ENV Capstone Experience
The Environmental Studies capstone experience requires each student to complete a comprehensive research project within a two- course sequence during the senior year. In collaboration with their capstone mentor, students will formally propose and carry out a project based on fieldwork and/or substantive library research. Projects will demonstrate an integration of the methods and theory appropriate to the student's depth component by investigating a question or problem that is significant, situated, and original in its application.
Evaluation criteria for the ENV Capstone Experience:
- Depth: The project will be in the area of the student's depth component track - Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, or self-designed.
- Interdisciplinarity: The project will require that the student demonstrate knowledge of and facility with more than one discipline.
- Rigor: The student's project proposal is approved by the capstone mentor; and each project will be evaluated by the capstone mentor and the ENV 498/499 professors.
- Significance: The project will address an issue/problem/experiment/text/etc. of demonstrable relevance to environmental studies.
- Complexity: The student pursues the capstone project in the senior year, after completing the majority of coursework for the ENV major; the combination of independent capstone project + capstone course material in ENV 498/499 will challenge students to explore environmental issues from more complex perspectives.
Capstone Project and ENV 498/499:
ENV 498 / Fall semester of senior year:
- By the end of their Junior year, Environmental Studies majors will have selected a capstone mentor and submitted a proposal to the chair that includes a single page statement of their research problem, proposed methods, timeline for completion of the project and budget justification of anticipated expenses. Students who plan to conduct research over the summer, and will be requesting funds from the Environmental Studies program, should submit their proposal with a letter of support from their capstone mentor no later than February 1 in the spring semester of their Junior year.
- The fall of senior year/ENV 498 course will mostly be used to work on projects. Formal proposals will be completed by the end of the second week of the fall semester. Students will work most closely with their capstone mentors during this period to define the scope and goals of the project. During the semester, students should collect and analyze data, discuss results, and produce conclusions. The definition of data, results, and conclusions will depend on the mentor, the project, and the discipline.
- ENV 498 course work may include group discussions of methodological differences between disciplines as well as library time, field trips, and readings on subjects of common interest. It may also be useful, at times, to use some class time to divide students into discussion groups within disciplines to enhance project depth.
- Students will meet with capstone mentors throughout the semester as needed.
- Students will complete a coherent, stand-alone project by the end of the fall semester. This project should be significant and build on the student's depth component. Students should also be able to discuss their project in the context of the other two divisions [i.e., their breadth component].
ENV 499 / Spring semester of senior year:
Spring semester/ENV 499 will begin with student presentations based on the projects that ended the previous semester. Presentations will be substantial (15-20 minutes, dependent on the number of seniors in a given class) and might discuss context, methodologies, results, and conclusions. A primary goal of the presentation is for students to receive feedback from their peers with the goal of improving their project in terms of depth, breadth, and/or completeness. Students may be assigned to meet outside of class in groups (perhaps by week of presentation) to discuss more thoroughly how projects could be completed. The presentations will also expose students to the breadth of projects being undertaken throughout the major. Junior ENV majors may be encouraged to attend some of these presentations so that they can begin to understand what will be expected of them in their senior year.
Presentations are expected to take roughly 1/3 of the semester, depending on the number of students in a given graduating class; exact presentation length will be altered appropriately. Presentations should include new material since the fall semester. This first 1/3 of the semester can also be viewed as improving breadth within the major as students from different divisions will present detailed research to each other.
- Improving the existing projects is a major theme of the class. Through classroom discussions, students will have the opportunity to identify and address weaknesses in the project. Some students may realize that further data collection is necessary while others working with larger datasets may need the extra time to produce more solid results. Others can use this time to produce truly excellent projects or even manuscripts.
Students wanting to complete more ambitious projects (including but not limited to students going for Honors) may decide to add an Independent Study course in order to complete the additional research and analysis needed to produce a project of greater depth.
The second 1/3 of the semester may be used for synthesis projects, field trips, readings, and discussion. Some additional emphasis may be placed on Environmental Humanities since students might not be receiving as much on the topic from their peers. This second 1/3 of the semester may be developed as a module that could be reused and revised through time. During this part of the semester, students will be expected to work on improving their projects outside of class. Again, peer support groups may be useful for students to continue to receive feedback.
- During the final weeks of the semester, students will turn in a revised project and give a final oral presentation on their work. The final presentation may be shorter and more similar to a presentation given at a conference in the students' given field. These presentations may focus more on results and conclusions and less on methodology. Alternatively, the final project may be for students to produce a poster for the end of year research symposium. The poster presentation may be a final, public presentation of the revised project.
The Thomson Family Environmental Studies Capstone Fund provides financial support to Environmental Studies majors for their capstone projects. Students may request reimbursement for equipment, supplies, travel (domestic or international), lodging and other expenses. The maximum funds available will vary from year-to-year, but are likely to be in the range of an equivalent of $1,500 to $2,000 per student although there is no restriction that every student be awarded an equivalent amount. Students should apply to other sources if funds in excess of this amount are required (your mentor can help identify those other sources, on or off campus). Include a detailed budget, justification of estimated expenses, and explanation of any other funding sources for which you will apply.
See Moodle for Proposal Cover Sheet and additional Capstone details. Please contact your advisor to discuss possible capstone projects and likely mentors. If proposed capstone mentors are outside the ENV core and affiliated faculty (http://www3.davidson.edu/cms/x40905.xml), contact me. Also, note that Dr. Bullock will be on sabbatical next year. Dr. Martin (Economics) and Dr. Peroni (Biology) will have returned, and we hope to have filled a visiting position in Human Geography and Urban Studies, see below for draft advertisement, who will also be available to serve as a mentor.