Student Capstone projects prep for real-world experience

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Businesses aren’t scrambling to hire inexperienced graduates into their workforces.

Some majors at Dixie State University are combating this by requiring students to take on a comprehensive real-world project during the course of their degree. These projects can vary greatly from program to program, but many fall under into the category of capstone courses.

As the name suggests, a capstone is the finishing piece of a bachelor’s degree. 

“[Students] will have to show that they can recall and apply what they have learned in all of their other courses,” said Shandon Gubler, associate professor of management and finance.

The capstone is not simply another class, English associate professor Ali Comeford said.

“[It’s] more of a peer-to-peer scholarship experience as opposed to a student experience,” Comeford said. “We see them as now participating in the professional activity that someone who has a degree … would be participating in once they leave school.”

Comeford said graduates with skills and knowledge in their chosen fields of study may find they still lack real-world material for their portfolios.

“[The capstone] gives them a professional piece to take out with them,” Comeford said. “It’s a great option to have for interviews and to put on resumes as well.”

While capstone courses are mandatory in order to graduate in many majors, professors said that they shouldn’t be seen as a chore or just another thing to check off an academic shortlist.

“I hope that students see it as something that has value for them individually and not just another set of credits for them to get through,” Comeford said.

Currently, Dixie has capstone classes and projects in the Udvar-Hazy School of Business, the communications department, the English department, among many others.

Business majors are expected to put themselves in the place of a CEO and board of executives and troubleshoot problems identified during 12 weeks of study and then present their plan to their peers, Gubler said.

English majors prepare an extensive annotated bibliography which they use to write their senior thesis — a 23-25 page research paper that they will be expected to present to their classmates during a 30-minute oral presentation.

Many other departments require practical projects from their senior students which, while not called capstone projects, are built for the same purpose: gaining real-world experience, applying what has been learned throughout the course of their study, and preparing them for the next step — be that a job, further education or any one of the vast array of options that lies before a freshly graduated student.

Whatever is required for a degree, students are asked by their capstone professors to remember to prepare from the beginning of their university career. 

“Our students need to know that they are going to need to be able to recall the information that they are learning,” Gubler said. “Hopefully that will help guide how they study.”