Capstone Experience

Wesleyan students are encouraged to discover what they love to do, get better at it, and then share that work with others.  Senior theses or other capstone projects allow them to focus on what interests them most – and then showcase the results.  For most students this takes place in the context of the major.  It could be a thesis (two semesters), a senior essay (one semester), an independent research project, an advanced class or colloquium, an exhibition or a performance. Different departments view the capstone experience differently. For example,

  • HISTORY majors are required to complete a senior research project.  This project can take the form of a senior thesis, a one-semester tutorial with a History Department faculty member, or a seminar paper that includes primary-source research.
  • ART-STUDIO majors must complete a year-long art project culminating in a week long solo exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery.
  • CHEMISTRY considers the independent research done in integrated laboratory to be a capstone experience.

Capstone experiences can be found in certificate programs as well.  The Civic Engagement Certificate, for example, requires a senior seminar in which students individually and as a group reflect on their own civic engagement experiences and produce a major paper, essay, or research project. 

All departments offer students some opportunity to do a capstone, and roughly half require a capstone experience. Some capstones can be awarded Departmental honorsClick here for a full list of all capstone options by major.

Students interested in capstones should speak with departments or check departmental websites. 

For many the capstone will mean displaying expertise in a subject area, while for others it will show their capacity to branch out from an area of specialization, or to demonstrate originality and leadership. The capstone can be a showcase for qualities, such as independence of thought and creativity, that are valued in the workplace and graduate school alike.

Whatever the capstone experience proves to be, it is one that students will carry with them into the world after Wesleyan. They will find themselves talking about it during their job interviews, thinking about it when preparing applications for graduate study, or just reflecting on how the skills and confidence they gained through the capstone experience enriched their lives.