In a 59-38 vote, the Curriculum Council’s proposal to end the Capstone requirements for anyone graduating after the 2012 to 2013 academic year was denied at the faculty meeting earlier in the month.
“It’s not about ending the idea of Capstone, it’s about the structure that it currently follows,” Curriculum Council Chair Peg Preston said. “The ideals of Capstone we suggested would continue within and between departments. In other words, departments could still have a ‘capping’ course.”
Capstone classes are taken by seniors and focus on the question “How then shall we live?” The moral question invites students and faculty to participate in a conversation examining the effects of topics such as film, baseball, gender, genocide or war.
The first challenge that brought the council to their proposal was the “exclusive nature” of Capstone classes, according to Preston.
“They’re only for [general education] classes,” she said. “They can only be co-taught. So getting enough faculty to be able to provide what is anywhere from 10 to 12 courses is one challenge. It’s been an annual challenge.”
The Curriculum Council has already addressed this challenge and has determined a solution for the 2013 to 2014 school year. Certain Capstone classes will be cross-listed for majors while Civitas students can have their Capstone class count for either their Civitas program or for their Capstone requirement.
The next challenge is an uneven enrollment in Capstone classes, meaning that some courses fill up quickly with long waitlists, while others were not attracting students at all. Preston said that typically students want to take classes from a favorite professor or a class coordinating with their major.
“There’s been some unhappiness when students don’t get into the number one choice and that’s understandable,” Preston said. “It’s not that courses are problematic, it’s that student desire does not always evenly distribute across all courses.”
Senior Shane LeClaire can relate as his desired Capstone class conflicted with his schedule. He has, however, found his Capstone course on Native American Culture and Economic History still captivating.
“The Capstones are a beautiful thing because…they may not be in a particular major, but we take all of these classes in the different departments for a reason,” LeClaire said. “It’s a great opportunity to take something that you may not know a lot about, but to take those tools that you’ve been given in all the other classes and through that liberal arts education to make assertions and learn about the world from different viewpoints.”
LeClaire was also responsible for creating a petition to maintain Capstone classes, linked to Facebook and Twitter. Although there are only 48 signatures, LeClaire was still happy with the results.
“It wasn’t so much the amount of signatures, it was the comments that were on it,” he said. “What they were saying when they signed was what I most impressed with.”
Senior Adam Kunkel had a different view on his capstone.
“I didn’t have the best experience,” Kunkel said. “Like many things at Augie, it was a requirement that I took care of simply because I needed to, but I don’t have a problem with that. It would have been nice if it was in my major field, but we all know scheduling is never perfect. I know people that really enjoyed Capstone and I believe in its potential.”
Both Preston and Augustana Student Association (ASA) curriculum council representative junior Emily Weber encouraged students to give feedback to professors and to ASA to better shape Capstone courses for next year.
“We should continue to have these discussions, making sure that Capstone is working and that it is good,” Weber said. “Considering that nothing has been extremely changed and there is still some disgruntlement then, obviously there needs to be some improvements.”
Until a more permanent solution is reached, the discussion will continue, according to psychology professor Olivia Lima.
“I think both this vote and the intense discussion that preceded it affirm the faculty’s deep commitment to ensuring that Augustana students have access to interdisciplinary courses, as well as opportunities to discuss important ethical issues,” Lima said. “However, Capstone has proven to be a difficult program to manage, and many faculty are concerned that—as currently implemented—it may not be reaching its intended goals.”
Director of the Capstone program Mike Wanous did not comment.