The Washington Monument's inscribed aluminum capstone, circa 1934
The Washington Monument's inscribed aluminum capstone, circa 1934

Brick by Brick

A capstone, in the literal sense, is a stone or block that sits atop a wall or other stone structure. The capstone reflects the strength and integrity of the structure below, but it also serves to reinforce it.

In a metaphorical sense, a capstone is a person's greatest achievement--in the case of the Interdisciplinary Studies degree,  the culmination of all the work you have done. Your capstone is a product of the learning you have acquired and the skills you have mastered, but it also reinforces them. Students begin preparing for their capstone with their very first assignment in their very first course, building their own powerful structure brick by brick.

Purpose of the Capstone

Producing a thesis or project is the “capstone” experience of the Interdisciplinary Studies program. A student's capstone should:

  • Synthesize knowledge obtained through coursework and research.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the literature of their field(s).
  • Reflect the skills they have cultivated through study and experiential learning.

Ultimately, the capstone involves putting theory into practice, as students apply what they have learned in other contexts to an original research topic that results in either a traditional thesis or a project--a practical deliverable with a robust framing statement.

Components of the Capstone

The capstone experience unfolds in 3 phases that yield 2-5 credits, depending on whether the student does a project or a thesis:

  1. MAIS 797 - Interdisciplinary Studies Proposal (1 credit), in which students produce a draft of their formal research proposal.
  2. Revision of the proposal produced in MAIS 797, in order to satisfy the specific requirements of the student's 3-person capstone committee.
  3. Research and writing in MAIS 798 - Project (1 credit in 1 semester) or MAIS 799 - Thesis (4 credits in 2 semesters), in which the student executes their proposal through self-guided research and writing, with support from their capstone committee.