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From the classroom to the Caribbean: senior capstones across colleges

As the semester draws to a close, glimpses of graduation are everywhere. Lines of girls in bright red caps and gowns smiling by the Sundial, traces of champagne and confetti scattered over the Seal and photographers capturing the bittersweet reality of these last couple weeks.

To graduate, each senior must complete a capstone, and according to the Miami website, "Each Capstone emphasizes sharing of ideas, synthesis, and critical, informed reflection as significant precursors to action, and each includes student initiative in defining and investigating problems or projects."

Students have the ability to either take a capstone class within their major or design their own by uploading a proposal ticket including a statement of explanation, a DAR report and contact information for a faculty advisor.

Each college within the university hosts an array of capstone options, allowing students to be as innovative and creative as they choose.

College of Engineering and Computing

The capstone for the College of Engineering and Computing, "Senior Design" takes place over a full year, and students are grouped into teams of two to eight people. Senior biomedical engineering major Anne Poindexter worked with three other students to discover how a purple dye found in bacteria could be produced on a large scale and to then see if such a venture would be profitable.

"The challenge that comes with figuring things out without a clear syllabus, without a clear how-to, that was very difficult," Anne said. "But you have to figure out like within this, not just like how to get a final product, but like how to find information that isn't just given to you, and that's a really valuable skill."

Once the research was completed and analyzed, Anne and her group presented their poster at Senior Design Day, a showcase and competition for engineering projects. After graduation, Anne will attend University of Cincinnati for medical school.

Farmer School of Business

The Farmer School of Business offers 11 different capstones, and senior marketing major Julia Waterbury chose one called "Highwire Brand Studio", a cross-disciplinary course that's required for graphic design majors and open to marketing majors.

Julia and her team got to work with a real client, The Clean Program (a health and wellness company) to create a campaign with graphics, strategy and social media to target a group of consumers within its customer base, and at the end of the semester, they presented to the client. After graduation, Julia is moving to Chicago to work at a construction and real estate company as the marketing coordinator.

College of Creative Arts

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The College of Creative Arts has four different departments including architecture and interior design, art, music and theater. Senior Grace Rosus, a double major in music and arts management with a minor in marketing, worked with Todd Stewart, the head of the arts management department, to design her own capstone experience.

Grace has been house manager of the theatre department for three years and orchestra manager for the last year where she modernized the organizations by moving information online and gained experience in managing professional ensembles. For her capstone, she wanted to find a way to leave all she'd accomplished for her successor, as she's moving to California after graduation and won't be on campus to train someone new.

"I essentially made up my own degree plan, which I love that I was able to do here," Grace said. "When I interview for jobs and internships, they always say you're the only person we've had that has this degree plan and has this experience."

College of Arts and Science

The College of Arts and Science offers dozens of academic programs, representing nearly half of Miami's student body with each of its 63 majors and 10 co-majors offering their own capstone experiences.

With two majors in the College of Arts and Science, senior Lindsey Green, double majoring in strategic communication and creative writing, found comfort in one of her capstones and found enlightenment in the absence of another.

"It was very, like, real life," Lindsey said with regards to her "Issues in Creative Writing" capstone. "[We talked about] how to continue writing, even if it's not your full time job."

Lindsey's capstone revolved around life after college, with discussions about getting published, getting an agent, applying for grants and residences and talking to authors whose works have been published through Miami University Press.

"A lot of us didn't know if we wanted to continue writing. Some people were like, 'do I even care?'" Lindsey said. "[Our professor] really opened up our minds."

When it came to her other major, however, Lindsey couldn't manage a spot in the usual strategic communication capstone, STC 459 - in order to fill the capstone requirement, she worked with her advisor to take a different class.

"[STC 450], social activism through social media, is one of my favorite classes I've ever taken at Miami," Lindsey said. "The [usual STC] capstone is doing a PR plan, and I know now I don't want to do PR, so that was helpful."

Western Program

Also under the CAS umbrella, students majoring in Miami's Western Program for Individualized Studies spend their years in the program planning for and executing a definitive capstone project, with specific classes dedicated to developing research proposals and action plans.

Senior individualized studies major Arcadia Davies chose to focus her interdisciplinary education on ecology and the environment in multiple contexts, such as colonialism, modern climate change issues and how the media interacts with environmental issues.

Her self-designed capstone project began this past fall researching early colonialism in the Caribbean, culminating in January with a Western Program-assisted trip to the Bahamas, where she went on tours with both vacationers and locals to collect information related to her research.

"The Western capstone is so unique, it's an experience you're not gonna be able to find in other programs," Davies said. "It can be really challenging, but what you gain from it is really unbelievable."

Through interviews, writing, journaling and photography, Davies undertook extensive on-location research, including study of the roles of women, minorities and the impact of racism on the tourism industry.

"I got to combine [my interests] in several ways," Davies said. "I got to do a lot of interviewing [and] learning how people interact with the place they're from."

Miami proudly touts the capstone experience as a pillar of the liberal arts education. Capstone classes across all Miami colleges have offered seniors a variety of experiences to truly cap off their degrees.

Despite the variety among disciplines, each capstone provides exposure and valuable insight into the professional world as students prepare to cross the stage and begin the next chapter of their lives.