This culminating event for the English Capstone Course requires that students publicly present a project that they have been responsible for shaping from its inception to its final form. The presentation will concretize the expertise that students have accrued in the research process and allow them to speak as authorities about their topic. No matter what career our students enter, public speaking is an essential skill, as is the act of distilling complex knowledge into a compact yet comprehensible package. Thus this final assignment of the Capstone course is the one that perhaps most clearly transitions students out of the major and into the next phase of their lives. We see this aspect of the course as a way to help students recognize each others' accomplishments and to help them be proud of their own as they move forward into their various futures.
Karie Luidens Alvarez
Why did the English Department change the Capstone Course?
As part of a larger curriculum revision, the English Department re-designed the Capstone to allow students to highlight their academic achievement in a series of projects that emphasize research, writing, and public engagement in a community of scholars. Previously, Capstone had a focus on literary theory. The new Capstone instead allows students to work on a self-designed project that serves as a culmination of work in their emphasis area.
What kind of work will I do in Capstone?
The Capstone class has three major assignments common across all sections: the Intellectual Autobiography, the Thesis, and the Conference Presentation. In order to pass the course, you must complete all three assignments. In addition, each professor will assign other coursework at his or her discretion—examples of these minor assignments might include (but are not limited to) an annotated bibliography; graded pre-writing or rough draft material; and/or a participation grade.
Is there any difference between sections?
Yes and no. As stated above, each professor may require different types of minor assignments and is free to weight the grades of those assignments as he or she deems appropriate. However, each section of the class, no matter who is teaching it, will have in common the three major assignments, and the grades for those assignments will have roughly equivalent values across sections.
What does the Conference Presentation entail?
You will be required to present some aspect of your thesis publicly at the Capstone Conference, which is normally held on the final Friday of the regular semester (i.e. before Finals Week). You will be assigned to a panel with two other Capstone students whose work is thematically similar to yours, and each of you will have 10 minutes to present. Your presentation will be evaluated by a panel of faculty members, and there will be a discussion period during which audience members will ask followup questions about your work.
What if my professor doesn't teach in my area?
Since we have four different interest areas in which our students can specialize, it is likely that your instructor will not share your interest area. Since you will work independently on your thesis project, rather than being taught a particular area of study, this should not present a major problem. Although your professor my not share your emphasis area, he or she will be able to evaluate your argument, your writing, and the overall academic validity of your project. However, we do encourage students to seek out a faculty mentor in their own interest area to get specialized feedback on their thesis project at a variety of stages. For example, if you are interested in linguistics and your Capstone professor specializes in literature, you can (and should!) contact a linguistics faculty member to get advice on your proposed argument, on important resources in your field, or on a small section of writing. Do keep in mind, however, that while most faculty are happy to serve in a mentoring role, students should be aware that faculty have many demands on their time. If you seek out a mentor, please be respectful of his or her limits.
If I want a faculty mentor, how do I find one?
Ideally, you would seek out a faculty member from whom you have taken a course in the past and whose work intersects with the topic you want to cover in your thesis. Otherwise, you can look through the list of faculty on our website to see if there is a person who works in a field that is related to your topic. The "What We Offer" page of the English Departments website allows you to see which faculty members work in the area in which you are interested.
What other resources are available to help me with this class?
You can always seek out meetings with your professor if you need help on your projects. If, however, you need to meet at a time when your professor is not available or if you are simply more comfortable meeting with someone who is not grading your work, Capstone classes have Graduate Assistants (GAs) who are able to help you in a number of ways, including brainstorming topics and editing rough drafts. The GA for 2013-14 is Rachel Curtis. Additionally, you can make use of the services offered by the Writing Center, the Speech Lab, and the Peer Research Consultant service offered by the library. Finally, if you are having difficulty with research, you can set up an appointment with Hazel McClure, the Library Liason for English.
Are the Spring/Summer sections of Capstone easier than sections in the regular semesters?
n a word: no. You will be doing the same amount of work in a shorter time frame. We strongly advise that you make Capstone your only Spring/Summer course if possible, and strongly recommend that if you must take more than one Spring/Summer course, you make Capstone your only 400-level one. The course demands a great deal of work and focus, and limiting your other work will increase your chances of success.
What is the best way to prepare for Capstone?
The Capstone course is intended to allow you to explore deeply some topic that has been of interest to you as an English major. To prepare, you'll want to think carefully about each of your classes, about books you've read and papers you've written. Which of these has resonated with you the most? Is there is something you want to follow up on? Additionally, you might think about gaps you perceive as you look back over your major. If you've never had the chance to write about a particular novel that you love, or if you want to know more about working with a particular student population, for example, these are things you might end up investigating in your thesis project. The best projects are inspired by their authors passionate interest in their subject. What are you most passionate about?