Senior Capstone Experience

Overview

The ENVS senior capstone experience, a requirement for all ENVS majors, involves the planning and execution of an independent research project or equivalent scholarly work related to environmental issues or sustainability. 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.

Capstone projects can take many different forms depending on the student’s background and interests, but all involve research or another type of scholarly endeavor within the field of environmental science and studies. Students may collaborate closely with JHU faculty on a project related to the faculty member’s ongoing research, or they may design their own project supervised by a faculty member with related expertise.

Most capstones are research projects on an environmental or sustainability topic that culminate in a research paper and oral presentation, but many students choose to develop an applied project in conjunction with a local organization that will result in a tangible product for that group. Others may produce a creative work such as a short documentary film, fiction writing, or photojournalism portfolio on a particular environmental topic. Most students work individually, but a small group project of suitable scope is also possible.

Coursework

In the junior year, ENVS majors enroll in a 1-credit Research Design course in which they receive guidance on the development of their capstone research project proposal and identify a faculty advisor for their project so that they are fully prepared to undertake their capstone experience. Most students take the Research Design course in the spring of their junior year, but students who plan to study abroad that semester should take it in their junior fall.

ENVS seniors enroll in the 3-credit Senior Capstone Experience in the fall semester plus a 1-credit Senior Seminar. Students are expected to set goals and create a timeline for completion of the capstone project, meet regularly with their research project advisor, and present their final product at the end of the semester. Students also develop a poster presentation about their capstone project for display at DREAMS, JHU’s annual undergraduate research day in the spring. In the Senior Seminar, students meet weekly to share updates on their capstone projects, discuss current events, and explore career options and pathways with guidance from faculty and career counselors from JHU’s Life Design Lab.

Honors

Students who plan to earn honors in Environmental Science or Environmental Studies must complete a second semester of independent research beyond the capstone project by enrolling in a 3-credit Senior Thesis course, usually in the spring of their senior year, as well as maintaining at least a 3.5 GPA in the courses taken for the major. In most cases, the second semester of research is a continuation of the capstone project that expands it to greater depth or breadth; but undertaking a separate project is also a possibility.