Abeer Mohamed
2nd Place (tie): Dominika Machlowska
The Role of Meal Timing and Exercise in Glucoregulation of Zucker Obese Rats
- Supervisor: Michael Calik
2nd Place ( tie): Rahul Vadakath
Jagged1 Increases Breast Cancer Lymphatic Metastasis
- Supervisor: Naiche Adler
- Affiliations: The Honors College | The Liberal Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Initiative (LASURI)
1st Place: Temi Sodipe
From Paris to Chicago: FGM/C and Local Social Services
- Supervisor: Kathryn Engel
2nd Place (tie): Danyah Thnaibat
A New Iron Curtain: Unveiling Technology and State Power in the Era of Digital Repression
- Supervisor: Sultan Tepe
2nd Place (tie): Priyanka Kaushal
Health Disparity and Demographic Analysis of Patients with Diabetes or Pre-Diabetes in Relation to Screening and Patient Care utilizing an Urban Academic Emergency Department
- Supervisor: Kirstie Danielson
Arts / Design / Humanities
1st Place: Michael Oliveros
Gulugod: Queering Philippine Mythology Through Intergenerational Storytelling
- Supervisor: Gayatri Reddy
- Affiliations: The Liberal Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Initiative (LASURI)
2nd Place: Sabrina Zhang
Research with Empathy: Designing with Plant Grow Eat, a Farm in Saint Lucia
- Supervisor: Robert Zolna
3rd Place: Ian Hammond
Alienation and Modernity: Karl Marx and Mark Fisher at the Movies
- Supervisor: Anna Kornbluh
Business / Computer Science / Mathematics
1st Place: Yamaan Nandolia,* Dishant Desle & Kevin Soni
Designing Multi-Touch Spherical Display Applications for GeoData Analysis in Earth Science Classrooms
- Supervisor: Nikita Soni
- Affiliations: *The Honors College
2nd Place: Mia Noguier & Victor Anthony Hernandez
The Illusion of Authenticity in Corporate Front Groups
- Supervisor: Jocelyn Leitzinger
- Affiliations: The Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Award (CURA)
3rd Place: JunSung Lim & Agarwal Ishi
Design guidelines for developing effective oral health applications for children
- Supervisor: Mohan Zalake
1st Place: David Goeckner
Development of an Ultrasonic Testing Apparatus for Materials at High Pressures
- Supervisor: Stephen Gramsch
- Affiliations: Educational and Research Training Collaborative
2nd Place: Madeleine Fine
Developing Noninvasive yet Precise Methods to Detect Oral Cancer with Machine Learning
- Supervisor: Guy Adami
3rd Place: Pranav Rathod
Designing Speech and Gesture Mobile Applications for Image Editing
What is a Capstone? Heading link Copy link
A “capstone” is the final stone that unifies and protects an underlying structure. All Honors College students complete a Capstone Project—a scholarly experience that incorporates concepts and techniques learned throughout the undergraduate career, through which students can make original scholarly or professional contributions to their field. The Capstone may focus on a research problem, theoretical issue, new creative work, professional challenge, or novel application (such as design, technological, or social innovation).
Expectations for the Capstone are in line with honors quality departmental theses, senior design projects, and other senior research projects that enable students to carry out rigorous inquiry, writing, and public presentation. The Capstone Project is typically pursued in the final two semesters at UIC, building upon the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the undergraduate years.
Projects like the Capstone enable students to enhance critical abilities: working independently and as a member of a team; superseding obstacles; cultivating confidence and willingness to take risks; and contributing to a larger community of knowledge.
What is the Purpose of the Capstone Project? Heading link Copy link
The Honors Capstone Project is intended to provide a challenging experience for students, one that builds on their Honors College training in the “art” of research and independent scholarship and allows the production of an original contribution to a discipline or field.
It involves in-depth examination of a research problem, theoretical issue, new creative work, professional challenge, or innovative area of application (i.e., design or technological innovation) supervised by a faculty member chosen by the student in consultation with their Faculty Fellow.
The Capstone Project is commensurate with the expectations of traditional departmental honors theses, senior design projects, and other senior research/inquiry projects intended to prepare students for the rigors of research/inquiry, writing, and scholarly presentation associated with postgraduate professional programs, graduate programs, and careers post-college.
Your Capstone Timeline Heading link Copy link
Worried about Capstone in your first year of college ? Don’t be! Focus instead on finding your footing academically and joining a student organization or club.
In the second year , explore your interests! You are probably taking courses related to your major and engaging in stimulating conversations with peers and faculty. What do you find interesting? Surprising? Unexpected? Make a mental note of these things and consider seeking out research opportunities, internships, and other opportunities outside of class.
Third year is for brainstorming and honing in on your purpose and passions. This is the year when MOST students will take HON 301, a course that helps with Capstone planning. Narrow your focus to topics you most want to pursue. Chat with your Faculty Fellow about your interests; they may help you with project ideas or finding a potential Capstone Supervisor.
In your final two semesters , take action! You should now have a Capstone plan and Supervisor in place. Your Capstone Supervisor will provide expert guidance and may provide feedback on drafts of the written requirement or practice presentations.
Any time is a great time to view Capstone presentations at a Fall Honors Research Symposium or Spring Undergraduate Research Forum. Throughout this process, your Faculty Fellow and Honors Advisor can offer additional guidance.
Capstone Timeline Overview Graphic Heading link Copy link
The timeline graphic is representative of 4-year graduation, if your time in the Honors College will differ, please consult your Honors Advisor.
Junior Year (any semester) Heading link Copy link
Anytime throughout your Junior year, students should initiate conversations with faculty about potential Honors Capstone topics and meet with the Honors Capstone specialist and/or Faculty Fellow. For detailed steps and required forms as you commence and carry out your project, please see the timeline below.
Foundations of the Future
The Honors 301 seminar is intended for Honors College students in their junior year. Divided into four major units—research and other forms of creative scholarship, awards, career/internship/graduate school, and long-term future goals—this course will provide specific information about the next steps of your academic and professional career.
In research and other forms of creative scholarship, we will examine different research methods, consider the selection, execution, and value of a Capstone project, and learn how to read and present a journal article. In examining awards, we will show you how to locate and apply for academic and travel awards, understand their professional and personal value, and prepare resumes and personal statements for scholarship applications. The career/internship/graduate school section will aid you in preparing for life after graduation: gap year possibilities, graduate school and career decision making, and networking and mentoring strategies.
The last unit—long-term future goals—will promote broad thinking concerning civic engagement and life-long learning as well as deliver specific information on practical post-grad concerns.
Ideally, Honors College students will start brainstorming early about what they want to experience and accomplish in their undergraduate careers; choose classes and co-curricular activities that support those goals; initiate a Capstone Project that feeds their unique intellectual passions; and, finally, carry what they have learned forward into life beyond college.
Students have the option of pursuing a capstone inside or outside their major and discipline. In many instances, expectations for the Capstone are in line with honors quality departmental theses, senior design projects, and other senior research projects that enable students to carry out rigorous inquiry, writing, and public presentation.
Introducing the Honors Capstone Project: General information; a sample timeline and the steps to completing a Capstone; registration and paperwork; and tips about using the Capstone Project to pursue other opportunities like fellowships and graduate school admissions.
Video : https://youtu.be/M5ssU7I-98M Transcript : https://uofi.box.com/v/capstonetranscript
Capstones in Specific Disciplines/Areas of Study
The Honors College encourages students to complete a Capstone Project that will simultaneously fulfill departmental or college requirements/opportunities for advanced undergraduate research and professional presentation, subject to approval by the student’s Capstone Supervisor and Faculty Fellow.
Discipline-Specific Information :
- See discipline-specific information for your Capstone.
Capstones Outside Your Specific Discipline
Students must have taken sufficient coursework in the field they wish to produce a Capstone Project, and they must locate a faculty member or practitioner from that field to serve as their Capstone Supervisor.
Need Help Deciding on a Capstone In or Outside Your Major?
Your Capstone Supervisor will be your ultimate guide along the way, but as you move through this process, you can:
- bring general questions to and receive feedback from your Honors College primary advisor,
- brainstorm options with and bring field-specific questions to your Faculty Fellow;
- or make an appointment with one of the Capstone specialists in the Honors College, Kathryn Burns-Howard ( [email protected] ).
The Honors Capstone Project involves two semesters of work and is generally supervised ideally by a UIC faculty member. Honors College students also have the option of recruiting an expert outside of the university to be their Capstone Supervisor, as long as that person has appropriate experience in the field, as determined by the Faculty Fellow and the Honors College.
Here are some ways to recruit a Capstone Supervisor:
- Contact your Faculty Fellow! Your Faculty Fellow is your lifeline to the academic research community on campus. They have myriad connections to other faculty and researchers across campus who can mentor you with your Honors Capstone Project and can help you brainstorm.
- Approach current faculty or professors you’ve taken classes with in the past! Swing by their office hours and chat with them about your current research interests. Ask them to direct you to relevant peer-reviewed sources articles and to other faculty members or experts in the community.
- Consider internships, volunteer hours, or work experience as potential sites to initiate an investigation applied research project.
- Come meet with Rachel! She’s the Capstone Specialist and is here to help you with all stages of the Honors Capstone Project. You can email her at [email protected] .
Note : Honors College students may complete an Honors Capstone Project outside of their major discipline if they have taken sufficient coursework in the field of interest and are able to locate an appropriate Capstone Supervisor.
The Capstone Supervisor reviews drafts, provides feedback, and guides the student as they develop their project. Therefore, the Capstone Supervisor determines whether or not an Honors Capstone Project meets the academic standards of the field for a novice researcher.
Final/Senior Year (semester 1) Heading link Copy link
Your Honors Capstone takes place across your final two semesters at UIC.
Below is a more detailed breakdown of what students should expect for the first semester of their senior/final year at UIC.
Register for HON 322
If you are a senior and intend to conduct work to satisfy your Honors capstone, you must register for HON 322. This serves as a transcript notation for your honors capstone and allows our capstone specialists to communicate important information and updates through Blackboard.
Students should NEVER register for both HON 222 and HON 322 in the same term ; any student choosing to work on the Capstone and another activity during a single semester should be registered for HON 322 only.
HON 322 – Honors Capstone Activity
0 credit hours. Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grade
Fall Course Reference Number (CRN): 29074
Meeting with your Capstone Supervisor
The Capstone Supervisor is knowledgeable in their area of research and is a resource for the student. More specifically:
- Students need to ascertain that the prospective Capstone Supervisor has expertise in the area of study and is willing and able to devote the time required to supervise the project effectively.
- being available to check-in with the student on a recurring basis, ideally in person
- identifying appropriate research methods and obtaining background reading materials
- reading and critiquing drafts in a timely manner
- consulting with the student regularly on the scope and methodology of the project.
- helping the student find appropriate public presentation venues and forms of presentation
- evaluating the project to determine whether it meets academic standards and disciplinary requirements
- attending the public presentation, if possible
Meeting with your Faculty Fellow
The Faculty Fellow ensures that the student successfully fulfills the Capstone Project requirements. More specifically:
- The Fellow may assist the student in finding an appropriate Capstone Supervisor.
- The Fellow may periodically check with the student to ensure that the project is progressing as expected and that the student is working well under the Capstone Supervisor.
- The Fellow is expected to comment on the quality of the Capstone Project and must certify that it meets the Honors College requirements.
- Some Fellows also serve as Capstone Supervisors for one or more Honors College students, while others do not.
The Honors College Capstone Agreement Form is required for any student who is registered for HON 322. It is the first (#1) of a series of 4 forms related to the Capstone. This is in lieu of the Honors Activity Agreement Form, and must be completed at the beginning of the semester in which a student begins work on the Capstone project. After the Capstone Agreement Form is submitted by the student in HARS, the Project Supervisor will be notified within one business day for electronic approval.
Only after the Project Supervisor has approved the project, will the Fellow be notified for electronic approval. The form should be created in HARS by the end of the third week of the semester.
Log into the Honors Activity Reporting System to generate and print your Capstone Agreement Form.
Registering for HON 322 also involves the following paperwork:
Capstone Agreement Form
Students must submit a signed Capstone Agreement Form to the Honors College front desk by the third Friday of the first semester in which they are enrolled in HON 322.
The form includes a section for the student to include a project proposal. The project proposal should include the following elements:
- Purpose and Goal of the Research – A brief summary of the issues to be addressed and/or questions to be investigated. The issues described should be as specific as possible, and the student may wish to include a summary of preliminary background research.
- Methodology and Data/Materials Collection – An explanation of what data or other materials are to be collected to answer the research question(s) and how.
- Analysis and Anticipated Results – An explanation of how the data or materials will be analyzed and the potential scholarly contribution of the results from the study.
- Preliminary Schedule – A tentative schedule for completing the above steps in two semesters, including plans for preparing and conducting the public presentation. For example, students will likely carry out the necessary background literature review and conduct the bulk of their research during the first semester of the Capstone and then devote the second semester to writing up research and preparing a poster, a PowerPoint presentation, and/or a lecture for public presentation. The venue for public presentation should also be identified.
Students should provide the Capstone Supervisor and Faculty Fellow with an initial draft of the project proposal so that they are able to address their concerns prior to the student submitting the proposal by the third Friday of the semester.
Capstone Progress Report
At the end of the first semester, students submit a Capstone Progress Form indicating the progress made on the project and must be signed by the Project Supervisor. Students must have a completed Capstone Agreement Form approved by both the Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow before they can access and submit their Capstone Progress Report.
- The Capstone Progress Form is due, signed and submitted in HARS , by the last day of classes.
- Questions about your Capstone Progress Report should be directed to your Capstone Supersivor or your Honors primary advisor
Final/Senior Year (semester 2) Heading link Copy link
Below is a more detailed breakdown of what students should expect for the second semester of their senior/final year at UIC.
Students are expected to complete the Capstone Project over two semesters, and they must enroll in HON 322 (0-credit hours) for each of those semesters. HON 322 replaces HON 222 as the required Honors College course registration . Students who complete a Capstone prior to their last semester at UIC should enroll in HON 222 for subsequent semesters and resume Honors Activities until graduation.
In addition to registering for HON 322, students may also enroll in research or independent study courses during their work on the project. Departmental advisors, Faculty Fellows, Capstone Supervisors, and Honors College staff can help identify such courses.
If you are a senior and intend to conduct work to satisfy your Honors capstone, you must register for HON 322. This serves as a transcript notation for your honors capstone and allows our capstone specialists to communicate important information and updates through Blackboard. Students should NEVER register for both HON 222 and HON 322 in the same term; any student choosing to work on the Capstone and another activity during a single semester should be registered for HON 322 only.
Fall 2022 Course Reference Number (CRN): 29074
At the start of your second semester, you should meet with your Capstone Supervisor to discuss the parameters and expectations of (1) written portion and (2) public presentation
To help you prepare for the meeting, please consider reviewing examples of Capstone projects from former Honors students.
Verified UIC students and faculty/staff can access an evolving collection of Capstone examples at https://uofi.box.com/v/MoreCapstoneExamples . Graduating Honors College students have consented to share their supervised intellectual property within UIC only, and not all projects are included in their entirety. ( NOTE: You must have a UIC Netid and Box account to view these files. Create Box Account here. )
Below is list of sample capstones from former Honors students:
- Colonizing or Coexisting: The Psychological and Psychogeographical Implications of Gentrification Efforts in Pilsen
- Analysis of Student Perceptions of Service Learning and Global Health Impact
- Film and Television Adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Gender and Sexual Orientation
- Othering and Imperial Criticism: The Ambivalent Message of the Adventure Novel
- Development of Health Rehabilitation in Mainland China: From Traditional Chinese Medicine to Modern Rehabilitation Methods
- The Displaced Agent: A Pentadic Analysis of Immigrant’s Protective League Discourse from the 1930s through 1958
- Dragonfly Abundance and Richness in Chicago’s Community Gardens
- The Incorporation of UDL into Lesson Plans
- Geometry and Structure of BaTiO3 Nanocubes
- Culture Fit in the Interview Process: How Important is it, and How Do We Gauge it?
- Shattering Mental Health Stigma
Capstone Proposal Update Form
- At the beginning of the second semester of the Capstone, students must submit a Capstone Proposal Update Form to describe any changes to the original proposal and to outline a schedule or timeline for completion of the project. Both the Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow must sign the Capstone Proposal Update Form. In the cases when the Capstone Supervisor is different than the Faculty Fellow, this midway review is another opportunity for the Fellow to ensure the proposed work is meeting Honors College standards.
- The signed Capstone Proposal Update Form is due in HARS at the end of the third week of the second Capstone semester.
Students are also required to present their research publicly in some form. Depending on the project discipline, the presentation could be in the form of:
- A poster presentation
- A reading or “unveiling” of a creative work
- A concert or other type of performance,
- A “defense” of the undergraduate thesis, preferably with the opportunity for questions, comments, and evaluation by the audience
The presentation may also take place in a variety of settings, including:
- an academic symposium outside the university (e.g., a national/international or regional scholarly conference for a particular discipline);
- a large university-wide event (e.g., Undergraduate Research Forum in the spring semester);
- the Honors College Research Symposium (held in the fall semester); or
- a forum or symposium sponsored by the department or college (e.g., the UIC Engineering Expo in the spring semester).
A presentation to other students in a class or lab setting is NOT sufficient to satisfy the public presentation requirement. The project must be presented in a context or to an audience beyond the one in which it was developed.
The Capstone Supervisor and Faculty Fellow must approve the public presentation event as an academically appropriate venue. The Capstone Supervisor should attend the public presentation or otherwise verify that the presentation was completed in a professional manner. Faculty Fellows are also encouraged to attend the presentation whenever possible.
The public presentation may take place:
- In a forum/symposium sponsored by the department or college (e.g., an “undergraduate research day” scheduled at a department or college level);
- At a large university-wide event (e.g., the annual Undergraduate Research Forum held in the spring semester);
- At the Honors College Research Symposium (held in fall semester); or
- At an academic symposium outside the university (e.g., a national or regional scholarly conference for a particular discipline).
The presentation may be a lecture or oral presentation (including PowerPoint-aided talks), a poster presentation, a reading or “unveiling” of creative work, a concert or other type of performance, or a “defense” of the undergraduate thesis. Consult with your Capstone Supervisor to identify an appropriate outlet and form for your presentation.
Video Guide: Poster Design and Presentation: How to design a good research poster and present it to your audience.
- Video Guide: https://youtu.be/WaB5s7APs_8
- Transcript: https://uofi.box.com/v/posterdesigntranscript
I Understand the written requirement. Why should I present the project in public?
Presentation of the results of your work in some form of public academic or professional forum allows you to showcase your accomplishments. It is a great opportunity to share ideas and receive constructive feedback from your colleagues. And it is an important chance to network with academics, professionals, alumni, and others in your field interested in similar lines of inquiry. Overall, it will be a proud moment for you, your Capstone Supervisor, your Faculty Fellow, your family and friends, and of course, the Honors College.
Examples of presentation venues include :
- Undergraduate Research Forum — Annual event in April
- Honors College Research Symposium — Annual event in November
- Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Forum — Annual event in April
- Undergraduate Forum Information
Capstone Completion Form
Both the Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow must approve the final project and sign the Capstone Completion Form at the conclusion of the project.
While no formal grade will be given by the Honors College on either the written portion or the public presentation of the project, the Capstone Supervisor indicates that the project is acceptable, and the Faculty Fellow certifies that the project meets the Honors College Capstone requirements.
The Capstone Completion Form is due by the last day of classes.
Final Capstone Submission to Blackboard
The student is responsible for submitting their final Honors Capstone Project (written thesis and/or Scholarly Report, and documentation of public presentation) to the Honors College by the last day of classes in the second semester via the Blackboard course site HON 322.
The Capstone Supervisor is responsible for addressing any possible academic honesty and plagiarism issues that are discovered when the student submits drafts of the written portion of their Capstone Project through SafeAssign. Honors Capstone students have the ability to make unlimited submissions of capstone drafts within their Blackboard course site HON 322. They have access to their SafeAssign originality report, and should submit that report to the Capstone Supervisor as part of the iterative writing process. Students who struggle with paraphrasing, quoting, and properly citing should be referred to the UIC Writing Center ( https://writingcenter.uic.edu ) for support.
- Note: The Honors College requires students to run their final capstone submission through SafeAssign. Any academic honesty issues identified at that time may impact the student’s ability to graduate as a member of the Honors College and may be reported for a formal Standards of Conduct Review. The Capstone Supervisor at that time will be contacted about the academic honesty issue. Please work with the student throughout the iterative process to address issues prior to this point.
Student Perspectives Heading link Copy link
“My Capstone topic is connected to my personal interests because I strongly believe that adequate housing is a basic human right and I am an advocate for fair and equal access to housing for all.”
– Brianna Moling, 2022 Graduate
To read more about Brianna Moling’s Capstone journey and advice for future students, click the link below.
Fall 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium Heading link Copy link
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Frequently Asked Questions Heading link Copy link
Yes. Students must have taken sufficient coursework in the field they wish to produce a Capstone Project, and they must locate a faculty member or practitioner from that field to serve as their Capstone Supervisor.
Consult with your Capstone Supervisor to see if your department already requires a written document for Honors College students who wish to use their contribution to a senior group project to satisfy the Honors Capstone Project. The written document in such cases typically includes:
(a) a clear statement of the student’s specific contribution to the design, creative, or business issue that the group project is attempting to tackle
(b) background on the artistic, professional, or technological area in which the group is attempting to make a contribution (i.e., what has been done in this area of creative arts, professional practice, or technological design in the past and how this frames the group’s approach)
(c) discussion of how the design, technological, business, or artistic product was conceived; (d) presentation of the results and how they contribute to the field
(e) an analytical self-reflection about the student’s overall capstone experience. In addition, note that any team-based Capstone Project will require the submission of a Scholarly Report.
More information about the Scholarly Report can be found in the Capstone Student Handbook. Students in this situation would submit three components to the HON 322 Blackboard course site at the end of their second semester of Capstone to satisfy the Honors Capstone Project requirement:
(1) their team-authored final project
(2) their individually authored Scholarly Report
(3) their public presentation.
Every discipline or field has different conventions regarding sufficient page length and number of citations. Your Capstone Supervisor will speak to conventions of your field and what’s appropriate for the Honors Capstone Project.
There are numerous ways to coordinate a study abroad experience with the Capstone Project. In addition to staggering Capstone work before and after a semester abroad, or conducting an Applied project based on a study abroad experience or internship, there are opportunities to conduct research abroad.
Honors College students may apply to conduct research abroad through EuroScholars , a consortium of five major universities in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, that enables 3rd- and 4th-year students to join existing research projects for a semester or full academic year, while earning up to fifteen credit hours per semester. Projects are available in disciplines ranging from humanities and social sciences to biological sciences, engineering, and more. Foreign language skill is not necessary. The Honors College and the UIC Study Abroad Office are collaborating to support students through the nationally-competitive EuroScholars application process. If you are interested in this program, reach out to honors advisor Kathryn Burns-Howard at [email protected] . Learn more at http://euroscholars.eu .
Conducting an Independent Study Project with SIT Study Abroad is another option. Examples of independent research projects completed by students in these programs is available at the SIT website . (Projects are listed alphabetically by country). For more information on the SIT Study Abroad Programs and other study abroad programs, visit the Study Abroad website .
- Study Abroad Office
Yes. Given the amount of work involved, except in unusual circumstances, you should carry out your project over two semesters in order to allow enough time to successfully complete all the necessary components of the Capstone. This will also allow you to incorporate the Capstone research into your academic load with less stress and provide more time for close mentorship by your Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow.
Keep in mind that in addition to any departmental research credits, you should be registered for HON 322 for each semester you are working on the Capstone.
Finally, please note, if it is possible you will graduate early, you must proactively plan to register for HON 322 for two semesters of Capstone work.
You should begin thinking about the Capstone Project and initiate discussion of your research interests and possible Capstone topics with potential Capstone Supervisors in your sophomore and junior years. Usually, the project should be completed during the last two semesters of your senior year at UIC. You may also begin the Capstone Project as early as your junior year and complete it prior to your last semester.
Note that if this does happen, you will need to continue to register for HON 222 and complete an Honors Activity up until graduation.
Students are expected to complete their Honors Capstone Project within two semesters. Be sure to plan accordingly so that you meet this deadline. Should extraordinary circumstances require you to need a third semester to complete the Honors Capstone Project, you need to meet with your Honors advisor as early as possible to review whether a policy exception can be made for you.
If due to extraordinary circumstances you are given approval by the Honors College to use a third semester, you will submit a Capstone Progress Form at the end of your second semester and you will receive a deferred grade in HON 322. For the following semester, you must create a new Capstone Activity in HARS and thus fill out a new Capstone Proposal Update Form, in which you map out your plans for completion. You must also register again for HON 222, and you must complete an Honors Activity, for which you will submit a separate Honors Activity Form and Honors Completion Form.
Upon the successful completion of the Honors Capstone Project, you will email your Honors advisor and request that you be added to the Blackboard course site HON 322 so that you can submit your final Capstone Project. You will also submit the signed Capstone Completion Form to the Honors College front desk. Soon after, the Deferred grade for HON 322 will be changed to passing.
Unless you are working on a project with two distinct parts (such as internship & immersion), this is not advisable. If you are thinking about making a change, your Capstone Supervisor cannot continue their supervision, or unforeseen difficulties make it imperative for you to find a different supervisor/project, reach out to your Honors advisor as soon as possible.
Possibly, depending on your project’s use of human subjects and whether you intend to present your work beyond the UIC community. Early in your first semester of working on the Capstone Project, you should check with your Capstone Supervisor to see if you should apply for IRB approval to conduct and present your Capstone Project.
The Capstone Supervisor should consult the Capstone Supervisor Handbook for information about the IRB and Honors Capstone Projects.
If you have signed an NDA and you believe submission of the Capstone written portion and public presentation would compromise this NDA, you should first consult with your Capstone Supervisor on this matter. If your Supervisor agrees with you, they should email [email protected] to notify the Honors College.
Regardless of the type of capstone project you are completing, you must also write a Scholarly Report of 3 to 5 pages that include at least: (a) a critical self-analysis of your overall UIC academic experience and how the Honors Capstone Project is a culmination of this experience; and (b) an examination of how the Honors Capstone Project is the outcome of their passion, curiosity, and aspirations. More information about Scholarly Reports can be found in the Honors Capstone Student Handbook.
You should submit the Scholarly Report in the Blackboard course site HON 322 by the end of the second semester.
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Master of Liberal Arts
The master of liberal arts capstone project.
The capstone project is the culmination of your Master of Liberal Arts experience. By integrating two or more academic disciplines, your capstone reflects the mission of the MLA program itself: to provide a place for you to create your own graduate curriculum across the arts and sciences.
The content and scope of your capstone project can be tailored to your professional and intellectual goals. The project showcases the skills and knowledge you've acquired at Penn, and acts as an opportunity for you to push yourself to new heights.
Although there are no set guidelines for capstone projects, there are two common approaches to writing capstones. In the first approach, the capstone is an extended research paper, based on primary and/or secondary sources. In the second approach, you design a more creative project, and then contextualize it with academic support or commentary. For example, some students write a series of short stories or poems, or a memoir, supplementing their writings with a short analytical piece that surveys some important literature in their fields of interest and explains how their creative pieces compare with that literature.
Recent capstone projects include:
- For as Long as They Both Shall Give by Nicole Fortuna
- The Fall of Nor and Other Stories by Thomas Hutt
- Telling My Father's Story: Writing Through the Silences by Caroline Lee
- Social Media and Museum Collections by Yin Liu
- Decoding Anxiety Expressed Through Non-Verbal Communication by John Richard O'Donnell
The Capstone Forum
Each year, selected graduating students present their projects at a Capstone Forum. Watch recent MLA graduates discuss how their capstone topics were developed, how their capstones relate to their interdisciplinary degree concentrations, and how their coursework prepared them for their final project.
2022 Master of Liberal Arts Capstone Forum
2021 Master of Liberal Arts Capstone Forum
2020 Master of Liberal Arts Capstone Forum
2016 Master of Liberal Arts Capstone Forum
The 2016 MLA Capstone Forum showcased the capstone projects of six MLA graduates.
Timothy R. Crowe
Supervisor of security and docent, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
A medieval re-enactor, Anglophile and comparative religion scholar, Tim Crowe used his MLA experience to dig into the subjects that fascinate him—unorthodox religions and sects. He discusses the “left-hand path,” which includes voodoo, ceremonial magic and modern-day Satanism.
Danielle Grace Flitter, CPA
Associate Trust Administrator, University of Pennsylvania
After changing to a vegetarian diet a few years ago, Danielle Flitter discovers just how closely food was tied to her family’s traditions. In her research, she asks, do food customs define our cultural identity? Does a change in what an individual eats impact their personal identity?
Assistant Director of University Stewardship, Development and Alumni Relations, University of Pennsylvania
A southwest Philadelphia native and first-generation graduate, Jennifer O’Mara dives into her past through a two-part research and memoir project. In her presentation, she explores creative writing as therapy for individuals who have experienced traumatic childhood grief and how the MLA program helped her find her voice.
Director of Alumni Relations, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania
When Thomas Eakins’ masterpiece The Gross Clinic was up for sale by Jefferson University, locals and art institutions alike banded together to keep the painting in Philadelphia. Brad Richards, a native Philadelphian explores the painting’s significance to the city, art history and medical science.
French and Spanish instructor, William Tennent High School
As a teacher with many Latin American students, Joan Savion often observes the difficulties that newly arrived young people have in fitting into the mainstream culture of their school. She established a tutoring and outreach program led by bilingual students to bridge the gap. Using her work as a case study, Joan focuses her MLA research on the intersections of urban studies, Latin studies and linguistics.
PhD Student, University of California, Berkeley
Kristin Zuhone’s capstone project concentrates on the employment-based immigration program EB-5 through the lenses of philosophy, political science and public policy. Through her research, she uncovers the ethics and politics of selling citizenship.
Several certificate programs are available to help organize your discovery in a topic area.
Penn and the arts
From theatre, museums, galleries, and music and dance, arts play a leading role in life on campus.
"I wanted my time in this program to have a coherent thread. The Certificate in Urban Studies puts me in a good position to stay on my career track.” – Nathaniel Borek, MLA ‘20
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What Is a Capstone Project in Engineering?
For Faculty Lecturer Alyssa McCluskey , the capstone project at the University of Colorado’s Engineering Management Program (EMP) boils down to two things: agency and opportunity.
Agency, because students can chart their own course. And opportunity, arising from that agency, allows students to become leaders on their own or within their organizations. McCluskey ought to know: Capstone worked for her as a student and she knew, eventually, it could work for others as well.
“In my civil engineering capstone, we could explore and create different solutions to the use of biosolids, and I was really proud of the report and presentation that we produced,” McCluskey says. “I did send the report to my future employer, a research institute in Boston, and was hired partially based on the document that I had sent them. And I just remember really enjoying the process. So I wanted to bring that to this Program as something to offer the students.
What Is a Capstone Project?
In the Engineering Management Program, students can now elect to cap off their engineering curriculum with a capstone project. The project can be anything that uses their management and engineering skills to make a product, design software or find innovative ways to affect change within their industry.
In the past, students were given a list of topics to write an 8-10 page paper using concepts learned throughout the program to culminate their degree. McCluskey found that the traditional method was serving neither students nor faculty well. This method seemed like just regurgitating material and lacked a meaningful experience for students to use what they learned throughout the degree.
Looking for more flexible options for CU students, the EMP decided to offer two paths for degree completion: completing the full coursework, 30 credit hours, or taking 27 credit hours of coursework and completing a final 3-credit capstone project in their final semester.
“We made the capstone flexible so students can explore any ideas or topics of interest,” McCluskey says. “Anything from hot topics in project management to anything they found interesting over their courses in the EMP. I encourage them to look at courses they really enjoyed, talk with professors they enjoyed learning from, meet with professionals working in areas they are interested in and think of topics around that.”
A Diverse Range of Capstone Project Ideas
EMP just launched this program and there are four students in the first cohort, each working on a unique capstone project. All of them are focused on finding practical solutions to real-world problems.
One student’s capstone is about finding effective methods and tactics to increase employee engagement within the Office of Information Technology (OIT).
“This is a student who’s employed at OIT at CU,” McCluskey says. “And so she was asking how do we retain our employees and make them happy and want to stay? She found some startling statistics that close to 50% of employees are thinking of leaving.”
This capstone is especially topical given the nature of the Great Resignation where many employees are seeking better opportunities and are no longer willing to settle for the status quo.
“She did a number of surveys, listened to podcasts, took some courses and came up with a plan that she’s trying to implement within her department based on the capstone she worked on,” McCluskey adds.
Another fascinating engineering capstone project idea was one student’s mission to make a more sustainable satellite, combining interests in both sustainability and the aerospace industry.
“They developed a tool to quantify the environmental impacts of producing, launching and disposing of a satellite,” McCluskey says. After inputting the information into a spreadsheet, it comes out with “the carbon footprint of what the satellite would produce. And not only that but also ranking which areas you should spend your [resources] and get the most bang for the buck that’s most probably going to reduce your carbon footprint,” McCluskey says.
Given the concerns about orbital “space junk,” this capstone project addresses a need in aerospace that could be all the more germane as technology allows us to explore beyond our own planet.
And for the person on the move whose arms are constantly full and trying to literally—and figuratively—juggle the messiness of life, one student came to the capstone project with an idea already in hand: “merge bottle technology”—magnetized stacking water bottles that allow you to carry different beverages or food in one place, even at different temperatures.
“What I saw was great,” McCluskey says. “As a parent, you’re having to carry all these things, right? Also, he found that people in the healthcare industry and first responders who might be on a shift for a long time were interested right away. You can keep something hot, you can keep something cold, you could put food in one and drinks in another. Teachers as well. They have all these bags and bunches of containers they carry around. So instead of having multiple water bottles for your coffee and your water, you could just carry one stack.”
Yet another capstone project focuses on the uncertainties inherent in software product development and how that uncertainty affects humans at the neurobiological level.
“This student is in the software product management field, so she studied how we can better support employees to deal with uncertainty,” McCluskey says, “and she came up with four main things that companies can do to help their employees deal with that.”
The capstone project identified four key strategic theories—frequent stakeholder communication, a transparent roadmap with dependencies, iterative feedback opportunities and integration and focus on analytics—that empower product managers to ameliorate uncertainty among stakeholders during the software development process.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that students focus their capstone project not on abstract concepts, but on tangible strategies that have the potential for immediate real-world application. As a result, these capstone projects can help a student stand out as a desirable employee and a potential leader in their field or company.
Communication and Research: Soft Skills for Engineers that Pay Dividends
Many people—even many experts— know their field and products inside and out but struggle with communicating their ideas and knowledge to key audiences within their company or to clients. To help develop these skills, part of the capstone project incorporates a communication course.
“This involves working on your writing, working on your presentation skills, and working on peer reviews,” McCluskey says.
Good communication also means translating sometimes complex ideas and knowledge into a “language” that a wide audience can understand. That’s a skill that students refine over the course of their projects.
“You may understand something so well that you’re using acronyms others don’t know and you just lose the reader right away,” McCluskey says. “So that’s something we spend some time on. What’s nice is that we switch throughout the semester with our peers as well as the instructors and advisors so that if anybody is unfamiliar with something, it’s highlighted.”
Another benefit of the capstone project is that it allows students to stretch and improve their research skills beyond the usual Google search. Rachel Knapp , assistant professor and applied sciences librarian at CU, spoke to the capstone cohort and went over online resources available to CU students via OneSearch and discussed best practices in research strategies—for instance, how to narrow a topic and get the best out of information searches and how to determine which journals you may want to publish in. If capstone students get “stuck” in their research or are not getting the results hoped for, they can set up an appointment with a CU librarian to help with ideas and options.
Armed with this information, the capstone gives the students a chance to put into action much of what they’ve learned during the EMP and presents a valuable opportunity to live out what being an engineering manager is all about.
“They come in and they are the project manager of their capstones, ” McCluskey says. “So they get a chance to implement all the things you can think of that go into that: time management, building out your product schedule, problem-solving skills, thinking ahead, identifying what you might run into that’s going to cause a problem. They start to build their confidence because they’re now experts on this topic.”
Taking on a project of this nature flexes many skills including writing and planning, constructively giving peer feedback, and setting and achieving goals—while also making a student an attractive hire or a more effective contributor in their current position.
“The student who created the toolbox for the sustainable satellite,” McCluskey says, “is actually presenting to some higher-ups in his company who have expressed interest in what he’s done. So that’s not only letting our student be seen by people up in his organization but also giving him a way forward and fast track in that sense.”
“This is a Chance to Explore Something That Interests You”
For students, these ideas for capstone projects lead to something beyond typical coursework: the freedom to explore. Instead of listening to lectures and wondering, “Will this be on the test?” EMP capstone cohorts take the reins of their interests and bring those ideas to the world with the idea of solving a problem for individuals (teachers/mothers/first responders) or an entire industry (more sustainable satellite building for aerospace).
“This is a chance to explore something that interests you ,” McCluskey says. “You’re not coming to a class prescribed exactly what you have to learn. You get to choose where you want to put your time and where your interests lie. It’s a win-win: You’re getting credit for it, and you're also coming out with something that you might personally believe in or want to move forward with.”
McCluskey is proof positive of the benefits of the capstone. She still works with advisors she knew from 30 years ago.
She says, “You’re really developing those relationships as well, not only with your classmates through working together in peer reviews and class, but also with your advisor and other professionals you interact with over the semester.”
“I’m their guide on this adventure,” McCluskey adds. “I bring in some guest speakers so they can learn from outside experts. I try to base the guest speakers on student interests like entrepreneurship and journal editors for publishing papers to help spark and refine student ideas. I also have lectures and guest speakers on communication best practices throughout the course, and then help them stay on track.”
Advisors, faculty or working professionals who are chosen by each student, meet with them at least five times over the semester, all the while reviewing the work. These relationships may bear fruit later in a career and provide an important sounding board for bouncing around new ideas.
And in the end, the progress made quite literally puts a capstone on the Engineering Management Program.
“It gives you confidence and pride in the culmination of your degree,” McCluskey says. “It's not just a piece of paper, you actually have a product that you've developed and the ability that you can do something like this.”
Engineering Capstone Projects: For EMP, It’s Just the Beginning
For McCluskey, this is an exciting time. Seeing the four students come through the capstone project fills her with optimism for the future of the project and, more importantly, what it offers to EMP students willing to take on the capstone and flex their engineering skills.
She sees students come in with ideas that are all over the board and then with her help along with other advisors, refine the ideas so they are manageable and attainable. It is gratifying for McCluskey to hear what the cohort had achieved at the end of this pilot program.
“We had them present to all the advisors at the end of the semester and they offered beautiful presentations,” she says. “They were high quality. They were very articulate. They answered questions. It was fun to see the advisors’ excitement with the different products.”
It could be that one student's capstone becomes the cornerstone of another student’s in the future; that it could, as McCluskey says, “spawn another idea for the next capstone. There might be somebody interested in a project that someone else did before and they could take it to the next step.”
For now, the capstone project is offered only in the spring semester, but with growing interest, it could be offered every semester.
The hope is that each session of capstone projects will spur more inspiration and more innovation.
“I was ready for some bumps along the road,” McCluskey says. “I was able to be pretty agile and move where I saw the needs that were there. So I’m really excited to learn more from these students and watch more students grow from an idea to a product they’re proud of. So I’m excited to just have more of them.”
Learn More About the EMP Capstone
To learn more, please visit the Engineering Management Program website or email alyssa.mcclusk[email protected] for more information about the capstone project.
What is the Purpose of a Capstone Project? 1. It prepares you for the working world. The capstone project is designed to consolidate final-year students’ learning with valuable hands-on experience to help develop them into well-prepared and well-rounded graduates.
The Capstone is a culminating academic project experience that is completed within the confines of a semester-length course. Several Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) fields either require a capstone or offer the option to pursue one. In addition to the information below, review Guide to the ALM Capstone Project website.
A “capstone” is the final stone that unifies and protects an underlying structure. All Honors College students complete a Capstone Project—a scholarly experience that incorporates concepts and techniques learned throughout the undergraduate career, through which students can make original scholarly or professional contributions to their ...
The capstone project is the culmination of your Master of Liberal Arts experience. By integrating two or more academic disciplines, your capstone reflects the mission of the MLA program itself: to provide a place for you to create your own graduate curriculum across the arts and sciences.
Engineering Capstone Projects: For EMP, It’s Just the Beginning For McCluskey, this is an exciting time. Seeing the four students come through the capstone project fills her with optimism for the future of the project and, more importantly, what it offers to EMP students willing to take on the capstone and flex their engineering skills.