Toward the end of the program, often the last course in the student’s plan of study, the student will enroll in the required Capstone Seminar, designed to encourage the integration and synthesis of course work in the program. Conducted by a faculty mentor, the Capstone Seminar 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 assist one another toward the completion of the respective capstone project. It is an opportunity to reflect on the student’s academic exploration and to share 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 seminar 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 their coursework in the program; or,
- an original work of art along with a 20 pp. paper detailing the background, context and chronology of the process.
Candidates 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. That capstone project will be evaluated by the course instructor and other members of the MLAS faculty and the program director. The MLAS Capstone course will be offered starting in the 2008-2009 Academic Year.
The initial assignment is for each student to present a summative paper to the course instructor, discussing major lessons learned through the program. This summative paper may serve as the initial attempt to articulate the capstone project. An additional and important purpose of the summative paper 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 Seminar 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, additional readers;
- ensure that the proposed project is possible to do 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 project’s goal: Describe the topic, questions, issue, or problem explored and analyzed in this project.
- The context for the project: Explain the background important to the understanding of the topic, question, issue or problem.
- The preparation and planning for the project: Summarize the personal, professional, and academic background that informs the preparation for this project.
- The methodology for this project: 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 advisor(s). MLAS students may enlist the help of Vanderbilt faculty who have research and teaching expertise in the particular area of the Capstone as an additional advisor and resource.
Once the project is approved, the timeline, additional reviewers, and other details will be developed with the Capstone Seminar Faculty/Mentor.
For information on this seminar or other aspects of the program, please consult with the dean and director of the program.