Capstone courses advance comprehension

TEMP ORARY February 9, 2012 0

It is the thing underclassmen fear and upperclassmen are relieved to be done with: capstone courses. These courses, which may also be referred to as senior seminars, are classes meant to assess students who are near the end of completing all the required courses for their major. Although capstone courses are unique to each major, they generally require a challenging project to demonstrate that students have retained all the information they have been taught and are ready to go out into the real world.

Business Policy and Corporate Strategy primarily focuses on understanding what strategies companies utilize to gain a competitive advantage. Senior John Puzzo described the course as being focused on the big picture of business and “figuring out how [all of his past courses] fit together and making them work harmoniously.”

The class required a 25-page single-spaced paper that analyzed a company. Students had to see what strategies their company used and analyzed the company’s financials over the past three years while comparing that to their company’s three main competitors. It required students to see how businesses are run from top to bottom. Students then had to present their findings orally to the class.

Puzzo explained how this requirement will help him in a field of work in the future: “You’re going to go into the corporate world, and your boss might say, ‘write me up a financial analysis of our company,’ or ‘how are our competitors doing compared to us?’ Now I’ll know how to do that.”

Another course requiring rigorous research and writing is senior seminar in political science. This class focuses on discussing and analyzing the controversies in political theory. Students had to read books and apply what they were reading to real world situations. They also had to read a book with a partner and present it to the class.

However, the students’ big project was to choose a topic they were interested in and research the related political policies. On this, they wrote a senior thesis and presented at a research conference. Senior Jennifer Simpson warned students, “The thesis is a huge project that if you don’t take it seriously, you’re not going to do well.” While the course sounds like a lot of hard work, Simpson said she enjoyed it because “our whole class really bonded over the turmoil we were going through.”

Good news: not every capstone course requires laborious writing! Physics Research requires students to do an original experiment or hypothetical investigation. Since this is Elizabethtown College, however, there was still some writing involved. Before students can begin their projects, they have to write a report on what their project is going to be about.

Senior Brian Wenger described the project he is working on now. He chose to work on a strengths materials project that focuses on welding and heat treatments. He is designing a machine that will test materials and at the same time will still be efficient and economical. Since Wenger is interested in bicycle motocross riding, his project will test a welded joint of a bike.

While this class may seem a bit intimidating, Wenger said not to worry because there are people there to help you every step of the way. “Dr. Sara Atwood [Wenger’s advisor] and Mr. Mark Gatti [Physics and Engineering Technician] were a really big help for research and helping me design this project,” Wenger said. Wenger plans to show his machine at Scholarship and Creative Arts Day and to show it to other engineering companies to see what they think. Although this class requires a lot of dedication, it is well worth it: “Your senior project is a big part of your resumé,” Wenger said. “It’s a good thing to have so you can show people this is what I can do and this is what I’m interested in.”

Communications Capstone is another course requiring a unique project. Students have to find a client to work with and complete an actual project for them. Senior Samantha Wingrove worked with Brethren Colleges Abroad (BCA) and helped them plan their 50th anniversary event. Wingrove enjoyed working with a real client because “it’s not another mock scenario in class that they give you and you don’t get anything out of.”

Students have to write a thesis about their project and give a 20-minute presentation that is open for anyone to attend. On top of working on all of this, students also work in class to put together a resumé, cover letter and portfolio.

While capstone classes seem like a lot of work and labor, in the end, they truly do prepare students for the real world. They provide the skills that students will need in the future, as well as a chance to see what they will be doing once they graduate.

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