For each student, the core of the program is a significant, ambitious capstone project, intended to engage the student in experiential learning. A capstone project is expected to be an ambitious undertaking, which will occupy significant time in the student’s final year and will be evaluated with rigor. It should be based on original research, using methods that the student has explored during his or her interdisciplinary course work. Methods might include ethnographic, textual, linguistic, documentary, archival, journalistic, or artistic research methods.
Capstone projects can be thought of as experimental explorations of a student’s possible career paths. For this reason, they can take any variety of forms, including but not limited to a traditional thesis, a grant proposal for a UM or NGO project, an investigative and research-oriented report on a public-service project or an internship in the public or private sector, or an individual or collaborative artistic work or performance.
A project proposal must be approved by the advisor by the beginning of the fifth year; the completed project must be approved and graded by the advisor and one additional faculty member by the end of the fifth year.
Examples of Capstone Projects
- Bailey Compton studies at the intersection between literature, feminist theory, and contemporary film, with an emphasis on the fairy tale genre. Her capstone thesis performs a feminist analysis of caretaking in Disney films to reconsider traditional gender roles and reimagine non-familial intimate relationships.
- Allie Hodge practices translation to analyze Japanese popular culture, with an emphasis on gendered performance across contemporary media forms. In their capstone they consider translation as a means of crossing boundaries both linguistically and theatrically, especially through intricacies of body and sound in a musical theater production by Takarazuka Revue. By translating with a focus on multiple performative aspects, they explore the queering of gendered bodies and roles in the all women’s genre.
- Kaley Makino’s main fields of interest are literature, sociology, and gender studies, with emphases on regional poetry and social justice. Her capstone project examines the intersection of androcentrism and racialization in the prison industrial complex to perform a comparative reading of how patriarchal ideology in the U.S. justice system produces conditions of exploitation. Specifically, through recourse to feminist and psychoanalytic theory, she analyzes literary and cinematic narratives of violence to consider how misogyny and racism shape the production of social hierarchies.
- Alex Prosi studies religion in modern Japan. In their capstone thesis they examine how the concept of “faith” emerges and is defined at key moments from the Meiji era (1868–1912) until the contemporary moment. By considering how shifting notions of of faith functioned in different discursive spaces, they demonstrate how various actors revised its definition in an effort to redefine the boundaries of religion and the secular.
- Jeremy Ray uses an anthropological lens to study the translation of educational curriculum and methodology abroad. In his capstone project, he will conduct ethnographic interviews of instructors who have taught across linguistic and cultural boundaries. He hopes to craft better standards for international education by examining the efficacy of current pedagogical approaches.
- Rachel Willis’ major fields of interest are African-American literature, francophone studies, modern Caribbean history, and gender studies. Her capstone project is a traditional thesis that examines Black women’s embodiment in the francophone Caribbean during the 20th century. Specifically, she is interested in exploring the various tactics that francophone Black women sought in order to reclaim their bodies from the state, with particular focus on women’s political organization, print culture, and literary/poetic expression.