Honors Capstones

What Is An Honors Capstone?

The honors capstone project is a 3 credit-hour culminating experience in the student's major. The project might be a thesis, a creative work, or an empirical research project as long as the work is not one that is regularly required by one's major.

The goal of the honors capstone is to demonstrate increasingly independent scholarship in the student’s discipline(s). We define “scholarship” as the integration of a new idea or perspective into the existing body of knowledge for a discipline or disciplines. This "new idea" could take many forms, including examples such as a thesis statement, a scientific hypothesis, a novel application, or a creative vision. This "new idea" need not be completely original or novel in every sense of the word. Indeed, 99% of all scholarship is built upon past work. As such, the honors capstones will often simply provide a fresh perspective or novel approach to existing issues in a field. For example, a replication of a past experiment with a new sample could represent a new perspective on an established phenomenon.

Student activities such as internships, student teaching, and study abroad do NOT represent scholarship in one's discipline in-and-of themselves. Therefore these activities alone cannot constitute one's honors capstone (even though they certainly constitute essential educational experiences). However, such settings could provide opportunities for work that are not available on campus and which might contribute substantially to one's capstone project.

The honors capstone project should be a topic that you find enjoyable - yes, FUN!  Relate it to your career interests, job prospects, and life goals.  It should be something about which you are PROUD and that EXCITES you! Faculty mentors should be able to hold up capstone projects with similar pride as an example of work that is produced by THEIR honors students!

What Products Are Associated With A Completed Honors Capstone?

Ultimately, each faculty mentor is responsible for assigning a grade that indicates completion of the honors capstone. Students should, however, have the following components for their capstones:

  1. A public presentation on the capstone, preferably at a research conference (e.g, Radford Student Engagment Forum, honors conference, or conference in the student's discipline).
  2. A tangible result of the capstone project. For example:
    1. Written report of an experiment, research paper, or intervention
    2. Computer program
    3. Creative writing
    4. Audio or video recording of a performance
    5. An image of visual art
  3. A written reflective critique of the capstone project. The goal of the critique is for the student to articulate 1) the strengths and limitations of the project, and 2) how the project result fits within the existing scholarly or creative work for the discipline. Note that such reflective critiques are already included within typical research reports (i.e., discussion sections). The length and depth of these critiques is at the discretion of the faculty mentor, who represents the standards of the discipline for the capstone project. Examples of reflective critiques vary by discipline, but examples include:
    1. Discussion sections of research or experiment reports
    2. Theoretical analyses of creative works
    3. Artistic critiques of performance pieces
    4. Personal reflections on the success of interventions

Steps For Completing The Honors Capstone

Listed below are the basic steps for completing the honors capstone. Make sure to see the next section on the timing of these steps.

  1. Three semesters before graduation, develop your capstone
    1. Think about general topics in your major that interest you and, ideally, dovetail with you longterm goals.
    2. Meet with potential capstone mentors from the full-time faculty in your department. Discuss the possibility of working with this person and your areas of interest.
    3. Select a willing faculty member to be your capstone mentor.
    4. In conjunction with the faculty member, develop your honors capstone proposal.
  2. Two semesters prior to graduation, submit your honors capstone paperwork
    1. Submit the capstone proposal form no later than drop/add two semesters prior to graduation. This form is submitted to the honors offices.
    2. Register for the 488 course in your major to receive credits for the honors capstone. The form for these credits is submitted to the Registrar no later than drop/add of the semester in which you are taking the credits.
  3. Complete your honors capstone
    1. Set short-term and long-term deadlines for when each step of the project will be completed.
    2. Meet regularly with your capstone mentor (typically weekly).
  4. Submit your honors capstone for consideration for the King Award (optional)
    1. The deadline for this award is typically soon after spring break. Plan your project accordingly.
  5. Present your capstone publicly
    1. Ideally students will present their work at an honors conference or a conference for their discipline that accepts undergraduate projects. Speak with your faculty member and honors director to discuss the options for your project.
    2. All honors students are strongly encouraged to present at the Student Engagement Forum. Because this event is only held in the late spring, the timing will not work for all projects. Note: Decisions about the King Award are partially determined by capstone presentations at the Forum.
    3. If neither of the above options is possible, alternative arrangements for a presentation can be made with permission of the honors director.
  6. Attend the honors Spring Banquet with your faculty mentor and guests
    1. Hear why your mentor thinks you are such an amazing student.
    2. Receive your honors graduation regalia to wear proudly at the university commencement ceremonies.
    3. List "Highlander Scholar" on your resume - you have achieved the highest academic distinction for undergraduates at Radford University!

Timeline For The Honors Capstone

Paperwork timeline. Students must file their capstone proposal paperwork in the Honors Academy office no later than the drop/add deadline two semesters prior to graduation (fall for spring graduates, spring for summer graduates, and Summer I for winter graduates). Ideally students should submit the proposal one calendar year prior to their graduation date. The capstone proposal form can be found in the honors offices.

Students then enroll in 3 credit-hours in their departmental course designated for honors capstones (e.g., PSYC 488, BIOL 488, ECON 488). Students can register for these credits in either the fall or spring semester (or summer with permission from the director). The form to register for honors capstone hours can be found in the honors offices. This form is submitted to the Registrar prior to drop/add of the semester in which the student is taking the credits.

Proposal timeline. It takes time to develop a capstone idea and draft a proposal. Students should spend the semester one year prior to graduation developing the proposal. That is, students who intend to graduate in the spring of senior year should spend the spring of junior year on tasks such as: identifying potential topics, meeting with possible capstone mentors, and writing the capstone proposal itself. Some funds are available to reimburse students for expenses related to their capstone projects. Please discuss anticipated expenses with the director.

Project timeline. Once the proposal is submitted, honors students should plan on completing the capstone with plenty of time to present the research publicly. This is especially true for off-campus presentations as research or honors conferences. One ruie of thumb is plan project completion for at least three weeks prior to graduation, which coincides with the Radford University Student Engagement Forum (for spring graduate). Other arrangements can be made with approval of the director.

Note: Students who are required to spend senior year away from campus (e.g., student teaching), begin the capstone process during the spring semester of sophomore year.

Examples of Honors Capstones

The Big Boom Theory: Powder, People, and Politics

Highlander Scholar: Adam Bennett

Faculty Mentor: Matt Oyos

Bennett examines the impact that World War II had on the city of Radford, and the surrounding counties of the New River Valley. On August 22, 1940, when surveying began for an Army ammunition plant, the Radford area changed dramatically. This led to a change in the environment, the population, and the economy of this Appalachian community. Numerous primary sources gathered from the archives of local libraries, including Radford University and Virginia Tech, provide an in-depth examination of how a world war can impact a small, mountain city.

Cardiac Variable Scoring in Obstrusuctive Sleep Apnea

Highlander Scholar: Wesley DuBose

Faculty Mentor: Adrian Aron

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by complete obstruction of the airway causing a stoppage of breathing leading to oxygen deprivation. OSA is mostly undiagnosed, although can be identified with an expensive overnight observation. This study aims to test a new way of screening for OSA in place of the overnight study. The study uses a six variable score, each variable has been shown to be unique to OSA sufferers. Using a bioimpedance cardiac monitor, patients were tested during periods of normal breathing with 30 sec apnea periods to simulate OSA conditions. Subjects were 15 healthy males (Mean ± SD: age = 37.7 ± 5.6 yr; BMI = 22.7 ± 1.8; neck circumference = 38.1 ± 2.1) and 17 recently diagnosed OSA patients (age = 47.3 ± 10.5 yr; BMI = 34.1 ± 6.9; AHI = 40.9 ± 33.8). Healthy patients and patients recently diagnosed with OSA were given a score based on the prevalence of the following variables: BMI, neck circumference, myocardial contractility during and after Mueller Maneuver, stroke volume at second 90 and second 120 following MM. The assigned score was different between groups (OSA = 4.1 ± 1.3; healthy = 0.8 ± 0.9, p < 0.05) and correlate positively with OSA severity (r = 0.6, p < 0.05). This score was shown to be predictive of OSA with neck circumference having the highest prognostic value. Future research is needed to determine this score accuracy in a larger population.

Regenerative Rending

Highlander Scholar: Lacie Omps

Faculty Mentor: danah bella

"Regenerative Rending" is a choreographic study investigating superficial and profound borders within society, including culture, class, religion, maturation, relationships, and race. During the research process, the focus will be directed toward the development, perpetuation, and deconstruction of said divisions. Furthermore, the choreographic study will delve into individual perspectives as well as individual experiences within societal borders. Therefore, the methodology will include theories, studies, multimedia, literature, folk dances, and one-on-one interviews. The findings will culminate in a thirty to forty minute choreographic project to be disseminated to my peers. Movement has the potential to evoke conversation relating to the theme of the choreographic study as well as allowing the opportunity to reexamine one‘s opinions and views. Throughout the choreographic study, movement phrases will pertain to the development, perpetuation, and deconstruction of said divisions within society. As such, my peers will have the opportunity to discuss with the choreographer her findings as well as their reaction to the movement presented.

Natural Childbirth Education and Planning

Highlander Scholar: Jessica Rakes

Faculty Mentor: Sharla Cooper

Many pregnant mothers desire to have a natural childbirth, but this idea is pushed aside when the excitement and overwhelming stages of labor begin. Nurses should be more educated on the non-pharmacological methods and breathing techniques that can be offered to pregnant mothers. It is the duty of the nurse to be involved in allowing and encouraging pregnant mothers to follow their desired natural childbirth plan, rather than settling on pharmacological methods for pain management. Pregnant mothers should be informed of labor pain management opportunities and relaxation breathing techniques prior to hospitalization; if this is not accomplished, it is the nurse‘s responsibility to be properly educated to coach their patients. Alongside childbirth education instructor, Megan McNamara, I observed alternative pain management strategies and breathing patterns to control labor pain. Candice Matthis, a Doula in the New River Valley, provided insight into coaching pregnant mothers through natural childbirth. Through evidence based research, childbirth education classes and the interview of a doula, I have formed a lesson plan to educate nursing students at Radford University. All information has been thoroughly researched and compiled into an evidenced based paper to achieve the goal of this Capstone; which is to further educate myself, future nurses, and pregnant mothers of breathing techniques and non-pharmacological methods used for pain management during the labor process.

Sensibly Chic: Researching and Designing Around Claire McCardell and Coco Channel

Highlander Scholar: Renata Schmersal

Faculty Mentor: Kathy Mitchell

As a fashion designer, a person will pull inspiration from many different sources. Current trends, interesting artwork, nature, and designers from previous decades are all popular sources of inspiration. Two iconic designers which have inspired many emerging as well as established fashion designers are Claire McCardell and Coco Channel. Polar opposites in the fashion world, and yet they coincided in the same time periods and created unique legacies in the fashion world. During this project I sought to discover the two designer‘s greatest works and their unique lasting legacies before synthesizing their unique approaches to design in order to develop one modern line of cocktail apparel. This was executed by doing research on both Chanel‘s and McCardell‘s lifestyles (what drove their designs), design history, and signature apparel. I then drew from this information and combined it with modern trends to begin the formation of a unique line of women‘s apparel. Twenty or more sketches of ensembles were developed, ten of which were chosen and put into a fully rendered drawing. One garment was selected and taken from sketch through the pattern making and construction processes to a completed garment. A comparison of the two designers was written into a research paper. A PowerPoint of the complete process, from inspiration to completed garment, was created in order to visually illustrate the process taken and include the research.