Senioritis is not the only thing creeping up on the class of 2007 as the school year comes to an end. Students also must finalize their senior projects or seminars called capstones.
“Capstones are essentially the culmination course of what you study,” said David Dams, an international business, marketing and Spanish major.
This semester, Dams has to complete three different capstone courses to fulfill his major requirements. Having some experience in capstone courses, Dams said he is well aware of the hard work it takes to get through them.
“Students aren’t prepared to take capstones,” Dams said. “Pre-requisites don’t set you up for [the] professors [who] run them … like a business.”
Dams said he feels students had more structured classes in their previous years. Capstone students are only given a syllabus in their capstone course and asked to get to work, he said.
Though Dams said he has definitely had to do grunt work to complete his capstones, he admits that the work will benefit him in the long run.
“Capstones is the reason I have my job now,” Dams said. “I was introduced to that company when I took that class and it really convinced me that this field is what I want to do.”
Professor Nicole DeSilvis, creator of the international business capstone course, has been teaching the class for the past five years. She also works as a consultant for a small business development center.
“Students didn’t understand the practical aspects of international trade, and that really concerned me,” DeSilvis said. “They needed someone who really had the practical approach.”
So DeSilvis decided to put together everything a person would really need to know about international trade in the form of a capstone. Students are not required to use a textbook, but only real-life, practical application, she added.
Without an example or specific guidelines on how to create the course, DeSilvis said she made the initial assumption that everyone taking the course had the same background knowledge.
“Not everyone has the same skills and we are putting them all together and expecting them to work together,” she said.
“So you have to spend some time on bringing everybody up to speed and hopefully in the end everybody’s happy and can work together.”
DeSilvis said students with different majors work in groups to complete their projects “so that everyone has different [academic] backgrounds in order to feel confident in something that they contribute,” she said.
DeSilvis said she understands that students feel capstones are hard work and time-consuming.
“I get very discouraged when I hear students complain because I know they’re not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but eventually they do,” she said, adding that she and her teaching assistants support the students and offer as much help as they can.
Each semester, parts of the international business capstone curriculum are updated, DeSilvis said.
“I never use the same curriculum ever,” she added.
“What’s the point of offering the same class over and over again if the world changes around you?”
Temple graduate Jack F. Cesareo III, who earned his B.B.A. in international business and finance in August 2006, was a student of DeSilvis’. Before graduating, Cesareo had to complete three capstones and said he remembers pulling an all-nighter to finish his project.
“I just wanted to see the final result,” he said.
But in the end, all the hard work and responsibility pays off, said Cesareo, who recently moved to Brazil to take a job as the assistant marketing director of Ci&T, an information technology company. He learned of the position through DeSilvis.
“I benefited more from capstones than from any other courses I ever took at Temple,” he said.
“You will use this information the rest of your life and I am so glad that I was given that opportunity.”
Senior English major Jason Rose also said his capstone on Renaissance literature has been his favorite course.
“The atmosphere is much more intimate and the class is basically an open forum, where you can respond to the readings and your classmates freely,” he said.
Rose must complete a thesis paper on an issue of his interest by the end of the semester and is writing about issues of male sexual identity in William Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Rose said the workload has not been heavy at all, but the courses require “a lot more focus because you’re dealing with material that goes beyond what you generally learn and experience in lower level classes. That’s one of the best parts about it,” he said.
Rose said that he would have enjoyed his other courses more if they were like capstones.
“I feel that the capstone is the clear pinnacle of all the courses in my major, and that all the courses I have taken have all been useful towards my capstone,” he said.
Lucy Foerster, a sports and recreation management major in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, is president of her senior seminar project at TUCC.
“The class is set up as a stimulated business, and we are split up into different committees,” Foerster said.
“With these committees we put on a major project. This year, [TUCC] has collaborated our efforts into a student luncheon.”
As president, Foerster oversees the work and contribution of her group members, holding board meetings to provide her support and suggestions.
“I have been forced to deal with different attitudes and people that I have never worked with before,” Foerster said.
“Our capstone is made of two different majors and also split into two different sections; it has been my job to create a healthy balance between competitive nature and an equal amount of support with each other.”
Foerster also serves as liaison between her class and professor Jeffrey Montague, assistant dean in STHM, who created the senior seminar.
“Professor Montague actually chooses the positions as he sees fit,” Foerster said. “He will put people in their positions so they can learn as much as possible.”
Despite the stress, Foerster said she the class is worth all of the effort.
“This class has made me look into what I have to work on before I enter into the business world,” she said.
“We are forced to become critical decision makers and problem solvers within the stimulated business.”
Dr. Joe Goldblatt, senior lecturer and executive director for strategic partnerships and professional development in STHM, said his capstone curriculum entails mostly individual projects with occasional group assignments.
“I don’t hear many complaints,” Goldblatt said. “I receive very high ratings from my students about the class.”
Teaching at Temple for four years, Goldblatt has taught programming and special events, event management and a graduate level course called “Conferences, Exhibitions, and Event Management.”
In the past, capstones used to just consist of a final exam, Goldblatt said.
“Now they have tangible projects for students to complete,” he said. “Currently I have students working on the Bethlehem Music Festival and I expect them to do so well that at the end they are asked for their resumes.”
Jenna Oskowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.