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Capstone Workshop

As one of their final three courses, students should enroll in the required Capstone Workshop, which is designed to encourage the integration and synthesis of coursework in the program. Conducted by a faculty mentor, the Capstone Workshop will meet on a weekly basis throughout the semester to review project ideas and to discuss progress on each student’s capstone project. Together the faculty/mentor and the seminar participants will form a learning community who will to assist one another toward the completion of the respective capstone project. The Workshop provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their academic exploration in MLAS and to share it with others in the program.

The goal of the project is to provide evidence of the student’s ability to conceive, organize, and produce a graduate-level scholarly or creative work for academic credit. The Workshop culminates in a variety of submitted work:

  • A thesis or capstone project;
  • a field study or research project that would synthesize or take off from the student's coursework in the program; or
  • an original work of art along with a 20-page essay detailing the background, context, and chronology of the process.

Students should start thinking about their topic or project early in the program. All MLAS course and research work will naturally develop, improve, and refine the original concept by the end of the program.

The initial assignment is for each student to present a summative essay to the course instructor, discussing major lessons learned through the program. This summative essay may serve as the initial attempt to articulate the capstone project. An additional and important purpose of the summative essay is to assess the learning outcomes of the program, as stipulated by the accrediting body for our region, SACS.

The next stage in the Capstone Workshop is for each student to prepare a prospectus of her or his project. As stated above, it is assumed that the student has thought through many of the elements of the Capstone project well in advance of the start of the course; this is important in ensuring its timely and satisfactory completion. The purpose of the prospectus will be to

  • encourage the student to clarify the intended capstone project;
  • assure that the project’s timeline for completion is mapped out;
  • delineate the roles of the student, faculty/mentor, and any additional readers;
  • ensure that the proposed project is possible to undertake within the student’s capabilities and the duration of the semester.

The prospectus should contain a summary of the intended scope, style, and content of the project. Other elements of the prospectus include descriptions of

  • The goal: Describe the topic, questions, issue, or problem explored and analyzed in this project.
  • The context: Explain the background important to the understanding of the topic, question, issue or problem.
  • The preparation and planning : Summarize the personal, professional, and academic background that informs the preparation for this project.
  • The methodology: Provide an overview of the ways in which this project will be researched and developed.
  • The preliminary bibliography: Include some of the key sources that have been instrumental to shaping the project.
  • Additional faculty adviser(s): MLAS students may enlist the help of Vanderbilt faculty who have research and teaching expertise in the particular area of the Capstone as additional adviser and resources.

Once the project is approved, the timeline, additional reviewers, and other details will be developed with the Capstone Workshop Faculty/Mentor.

For information on this seminar or other aspects of the program, please consult with the Director of the program.