October 20, 2014

Senior Capstones Reach beyond Classroom Knowledge

Senior Capstones Reach beyond Classroom Knowledge
From left: Associate Dean of Academics Joe Ritter and senior Clayton Harper talk with capstone presenters Brian Ritter and Kali McKee.
June 5, 2014

Senior capstones provide an opportunity for soon-to-be-graduates to select a topic that has sparked their interest, conduct further research, and present findings to the College community. The sheer variety of capstones reveals an impressive range of interests among Principia students.

A passionate advocate for the well-being of children the world over, Sousha Wexler is especially interested in issues related to orphans and street children. Sousha was raised in a Russian orphanage until age seven, when she and her brother were adopted by Americans and moved to California. That experience influenced her senior capstone topic—research into the plight of Russian street children. “Sadly, this is a difficult problem and is often combined with drug and alcohol use, poverty, and a lack of government support,” Sousha says. Shortly after graduation, she departed for Udaipur, India, to work at Foster Care India, a nonprofit organization founded by Principia alum Ian Anand Forber-Pratt (US’98, C’07). After gaining some practical experience in India, Sousha will travel to Russia working to help find lasting solutions for street children there, and then plans to return to the United States to study social work in graduate school.

After studying on the Peru Abroad his junior year, history major Dillon Siewert travelled on his own through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, the Galapagos Islands, and Easter Island. This experience inspired him to further research the Spanish Conquest of the Incan Empire in the sixteenth century. “I wanted to learn more about the clash between the Old World, represented by the Spanish, and the New World, represented by the Incas, and the capstone provided this opportunity,” Dylan explained.

Computer science majors Brian Ritter and Kali McKee teamed up to work on a multicomponent electrical system for the new solar car, Ra 9, which will race in the American Solar Challenge this July. “We used a CAN-Ethernet telemetry design, which sends data to the chase vehicle during the race,” Brian explains. “The team will use the information to develop race strategy.” After working with the solar car team through the summer, Brian will begin an electrical engineering program at the University of Minnesota.

Tackling Tough Topics

Students were unafraid to tackle some tough current topics, too. Sociology and anthropology major Abi Carper researched human trafficking in the United States. History major Derrick Fleming examined the legacy of the 1992 Los Angeles riots that broke out after police beat Rodney King. Anna Chatterton, also a sociology and anthropology major, researched the addictive nature of Internet pornography and the impact that sexual addiction has on the primary intimate relationships and well-being of male pornography users in the U.S.

Another student, Murilla King, gave her capstone presentation—about the history of the Christian Science movement in Chile—entirely in Spanish! Mindful that the mostly English-speaking audience would want to follow along, Spanish major Murilla developed a PowerPoint presentation in English.

Showcasing the Fine Arts

Students majoring in the fine arts seized the opportunity to perform, direct, paint, and take photos. Soprano Anneke Reed sang Broadway, jazz, and classical favorites, as well as several original compositions. Flutist Ashley Alarcon gave a recital featuring works by Bach, Dutilleux, and Jolivet. Senior theatre arts majors in the Directing class presented a series of one acts. And senior art majors worked together on an exhibit of large-scale paintings, multimedia pieces, graphic designs, and photography. They installed the collection and hosted an opening in Radford Gallery.

And these are just a few! Word has it that many of this year’s juniors are already developing capstone ideas for next spring. “Capstones go beyond the knowledge learned in the classroom,” says Provost Scott Schneberger. “Students apply that aggregate knowledge to a real world issue or opportunity. It’s a great way not only to show a comprehensive understanding of many courses but to use that knowledge to make a difference.”