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Council studies capstone courses

The Curriculum Committee of the Arts and Sciences Council has proposed a new requirement for all certificate programs, a senior capstone course.

Faculty and administrators said they hoped the capstone would serve as a way for students to conclude their studies by linking material learned in previous courses.

"The reason [a senior capstone] is important is that all of these programs are very interdisciplinary," said Professor of History Alex Roland, who chairs the Curriculum Committee. "These programs don't have the advantage of a major or minor where the discipline provides the linkage among courses."

The committee will meet Thursday to discuss revisions before the plan is submitted to program directors for their approval. Roland said he hopes to have the capstone requirement finalized by the end of the month, and it would go into effect for the 2003-2004 school year.

For many certificate programs, the new requirement is insignificant because they already have senior capstone courses in place. Markets and Management Studies, the largest certificate program, offers a series of 10 capstone courses, for example.

"In our case, I think the senior capstone has been extremely useful as a way to pool together what the students have learned," said Professor of Sociology Gary Gereffi, director of the Markets and Management program. "Senior year is a good juncture to have students take seminars."

The Curriculum Committee has also preemptively asked proposed certificate programs to integrate the senior capstone into their tentative curriculum. Kenneth Rogerson, research assistant in public policy studies, said he resubmitted his proposed journalism certificate to the committee with a senior capstone course included, after he received a new checklist.

Roland said the main drawback of the new requirement is the possibility of infringing upon the programs' curricular structure.

"Anytime you try to establish a single requirement for a large number of programs, you run into the difficulty of failing to understand how a particular program works," he said. "[In some cases], a capstone program might not work."

Smaller programs may have difficulty adding a new course to their curriculum. Jane Gaines, director of the film and video program, said her program does not currently have enough qualified faculty to offer a capstone course in addition to core offerings.

Gaines, like other program directors, was nonetheless optimistic about the capstone requirement.

Robert Thompson, dean of Trinity College, said he could not imagine any negative implications to requiring a senior capstone for certificate programs and added there has been some discussion of expanding capstone requirements to major programs as well.

"The same rationale drives [the senior capstone] for the major as it does for the certificate program," Thompson said. "One size won't fit all here, but there's certainly been some dialogue in our community about how to improve senior year."

Roland agreed that a capstone requirement for majors would be interesting but said it would be very difficult given the variable nature of departments.

Trinity College has added several new certificates to its curriculum over the past five years, as interest sprung up from faculty members and departments. Among the most recently added certificates are those in Information Sciences and Information Studies and Documentary Studies.

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