Book cover of Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J. Ketcham, Anthony G. Weaver, and Jessie L. Moore

For institutions of higher education and the professionals that work in them, the senior year represents the final opportunity to prepare seniors to face the demands that lie ahead. Therefore, if institutions wish to capitalize on the opportunities and obligations to provide meaningful culminating experiences through senior capstones, their design and execution must be intentionally and integrally connected to undergraduate education. Interested stakeholders at colleges and universities are likely to find a multiplicity of forms diffused throughout their organizations, making this task fraught with challenges.

This chapter, based on the National Survey of Senior Capstone Experiences, highlights the various forms that capstone experiences takes on campuses across the United States. Then the chapter interrogates the national landscape, highlighting institutional concerns for the senior year.

Discussion Questions

  • What do the results from the NSSCE dataset tell us about the current landscape of capstones offered at US institutions?
  • Discuss the types of capstones (if any) that are offered at your institution. Is the institution and/or disciplinary programs able to integrate several types of culminating experiences into your capstone?
  • One of the most concerning implications for administrators is increasing opportunities for all students to participate in a capstone experience.
    • What are the challenges in offering a capstone experience for all, while meeting academic goals and priorities?
    • What are the various ways an institution can offer paths for all students to participate in a capstone experience, with particular attention for populations or identity cohorts that are underrepresented on your campus?
  • How can faculty that teach or direct the capstone experience respond to McGill’s (2012) study of student perceptions of the capstone, which revealed possible “sources of student dissatisfaction?”