Capstones: The upcoming plan for 2023

Emma Polen | News Editor 

April 20, 2023

At the beginning of this year, junior music student Kyle Styver went out on his own to produce music in order to grow his professional resume.

Now, with the Capstone requirement across all majors, he’s getting class credit and additional resources for his project, too.

As part of the Bridges Common Curriculum installed fall of 2020, every undergraduate, beginning with those who matriculated that same semester, must complete a Capstone, whether for 0 credits or as part of their major’s requirements.

All students must complete a Capstone, or experiential learning project, in order to graduate.

From health science to music production, students and faculty are finding ways to be creative in their Capstones.

Darlene Weaver, associate provost for academic affairs, oversaw the introduction of Bridges in fall of 2021.

Bridges replaced the university core, or general education, curriculum, and the change will have lasting impacts on class requirements for students at Duquesne. However, students enrolled with Bridges requirements should already have been taking the Bridges replacements for university core, such as the “thematic concentrations” that replaced gen-ed classes like UCOR math, science and writing.

Weaver was greatly involved in the integration of the new Bridges curriculum, but this summer she will leave Duquesne for a position as provost and executive vice president at the University of Dayton.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Weaver said in a university statement announcing her new position, “since embracing this opportunity means leaving a university I love and colleagues I deeply admire and enjoy.”

The Capstone is required across all schools and disciplines, but every department is responsible for making the Capstone experience meaningful to their specific school.

For most students, the Capstone will not change much of their class curriculum from years prior, because the type of required experiential learning is already integrated into their majors, Weaver said.

For example, clinical and teaching placement, which existed prior to fall of 2021, count as Capstones for many schools at the university. However, for schools like McAnulty liberal arts, the

Capstone offers more new opportunities.

Capstones show up on a student’s final transcript, but the actual project can count for 0 credits, volunteer hours or a paid position, depending on the chosen project. The idea is to have students make connections with work that applies their academic learning to an additional experience, Weaver said.

“One of the things that I think is commendable about having the capstone project as an option for students … is that, I think we have a chance to support students who are creative,

imaginative, who have goals or ideas that they would be interested in exploring,” she said.

In a university setting, students have the opportunity to gain help from faculty and staff at Duquesne to mentor and assist with their projects.

Jason Scibek is the chair of athletic training and health science departments in the Rangos School of Health Sciences.

In fall of 2020, the school implemented a new health science major, which involves classes from various health fields, including healthcare, exercise science and nutrition.

Right now, Scibek and his departments are hoping to create a Capstone for rising seniors in the health science program that provides a “cumulative experience,” completing the requirements for Bridges and the school’s own goals.

Some ideas the department will decide on for a Capstone by next fall include internship or research opportunities alongside staff or community partners. They even suggested a “Capstone Day,” where students would share the results of their individual projects.

“There is no cookie-cutter approach … I wouldn’t be surprised if other things continue to emerge as the program continues to evolve,” Scibek said, encouraging students to submit Capstone proposals themselves.

Any undergraduate student at Duquesne can propose a Capstone project of their own design. Weaver suggests interested students contact their program director or fill out a Capstone request with their student success coach.

Within the music school, faculty are already seeing students reaching for opportunities with personal projects.

Benjamin Binder is the chair of the musicianship department and an associate professor of music at the Mary Pappert School of Music. His role with Capstones is the program director for undergraduate bachelor arts/music degree.

The Bachelor of Music degree through the music school (e.g. music education, music therapy and music technology) has a Capstone “already built in” through specialized recitals required in their curriculum, Binder said. Meanwhile, the Bachelor of Arts degree in general music gives students more flexibility in their Capstone project.

The Capstone is giving students like Styver, a current junior enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts music major with a theater minor, the option to pursue a personal EP – or mini album – project for university credit.

Originally, Styver came up with the idea of making an EP for resume building and production experience, which is something that fits into his plans for working in the recording industry as a music artist.

“I didn’t think about it being my Capstone. I was just planning on putting this project out in general,” Styver said.

After speaking with his advisor at the music school, though, Styver realized his project could count for class credit as a Capstone.

As part of his Capstone, Styver’s personally devised project had to meet three of the Bridges curriculum concentrations. For his EP, he chose Creative Expression, Thinking & Problem Solving and Cultural Fluency concentrations.

While creativity and problem solving are fairly self-explanatory in a musical production project, Styver explained how the cultural fluency fit in. Next semester, he will be taking a steel drumming class, and with that experience he plans to add steel drumming to his album in some way.

“Not only am I able to do something that I really enjoy doing, but also something that’s going to benefit me when I’m working toward my career after I leave here,” he said.

Styver is gaining songwriting, and vocal, melody and lyrical writing experience while working on the project.

The music student has not been assisted by a professor from Duquesne, but Styver has found a group of people in the music industry that he wants to work with on his own.

Styver has already begun working on his EP, and the first song is already streaming on Spotify and all music listening platforms, called “I dropped the line,” by Kitko Silver.

His album will discuss topics including mental health and burnout, Styver said. “[It’s a] big amalgamation of everything I love in music, and what has inspired me, and the different sounds and stuff.”

He hopes to have the EP finished by the fall.

“For a degree like BA,” Binder said, “it puts students in the position of having to reflect on what makes them unique as a scholar and a musician and a person, and to express that in the process of they’re able to design themselves.”

Weaver hopes that, as more students become aware of the creativity available with the Capstone, “We’re going to see larger numbers of students who want to utilize that as an opportunity to be imaginative and bold and undertake high impact activities that otherwise might not have happened,” she said.