Senior capstones highlight lessons learned

U.S. News & World Report ranks Adrian College in 'Senior Capstone'

ADRIAN — U.S. News & World Report once again listed Adrian College as a top regional college in the Midwest (No. 18, tie) and ranked the institution in seven categories for 2020, including Senior Capstone, a new designation this year, where the Bulldogs ranked 20th in the nation.

In 2019, U.S. News & World Report invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students and deans of admissions from more than 1,500 schools to nominate up to 15 institutions with stellar examples of senior capstones. Only colleges and universities that received 10 or more nominations were ranked. 

A senior capstone is a final assignment where students demonstrate and synthesize what they’ve learned. Capstones vary in form depending on the major. The project might be a thesis, a performance or an exhibit. The capstone is intended to apply all of the knowledge and skills gained over a college career in one assignment.

“This national ranking from the U.S. News and World Report shows just how much our faculty cares about their students,” said Andrea Milner, Adrian College Vice President, Dean of Academic Affairs. “Our professors went out of their way to ensure the senior students were able to finish and submit their capstones after a very sudden transition to online studies due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ashley Johns, of Brownstown, Mich., transferred to Adrian College her sophomore year, saying things just didn’t “click” for her at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Everything worked out for her at Adrian College. She double majored and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Sports Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Ethics. Johns presented two senior capstones.

For her business capstone, she worked in a group of four students and they prepared a presentation on the gaming company Nintendo.

“Essentially, what we had to do was break down the company, research it and make a new marketing plan on how they could improve their business,” she said. “That was really cool. With everything going on with COVID, we kind of played that into our research and end product.”

For her leadership capstone, Johns took a leadership concept and applied it to her business capstone to see how that theory worked in real life, compared to textbook analysis. 

“I had everyone in our group take the Clifton Strengths assessment, which is becoming huge here on campus,” she said. “I wanted to see how that actually played out, and I think it worked pretty well, but there were some things that needed adjustments.”

Because COVID-19 forced students to take classes remotely, Johns was not able to present her capstones to the professors in person. She submitted her business capstone but was able to present her leadership capstone via conference call to four professors.

She said “all of the professors here are pretty amazing” and willing to help students. Johns was very impressed with how the professors were understanding of the added pressure put on students and how adjustments were made to help them work through the pandemic restrictions.

Johns said it took an entire semester of work to prepare her presentations. 

“When pushing the submit button there was a mix of emotions,” she said. “I expected there to be more. I expected to stand in front of that panel and wanted to present. I was sad because it was my last assignment that I needed to submit. But it was a big relief.”

She also missed out on presenting a research project on Title 9 violations in high schools during Adrian College’s Ribbons of Excellence Day.

“I’m kind of sad that my last year I wasn’t able to present after putting about two years of work into it,” she said. “It’s fine though, life happens.”

Johns said regardless of how things ended, the experience prepared her for the real world where she will have to be able present her ideas and knowledge in a fluid working environment.

She plans on continuing her education at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. to earn a Master’s in Business Administration.

“I’m going to concentrate in sports leadership. So, I’m going to combine both of my degrees from Adrian into a master’s program,” Johns said. “Then, I hope to get into their law school the following year to get my business law degree as well.”

She’d like to work for a professional sports team and do all of their legal work, such as contracts, negotiations and sponsorships. Her dream job is to work for the Boston Bruins — with her determination and education, no one at Adrian College will be surprised if she eventually gets hired for the position.

Alan Gibson, of Ottawa Lake, Mich., had his work cut out for him when preparing his senior capstones. He double majored at Adrian College and graduated summa cum laude this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre.

“It was a lot more work than I anticipated, honestly” Gibson said of preparing two capstones. “Senior year for me, it really turned to research based independent studying. The information just wasn’t given to me… I think it helped me grow a lot as a student, forcing me to figure out what I needed to learn. It was definitely a good experience.”

For his chemistry capstone, he presented information he learned from a global research project to the department’s professors. It took a full semester of work to prepare.

“We really dove deep into it, learned it inside and out, and presented the information,” he said. “Alternatively, on the theatre side it was entirely different. It was a project-based piece of work where I stage managed a departmental show on a much more rigorous level than what normal stage management entails.”

The show, “Silent Sky,” was presented uniquely, being set up and performed in Adrian College’s Robinson Planetarium. Gibson said it took two semesters to prepare the capstone.

“It was somewhat of a challenge because I’ve only ever stage managed in Downs Theatre,” Gibson said. “So, having the difference of spaces elevated the challenge.”

Something that made the experience much less stressful for Gibson was having several professors happy to help him create his capstones.

“I think every professor at Adrian College is super willing to help students out,” Gibson said. “If you ask, they will help.”

Gibson is currently seeking employment to pay off his loans and continue his education. He’d like to earn a master’s and PhD in theatre history and eventually become a professor. 

Finding a job in a theatre at this time is difficult, as businesses are still shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have a chemistry degree, so I have a few doors that I can go through,” he said. “I also have an administrative background, so I have a few different options I can take.”