The GECS senior capstone experience, a requirement for all GECS majors, involves the research, planning and execution of a tangible sustainability project on or off-campus. The capstone provides the academic space, time, and mentoring for students to integrate and synthesize the knowledge and skills obtained during the previous three years into a coherent framework in preparation for life and work after graduation.
While working in groups, GECS seniors research, design, and implement a sustainability project or initiative on campus or in Baltimore. The project, and each student’s role within their group, should be useful and relevant for that particular student’s chosen path post-graduation.
All GECS seniors enroll in the GECS Senior Capstone Seminar both in the fall and spring semesters (Parts I and II). Prerequisites include current status as a GECS major, completion of all core courses, and an acceptable plan for completing all requirements for the major by the end of the senior year, or approval of the director. The seminars are designed to facilitate measured progress on the capstone projects and ensure that the final product is meaningful and exceptional.
All majors make an oral presentation of their capstone experience to involved faculty, advisers, and fellow students at the end of their senior year. Students also develop a poster presentation for display at the annual Undergraduate Research Day and during commencement week.
To ensure that each capstone project is useful, the capstone utilizes a client-based model. Each team has a specific client for whom they develop and hone their project concept. Teams report to their client on a regular basis, and the final capstone product involves a tangible deliverable for that client.
The terms “client” and “deliverable” can take on many forms. A client may be a local environmental non-profit organization, JHU’s Office of Sustainability, a professor whose research could translate into an applicable capstone project, etc. The deliverable may also take on various forms, including but not limited to:
- A detailed design proposal
- The creation of a physical project (e.g. a rain garden)
- A comprehensive policy proposal
- An educational program or behavioral change initiative
Every capstone project will include the following key components:
- Project selection: What project will be pursued, who is the client, and what is the tangible deliverable that will be created?
- Defining the issue: What environmental issue/problem is this project designed to address?
- Methodology: What research and project implementation method(s) will be used to address the issue?
- Stakeholder analysis: Who is the client and what are their interests regarding this issue/project? Who are the other parties that may be affected by this project and what are their views? What is the relationship between stakeholders?
- Community Engagement: As part of the stakeholder analysis, and throughout the course of the project, engagement with members of the community where the project is being implemented or where it may have an impact, is critical.
- Background research: A detailed and comprehensive literature review covering the critical dimensions, theories and disciplines relevant to the project.
- Science/original research: A research component that develops and presents new information. For a social science project, this may include surveys aimed at assessing an issue, opinions, behavioral choices, etc.
- Strategic action plan: A detailed plan that includes the background research, original research, results and analysis, and implementation outline/timeline. This is the most important product produced in the fall and must be scholarly, evidence-based, and demonstrate a synthesis of the GECS courses and topics studied.
- Implementation: For most projects, implementation of the project/deliverable for the client will begin in the fall semester and be completed early in the spring semester.
- Implementation: Completing the project/deliverable for the client. This phase of the capstone must be complete before spring break.
- Communication: Developing a compelling and innovative way to communicate the project/results/deliverable to the client and to the public. This will include formal presentations to the JHU community in addition to a poster for the annual Undergraduate Research Day and commencement week.
- Sustainability/Assessment: What is the projected long-term sustainability and impact of the project? What is the overall success of the project?