Celebrating 20 Years of PSU’s Capstone Program

capstonePSU’s Capstone Program turned 20 this year! I wondered if we take for granted what it really means for PSU and our students to have a curriculum that embodies our urban university mission and our “Let Knowledge Serve the City” motto. I mean 20 years is a long time. I admit, I feel a bit smug when I hear of other universities struggling to create meaningful community engagement opportunities and hands-on student learning experiences; after all, we have been doing it for decades!

What are Capstone Courses?
Capstone courses are part of our University Studies portfolio, along with Freshman Inquiry, Sophomore Inquiry, and Junior Clusters.

In Capstone courses, students bring together the knowledge, skills, and interests developed to this point through all aspects of their education, to work on a community project. Students from a variety of majors and backgrounds work as a team, pooling resources, and collaborating with faculty and community leaders to understand and find solutions for issues that are important to them as literate and engaged citizens.”

National Recognition and Awards
Our Capstone curriculum has received national recognition and a number of prestigious awards. The American Associate of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is studying our program and plans to nationally promote us as a best practice in their AAC&U Signature Work Campaign!

What do our students have to say?
Our faculty offer hundreds of capstone courses each term, from Portland’s Water, to Linking the Generations, to PDX-African Children. They require significant faculty time, but they create such diverse and rich first-hand learning opportunities.

Just ask our students:

  • “Hands down, this is the most engaging and educational class I’ve ever taken.”
  • “My most important learning was being able to work in the community with people I may have not met if I didn’t take this course. Taking learning outside of the classroom engages PSU student on a different level with a combination of textbook-approaches of learning.”
  • “I got to experience putting what I have learned in college to use in the real world.”
  • “Despite having a lot of experiences being around people with disabilities, I still learned a lot about this group of people as well as myself. I learned that people with disabilities are as diverse and varied as any other group. I learned that many people are limited by society not by their disability.”

Faculty Senate on Capstones
I imagine our faculty will examine the Capstone course experience when the Faculty Senate begins conversations this coming year on Liberal Education (mentioned in my convocation blog post). While we cannot predict the outcome of these conversations, they will certainly be valuable. On the one hand, these conversations could change the shape and structure of Capstones, but it is hard for me to imagine that PSU would retreat from our position that there are mutual benefits from meaningful community/student engagement in everyday issues and situations.

Watch the video(s)
This spring/summer, faculty members Deborah Smith Arthur and Celine Fitzmaurice and, Capstone Program Director, Seanna Kerrigan, worked with a videographer in honor of 20 years of Capstones at PSU. I initially watched the short, two-minute version. It was so remarkable that it left me wanting to hear more from our students and faculty. I then watched the longer, 13-minute version and highly recommend you do as well.

I would appreciate hearing about your experiences with our Senior Capstone courses and any feedback you may have. Your comments below can help feed into the Senate conversation about what it means for PSU students to graduate with a Liberal Education.


2 thoughts on “Celebrating 20 Years of PSU’s Capstone Program

  1. The video gave me more depth to my appreciation of the PSU Capstone. The faculty, students, and diversity of experiences and faces are all inspiring. What a nice way to spend my coffee break this morning!


  2. I very much appreciate the Provost placing the spotlight on University Studies Capstones. This program really is the culmination of an integrated general education that leaves students with a real world community experience that serves them pedagogically and in terms of their career and goals. Even in the short time I have been here, so many students have told me how important their capstone experience is. Congratulations on 20 years of high impact student experiences!


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