Capstone Festival set for May 14, 15 and 16

Alyssa Nally has been working with the Monterey chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, implementing the foundation’s Rise Above Plastics program.

Alyssa Nally talks with elementary school studentsTo fulfill a CSU Monterey Bay requirement that all students complete a capstone – a creative or research project – the marine science major developed a presentation for elementary school students. Nally’s presentation teaches the youngsters about the negative impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems, and why it is important to reduce plastic consumption.

She has given the presentation to hundreds of students in Marina and King City and hopes those children will spread the word to their families and friends, and to the community.

Visual and Public Art major Rachell Hester’s capstone project – a 14-piece installation she calls Imperceptions – explores preconceived notions of outward appearance and deeper meaning. The portraits depict first impressions and challenge viewers to expand their narrow focus on individual stereotypes and open up to a bigger story.

“The installation forces the viewer to step back in order to fully appreciate the magnitude of each subject and combined expressions,” Hester told the Otter Realm.

Both projects fulfilled a requirement facing graduating seniors at colleges and universities across the country. By requiring a capstone project, the schools want undergraduates to pull together, synthesize and apply years of learning.

At Cal State Monterey Bay, all students have been required to do capstone projects since the first graduating class in 1997. Some of those projects are archived in the campus library. (View the archive here.)

During the Capstone Festival held at the end of each semester, the campus takes on the feel of an intellectual marketplace. At recent festivals, a biology major presented a study of human stem cell proliferation, a social and behavioral sciences major looked at women police officers in American society and a psychology student examined the socialization of sarcasm.

Business students, working in teams, presented strategic business plans for local companies and organizations.

Capstone logoA World Languages and Cultures student gave a 25-minute talk – entirely in Japanese – on the arguments for and against changing Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. A PowerPoint presentation running in the background provided the information in English.

And a music major – with help from his friends – performed a three-movement piece he composed for a brass quartet.

While the projects require a great deal of time and effort, they’re worth it. Research by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) has found that capstone projects are a high-impact educational practice. Participation in these practices can be “life-changing,” according to the AACU's research.

"Increasingly, people want to know what students can do with their learning and how they can apply that learning across all the courses in their college," the AACU’s Carol Grear Schneider told the Los Angeles Times.

In addition, she told The Times, colleges want to do a better job of preparing graduates for the demands of the job market and graduate schools. The capstones, she said, help students "become people who can problem-solve and produce something of high quality."

Research by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) shows a steady increase in those completing capstones. In 2013, 45 percent of students reported doing such a project compared to nine percent in 2000.

Campus-wide requirements like the one at CSUMB are most common at liberal arts colleges, where 74 percent of students reported completing a capstone project in 2013. At large research universities, 45 percent of students produced capstones that year, according to NSSE.

The capstone festival is scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, May 14, 15 and 16. The public is invited. For a schedule by academic department, click here.

The Cinematic Arts and Technology capstone program will be held twice, starting at 1 and 6 p.m., May 15, in the World Theater on Sixth Avenue. To see a list of projects that will be shown, click here.

"We See It This Way," an exhibit of student capstones, is on display at the National Steinbeck Center

Driving directions and a campus map are available here.


Photo and information on Alyssa Nally's project from Division of Science and Environmental Policy.