What is (are?) the Macaulay Springboards? What’s going on here?
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.
How is this different from a “regular” capstone or thesis?
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!)
Do you have an example of a student’s completed springboard?
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
“Building a New France in New York—Victoria Tang, Brooklyn College
“Rethinking Atticus Finch: A Paragon of Virtue or Just Another Politician?”—Michael Bavalsky, Brooklyn College
“Evolution of Rape Laws in Pakistan”—Ayesha Rehman, City 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
What if I already have a capstone idea?
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.
Does this project take the place of a capstone course or senior thesis that my major or college might already require?
Springboard fulfills your Macaulay thesis requirement. You are still responsible for your campus and major requirements. If you want to use Springboard to fulfill multiple requirements, you need written permission from your major advisor, Macaulay advisor, Macaulay campus director, Springboard professors and any other professors or mentors for whom you want your Springboard work to be cross-honored. You are responsible for getting these permissions documented prior to beginning Springboard.
What’s the schedule?
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.
Will this be a lot of work?
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 real-world audience.
What if I don’t have any project ideas yet?
Springboard is best for students who have an idea about what they would like to study. You do not need to have a specific topic outlined on the first day of class, but you should have an idea about at least one area that you really want to study in-depth. We will spend time in the fall narrowing topic choices and sharpening focus.
Does it have to be a website?
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!
It sounds complicated? Will I have help?
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 Macaulay TLC.
What do I get? What’s in it for me?
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 special recognition in the commencement program, a portfolio 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 work with a community of scholars at Macaulay.
How do I sign up?
Just speak to your Macaulay advisor! The course is MHC 400 (fall) and 401 (spring), 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, email@example.com.
Would you recommend this class for first or second year Macaulay students, or more for upperclassmen?
This course is for Macaulay seniors. For first year or second year students (or third), we promise you’ll get a chance in your senior year!