My capstone is two parts. The first is a research paper that justifies the case for embedding critical media and information literacy and human rights education into U.S. educational curricula, including primary, secondary, post-secondary, and teacher training education. The second part is an introductory, interdisciplinary undergraduate course that I designed in full after discovering that nothing of the sort exists.
Because I am at mid-career in terms of time invested into my work in journalism, my goal was to deepen my knowledge in that discipline, and simultaneously learn critical educational pedagogies pertinent to human rights and social justice. My advisor, Dr. Shayna Maskell, an expert in those areas, helped me decide on the combined disciplines that would accomplish that goal.
The uniqueness of the MAIS program fit my needs and goals to perfection. Aimed at contemporary students, the curriculum is flexible enough to meet each student's objectives. To that point, because I could study what I wanted, I was excited about learning and have now acquired a wealth of invaluable and useful knowledge and skills. I feel prepared and empowered for the next chapter in my professional life.
I feel a sense of fulfillment in terms of the outcome of my capstone research project. At the beginning stages of the research, I felt somewhat daunted. With so many moving parts, it was difficult to envision everything coming together successfully. But once the project was approved and finally submitted, the reality started to set in that I'd done it. I felt a massive sense of accomplishment. Moreover, I felt blessed to have had my "dream team," a committee that was absolutely there for me (Shayna Maskell, Ph.D., GMU, Kelly Schrum, Ph.D., GMU, and Allison Butler, Ph.D., UMass, Amherst). Overall, this graduate school journey has been evolutionary; I'd like to believe that I am a better version of the self who first entered the program.
My advisor and committee chair, Dr. Shayna Maskell, has made all the difference in my Mason graduate career. From our very first meeting, she totally understood not only my academic and professional goals, but she seemed to understand me as a person too. As time went on, that first impression was solidified by Dr. Maskell's consistent demonstration of her commitment to my learning and success.
My advice would be to enter into graduate studies as informed as possible about your program, the faculty and staff with whom you'll be working, and—even though your goals are likely to shift or get refined—come with a relatively strong idea of your academic and professional objectives. With regards to a final thesis or capstone, start early and get your committee in place as soon as it's feasible.
My immediate plans involve job-seeking and finding a location in which to thrive. My aim is for this next chapter in my professional life to roll out for the long haul.