Finding Pathways for the Honors Capstone
The Honors Capstone requires students, under faculty supervision, to undertake projects appropriate to their disciplines, and put into practice the theory and methodologies professionals in the field understand and practice themselves. Depending on your wishes as well as the expectations of your major, you might find yourself conducting bench science or intensely reading William Faulkner. You might seek out an internship or create a portfolio, or prepare a senior show for your Capstone event. You might decide to demonstrate that English or history majors can do something besides teach, and art/music majors can do something besides lose themselves in their studios. Such efforts can position you just a little ahead of the crowd in the job market, and the Capstone energy supports those efforts as well as more traditional academic research.
In any and all cases, the honors thesis that caps your honors experience will take you further into the methodologies and questions of your major than most students are able to do through shared classrooms alone. Whatever its shape, the Capstone is the capstone of your academic experience. Your thesis testifies to that academic realm, but should not limit the design for your work. Figure out what problem or question or activity in your field is the one you want to lose/find yourself in; the thesis will give you ample opportunity to explore the discourse of the field and learn what insights over time contextualize the question and drive it forward. The thesis is your chance to add your voice to that discourse, on whatever terms are appropriate to the Capstone you are pursuing.
You have to be ready for this advanced work, which is why the Capstone must be in your major field (or your minor, if you have adequate training in it and seek the Dean’s permission). Beyond that, the range is pretty much still to be determined. Show us what you can add. Consider the following examples:
- Undertake traditional research in a library or archive and write a near-graduate level paper that contributes to the academic discourse on the subject.
- Seek an internship or unpaid volunteer experience that gives a real-world basis for testing theoretical solutions, resulting in a handbook or critique of use to experts in the field.
- Tackle an unsolved problem through a senior design course; write up the twists and turns in your decisions, why you made them, and what you would do differently if you could.
- Write a policy to address an unmet or insufficiently managed public concern, and explain why other efforts have fallen short but this one will work.
- Prepare for student teaching (or a MS Teacher Corps application) by devising a semester’s worth of lesson plans for teaching fractions or Macbeth or how to balance a family budget, and show your academic mentors that you have mastered current theories of education and classroom management.
- Write that collection of short stories you hope will make you famous, and force yourself to name your models, your strengths and those weaknesses you cringe to expose.
- Do whatever capstone is required or encouraged by your major or minor, e.g., International Studies, ISS, various engineering programs, the accountancy alternate route. Someone in the field has already figured out a design to encourage a rigorous experience in the field. The Honors thesis-writing may or may not require an additional course, but a departmental capstone is a fine core experience for your Honors Capstone.
- Figure out what experience in your field you are eager to undergo, and do it; write a thesis that captures the risks and potential of the work so that your mentors and peers understand why it matters.
Incorporating the Capstone into Honors Coursework and Requirements
Your Capstone will contribute to the honors hours you earn as you reach or exceed our minimum 29 honors hours. How many of those honors hours are earned through the Capstone, when the coursework occurs, and how the work shows up on your transcript – that varies not just by discipline but by individual timelines and goals.
Some elements are common in all Capstone experiences:
- There is an accepted curricular structure to accommodate academic growth outside the classroom. Most majors and minors have appropriate coursework and, if they do not, the SMBHC has HON numbers that “float.”
- Your Capstone work (including the thesis) can receive a maximum of 9 honors hours.
- You are expected to be enrolled in a thesis-writing class during the semester in which you defend the thesis. A departmental course or an HON course will accommodate this work.
- When you are using a course as a home for Capstone work, you and your advisor should discuss grading criteria and how frequently you will meet. Be sure you are clear about the work required of you each time and by the end of the semester. If you are in a course, you are earning a grade even if this doesn’t look like a classroom to you.
- You will have to tell us your Capstone Plan for conducting and completing the coursework; otherwise, we cannot tell how to award the honors credit or how to support you during your Capstone.
For more on the curricular structure, go to the list of commonly-used courses for the Capstone. Usually, but not always, a course taken for your Capstone work will also count toward your major. Check the Academic Catalogue or talk with your department chair if you have concerns about using the Honors Capstone to satisfy requirements in your major. Ask especially about fulfilling the major’s electives at the 300- or 400-level. Often, that is where the Honors Capstone can contribute to your major as well as your honors hours. The academic coursework that houses your Capstone will receive honors credit whatever the departmental designation. You should not use HON courses if departmental courses are available. The form for your Capstone Plan, submitted before you begin your Capstone project, will give us the information we need in order to award honors credit for a departmental course, or to enroll you in the HON coursework for the thesis.
For a complete picture of the Capstone and Thesis experience, please read The Capstone Years: After Candidacy.