We have an official description, of course, but that doesn’t really give a sense of what’s going on here.
We’re trying something new at Macaulay, something that no other program (to our knowledge) has tried in this way. We want to reimagine what a “capstone” project can really be. In a world of Open Educational Resources, of new paradigms for research, scholarship and education, the idea of a final honors project which is final, conclusive–a “cap”–is often too limiting.
We see Macaulay students doing work that can’t be captured or capped. It’s a place to jump off from, a commencement, rather than a conclusion.
A capstone course or project is the pinnacle of a student’s undergraduate career. It demonstrates the most sustained, intellectually rigorous and thoroughly researched scholarship or creative invention a college student can do in specific discipline.
It’s an immensely valuable exercise, and the pride and sense of achievement students feel from delivering such exemplary products is powerful.
The springboard project, in a sense, opens up the “product” which is the capstone.
- A springboard project focuses on process, not product.
- A springboard project connects disciplines–because what you learned in chemistry doesn’t have to be completely divorced from what you learned in modern poetry.
- A springboard project includes consistent informal reflection–because part of doing research or creative work is the emotional toll, and the emotional rewards, of the work
- A springboard project faces outward–because global connections with interest-based communities are the heart of the doitocracy
- A springboard project is simultaneously retrospective and prospective–because learning is not limited by semesters
(what else will go on this list? That’s something we’ll decide together!)
The Springboard Projects from our first pilot year (2014-2015) are ready for you to take a look!
“Storytelling and Sign Language”—Christina Oros, Brooklyn College
“Rethinking Atticus Finch: A Paragon of Virtue or Just Another Politician?”—Michael Bavalsky, Brooklyn College
“The Science Wars and the End of History”—Mark Markov, Brooklyn College
“Musings of an Aspiring Medievalist/Doctor”-Maryam Esperanza Funtanilla Razz, Brooklyn College
Well, let’s see…
We’ve also got some examples of students who (in 2012-2013 and before) were approaching the model of what we think a springboard might be..some sites that show work that started to make us think of the springboard idea.
Examples can be also be constraints, unfortunately. We’re trying to provide basic principles and a scaffold…and then see what people can build!
That’s great! The springboard is meant to give another layer–to expand what you can do and to support your capstone project. You’ll get help thinking through drafts, ideas on connections, a supportive audience, pep rallies and encouragement, and a chance to take that idea to the next level, making the “regular” project even stronger than it could have been.
Great! A springboard project gives you the perfect chance to pull your education together and plot where it will go, to reflect and project, demonstrate and deliberate.
Or were you planning on a creative work? An operetta or novella? A drama or a documentary? A springboard project will give that creative work a community, publicity, and an easily recognized credential to show your work and its roots to those who most need to see it! Grad schools. Employers. Production companies. Foundations. Your grandma.
Does this project take the place of a capstone course or senior thesis that my major or college might already require?
No, this project enriches an existing project! (But if you are in a major or a campus or an area of interest for which there is no capstone or senior thesis available, or if your own work and interests don’t fit with the model of a traditional written thesis, this project can be used to take the place of one! It will fulfill your Macaulay requirement. )
The project will run throughout the academic year, meeting once a week, and of course we do have a final “deadline” at the end of the year (everyone wants to graduate!). But a springboard project is also a process…so to a large extent, it can possibly go on even after you graduate (that will be up to you, of course), and during the class there are many deadlines for drafts and discussions and supplementary projects.
Yes. But this will be the kind of work that makes other work easier–the kind of work that pulls you along and helps you think more quickly and explore more widely. Much of it is work that you would need to do anyway…but instead of doing it alone, and having your success sit in a drawer or box in your filing cabinet, you will be doing it as part of a community and sharing it with a global, real-world audience.
That’s fine! You’re in a perfect place to start your journey.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to”
No, certainly not! We do want all springboard projects to have some kind of lasting public face. But it’s up to you (all of us) to decide what kind of face that might be. The web is one way to be public. But not the only way!
Absolutely! Help is why we do this together. You’ll have the help of your professor, you’ll have the help of your cadre of classmates, and you’ll have the help of the inimitable cadre of Macaulay Senior ITFs.
A lot of that will be for you to answer at the end of the year! But at the very least, you’ll get help and assistance with your Macaulay capstone requirement. You’ll get a better, more comprehensive and successful thesis or project of whatever kind your major requires. You’ll get an established credential, a portfolio (I didn’t say “eportfolio”!) of your thinking, learning and accomplishments that you can show to all kinds of outside audiences who might never see a traditional thesis or project. You’ll get to help shape the future of higher education (and be an informed student of your own educational process–with all its ups and downs). You’ll get to work with a community of scholars at Macaulay and globally.
You’ll also be eligible for Macaulay’s Capstone Reimagined Award at graduation.
Every year since Macaulay’s first graduation ceremony, we’ve given one or more students an award (originally called the “Thesis Award”) recognizing the best Capstone work in that graduating class.
A few years ago, we decided (as part of the thought process that led to the springboard idea), to start recognizing that our students were beginning to redefine what Capstone could be. Capstone Reimagined Award winners are publicly recognized and listed in the program at the Graduation Ceremony. Beginning with the pilot year (2013-2014) only participants in the springboard project initiative will be eligible for those awards.
Just speak to your Macaulay advisor! The course is MHC 355, and you will need to file an epermit. Remember that this is a year-long course, and you need to register for it in the Fall and the Spring. If you have more questions, email Lisa Brundage, firstname.lastname@example.org.