The Senior Capstone Experience requires students to demonstrate the ability to think critically and to engage in a project of active learning in their major field of study.
In the SCE, which is required of all graduating seniors, students integrate all relevant knowledge and skills from their entire academic program into a senior project demonstrating mastery of a body of knowledge and intellectual accomplishment that goes significantly beyond classroom learning.
Senior Capstone Experiences can take several forms. They might involve thesis-length research papers, comprehensive exams, professional portfolios, and artistic creations or performances. Whatever the design, Senior Capstone Experiences will be informed by the following expectations:
- Demonstrated student initiative
- Significant preparatory work
- Active inquiry
- Integration of acquired knowledge and skills
- Culmination of previous academic work
Members of the faculty mentor seniors intensively as they work to complete their Senior Capstone Experiences. Each student’s thesis advisor is generally a full-time member of the major department’s faculty, although it may be a different faculty member than the student’s normal major advisor.
Enrolling in the SCE Course
Each department will register its senior majors in the SCE course during the student’s final semester at the College. This course is worth four credit hours and counts toward the 128 credits each student must accumulate in order to be eligible for a diploma. Students may not drop or withdraw from the SCE course without departmental permission.
Some majors will require students to attend non-credit seminars and/or other courses in the one or two semesters leading up to the final SCE registration. These requirements are described in the department’s chapter of the Catalog and are in addition to the SCE course during the final semester.
As the Senior Capstone Experience is the culminating event of Washington College’s four-year writing program, serious attention to preliminary research and thorough revision of written work is expected. Thus, each student will typically work on their thesis, comprehensive exam preparation, or senior project for the duration of his or her senior year, following a set of deadlines that the department will determine—even if they only enroll in the SCE course during the final semester at the College. Failure to meet deadlines will result in failure of the SCE course and ineligibility to participate in Commencement exercises.
Presenting the SCE
As part of the Senior Capstone Experience process, students are expected to share with the College community in appropriate ways the results of the SCE. In most majors, this may take the form of a poster session, formal presentation, or major SCE symposium. In fine arts majors, it may be a directorial or artistic performance.
The SCE and Departmental Honors
Excellent work on the Senior Capstone Experience, along with the quality of work done in major courses, can result in Departmental Honors. Students who earn an “A-” grade or better on the SCE, and whose cumulative GPA within the major is 3.500 or better, are eligible for these honors.