Capstone Courses

These courses are generally designed for majors and minors in a given discipline and are offered almost exclusively to students in their final year. Capstone courses ask students to draw upon the knowledge they have obtained throughout their course work and combine it with relevant service work in the community. The goal of capstone courses is usually either exploring a new topic or synthesizing students understanding of their discipline. These courses offer an excellent way to help students transition from the world of theory to the world of practice by helping them make professional contacts and gather personal experience. (See Appendix)

Example: Portland State University
In Other Words: The Women’s Community Education Project

Purpose: To design an outreach program to raise local teen girls’ awareness of resources and activities at In Other Words and the Women’s Community Education Project. To provide a space for teen girls to think, talk, and write about current issues in their lives.

Community-Based component: Your primary task for this course is to make contacts with teen advocates in the Portland area and to conduct several rap sessions with teen girls, encourage them to participate in our project, solicit submissions, and design our ’˜zine. You will negotiate a secondary task applicable to our project. This task is an opportunity to use skills specific to your major and should reflect a personal interest in an issue related to teen girls or the bookstore.

Related Assignment: Portfolio, Capstone Plan, and proposal for group facilitation research reflective journal.

Sample Assignments from Other Courses:

These assignments ask students to create materials that demonstrate the analysis, synthesis, and intersection of course work and service. Portfolios can work particularly well in problem-based service-learning courses, as the students are often asked to document a series of steps in solving a problem or in completing a project. Because students are focusing on a single project throughout the semester, all assignments in the portfolio are related, and the faculty member can chart students’ learning progression. Portfolios can also be particularly useful when the service assignment is completed in groups or teams. The portfolio allows each student to demonstrate how s/he has individually contributed to the project and how the contribution fits into the group effort as a whole.

Likewise, portfolios used in capstone courses allow students to synthesize career goals and academics. As many of the assignments in capstone courses take place outside the classroom, the portfolio is an effective way for students to document their learning and to integrate class/group discussions with their service experiences.


Environmental Science: Eric Pallant, ES 588 Junior Seminar in Environmental Solutions.
Service Component: Students design a feasibility study for bringing an aquaponics facility to Meadville, PA.
Related Assignments: Weekly report on research and comp proposal.

Service Learning: Rick Battistoni and John Saltmarsh, PSP 450 Capstone Seminar in Public and Community Service: Developing Lives of Commitment, Forming a Community Service Identity (Two semester course).
Service Component: Students work with a community partner or agency to design a project that meets an identifiable community need. At the end of the year, students make a presentation on the process of the collaboration and outcomes of the project.
Students also evaluate applications from local high school service learning programs seeking modest service grants given by the college. Students serve as consultants to those schools that are funded.
Related Assignments: Students are responsible for identifying topics in conjunction with their service project and facilitating readings and discussions on the topic(s).

Women’s Studies: Melissa Kesler Gilbert, Capstone Course: Women’s Community Education Project
Students work with a community partner (a local non-profit feminist bookstore). Students coordinate a series of rap sessions with local teen girls about current issues in their lives and encourage the girls to participate in the ZINE project ’“ where girls write, edit and publish a grassroots, mini-magazine.
Service Component: Students are assigned ‘primary and secondary community tasks’. The primary task is coordinating the rap sessions and publishing of the Teen Zine. The secondary task is negotiated with the community partner and should reflect a specific interest the student has related to teen girls or the feminist bookstore.
Portfolio assignment: Students must complete a portfolio.
Related assignments: Reflective journals


Computer Science: Kristen Gates, Web Site Design and Management.
Service Component: Students design and build fully functioning websites for a Bay Area non-profit organizations.
Portfolio assignment: Students complete a Project Book which includes notes, flowcharts, storyboards, design docs, etc. for Individual and Team projects. These Individual and Team projects include individual web design assignments and a Team Project Report on producing the website.

Hotel and Travel: Christina Beck, Meeting and Conference Planning.
Service Component: Students organize a workshop on small group communication for 5th and 6th grade students at local schools and related curricular materials for teachers.
Portfolio assignment: Students must submit a portfolio with a preliminary and revised timeline, agendas, minutes, 2 progress reports, their midterm reflection paper, the final group report, the resource packet they prepare for their small group’s workshop, and their final reflection paper. The portfolio requirements include supporting material and documentation ’“email interactions, internal memos; resources form other teams, reference and contact lists, etc. Students are also graded on the organization and professionalism of the portfolio.

Religion: Bobbi Patterson, Violence Studies Internship Transformation and Agents of Change.
Service Component: Students work in local agencies or organizations committed to investigating or addressing violence (e.g., juvenile courts, battered women’s shelters, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, homeless resource center, the Atlanta Food Bank, the Southern Center for Human Rights). Students serve two hours in the community for one hour of course credit with a maximum of 12 hours of course credit.
Portfolio assignment: Student portfolios are divided into a working portfolio and a presentation portfolio. While the working portfolio contains ongoing reflective work, the presenting portfolio represents a culmination of all work and should be organized in a rational analytical or reflective scheme