Your Graduate Capstone: An Opportunity to Make an Impact

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Congratulations on starting your graduate degree program! Throughout your graduate program, you will become immersed in your field while advancing your capabilities and knowledge.

Because master’s-level coursework is so focused, you’ll be asked consider and start working on your graduate capstone at the very beginning of your program. Starting early will give you the opportunity to accumulate knowledge in each course that you can apply to your final project as you go.

Your ePortfolio

During your graduate coursework, you’ll keep a repository of all that you learn, write, and create in an ePortfolio using Anthology Portfolio™ software (formerly Chalk & Wire). You’ll start with a professional profile that summarizes your academic and professional history, much like an online résumé. Your ePortfolio will also be utilized as part of your capstone project and can be easily shared with potential employers.

Your capstone will require you to define, research, and solve a personal, community, or business challenge, or realize an entrepreneurial opportunity. Your program director and faculty will encourage you to choose an idea that ignites your interest and curiosity.

Maureen Murdock, M.S. in Leadership ’21, researched the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership, including how it can help navigate contentious exchanges and create a state of mutual understanding.

Karen Smith, M.S. in Project Management ’21, focused on a project at her workplace upgrading a city-wide emergency radio system. She analyzed the various processes involved in the project, including identifying radio system requirements, managing vendors, and meeting key milestones.

Computer iconView other examples of past capstone projects

You’ll want to think strategically about your project topic as you can use your experience to fill a gap in your résumé for a future career or advance your current career. You may also choose to help solve a community or personal issue that can support the larger good. Your program director and faculty will be available to brainstorm and advise you on ways to make your project a reality and you may also access the college’s digital library as a resource throughout your degree program.

Project management students will use the PMBOK® Guide and Standards from the Project Management Institute to plan and execute a substantial real-world project as their capstone. Ultimately, all graduate students will produce a research paper and presentation to share their findings. You’ll use what you’ve learned in class to complete your project, including strategy, research, analytical tools and the decision sciences.

The Capstone Course – A Community Approach

When you reach your final capstone course at the end of your degree program, you’ll attend mandatory Zoom (web conference) sessions with your classmates each week. You’ll also have various presenters attend class to give you further information related to finalizing your project and degree, such as public speaking, career topics, and more. Meeting weekly with your classmates in a virtual face-to-face environment will give you a sense of community as you all move toward completing your capstone. You’ll be able to share questions, concerns, and successes with your group.

The final aspect of your capstone course is your public presentation. You’ll be required to speak about your project for five to ten minutes in-person or via Zoom to a group of peers, classmates, instructors, program directors, and others from the College. While this may seem like a long time to present, you may find after working on a project that you’re passionate about for many months that it’s a challenge to provide just the highlights within this timeframe.

You’ll also complete a programmatic reflection assignment in your capstone course, where you’ll use journal entries, images, and more to chronicle your experience throughout your graduate program. This reflection will also use your Anthology™ ePortfolio.

Steps to Creating Your Capstone Project:
  • Define the problem
    • Determine an issue that you’d like to investigate or solve
  • Review the literature
    • Has the topic been studied before? Try to address a gap in current understanding
  • Formulate a research question
    • What do you expect to find? What question will you seek to answer?
  • Design your research process
    • Determine how you’ll gather information and test your theory
  • Collect your data
    • Follow your research process to collect data
  • Analyze your data
    • Use your data to draw evidence-based conclusions
  • Report your findings
    • Write your report and present your findings

Your graduate capstone is an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in a professional way. Your project will give you the chance to solve a personal or community issue, address a practical business problem, or tackle an entrepreneurial opportunity directly related to your desired career field. Your ePortfolio will allow you to capture your work in an online environment where you can easily share your body of work and industry knowledge with potential employers. You capstone is an excellent opportunity to make an impact that can have lasting benefits for your career, your community, and your employer.

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This blog was originally published in August 2018 and was updated to reflect emerging trends and best practices.