Senior Capstone Project

The ENVS linked-major program provides a capstone experience that includes a senior project and a full year of senior colloquia. The purpose of the ENVS capstone experience is to challenge students to think creatively, deeply, and originally about an environmental issue and to produce a significant work that uses their expertise from their primary major. The students will then have the opportunity to present and discuss their research in the senior colloquium (ENVS391/ENVS392) with seniors and the faculty.

The creative exploration of a critical environmental issue through independent research is an essential part of ENVS. All ENVS majors must complete a senior capstone project in one of four categories discussed below, though students are encouraged strongly to pursue a project in one of the first two categories. The topic must concern an environmental issue and must be approved in advance by the ENVS advisor. The student must be officially enrolled in one or more courses while they complete the research project. The students must submit to the director of ENVS no later than the last day of classes in the spring semester in their junior year a two-page research prospectus on their planned course of research. This plan must be signed by the potential mentor of the senior research. The mentor does not have to be a member of the ENVS faculty.

  • Category 1. The capstone project may take any of the forms accepted by the primary department as a senior project (e.g., senior thesis, senior essay, senior performance, senior exhibition, senior film thesis). The final senior project is submitted only to the primary department and is not evaluated by ENVS. Students may select an interdisciplinary thesis topic such that they solicit the help of more than one mentor if permitted by the primary department. You are strongly encouraged to pursue a capstone project, especially senior thesis, in your primary major. You should consult with faculty in your primary major about qualifications and procedures for undertaking a senior thesis in your primary major. 
  • Category 2. The capstone project may be a thesis submitted in general scholarship. The student must have a mentor for the thesis, and the topic must be approved by the ENVS advisor.
  • Category 3. In the event that the student cannot satisfy the conditions for the above categories, the student may register for and complete a Senior Essay in Environmental Studies (ENVS403/ENVS404). The mentor can be any Wesleyan faculty member and the topic must be approved by the ENVS advisor. If the student cannot find a mentor, then it will be the responsibility of the Chair of Environmental Studies to find a suitable reader or to evaluate the written work. The due date for the Senior Essay is set between the student and the mentor.
  • Category 4. In the event that the student cannot satisfy the conditions for the above categories, the student may register for and complete a Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies (ENVS409/ENVS410). The mentor can be any Wesleyan faculty member and the topic must be approved by the ENVS advisor. If the student cannot find a mentor, then it will be the responsibility of the Chair of Environmental Studies to find a suitable mentor or to serve as mentor. The due date for the Senior Thesis is set by the Office of the Registrar, usually in mid-April. See “Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies” (below) for details.

Class of 2021: Please send your senior project capstone proposal and ask your mentor to send an email of approval for your project proposal to interim Chair of Environmental Studies and Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment Fred Cohan at fcohan@wesleyan.edu by Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The interim Chair of ENVS will consider your application for approval. You, your tutor, and your ENVS advisor will be informed of the Chair’s decision. For any case that is unclear (e.g., suitability of the topic for ENVS), the Chair may consult with the College of the Environment Governing Board.

SENIOR THESIS IN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

As noted above, all Environmental Studies linked majors are required to complete a capstone project in their senior year. If circumstances arise that prevent you from pursuing a senior thesis in your primary major, it may be possible for you to undertake a Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies.  A Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies will be approved only if (1) the student's primary major department/program is unable to provide a suitable advisor, or (2) the subject is deemed to fall outside the strict purview of that department/program.

You must receive approval prior to registering a Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies in the fall of your senior year, during drop/add. Two signatures of approval will be required for you to proceed with a Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies: (i) your thesis tutor and (ii) the Chair of Environmental Studies. 

Your Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies thesis prospectus must contain the main questions or thesis of the project, a statement of importance of the project, and how you intend to carry out the project. Please also indicate who will serve as mentor for the project. That person must also send an email approving the basis for your project at this early date.

HONORS IN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES: ELIGIBILITY, CANDIDACY, AND BESTOWAL

Requirements for eligibility. To be eligible for Honors in Environmental Studies you must (1) be an Environmental Studies major on track to complete the major requirements in a timely fashion; (2) achieve a grade point average of 90.00 or higher in courses that count towards the Environmental Studies linked major, calculated at the end of the spring semester of the junior year; and (3) have completed Stage I of the General Education Expectations.

Process for applying for admission to candidacy. To become a candidate for Honors in Environmental Studies, you must meet the three eligibility conditions and also obtain official permission to undertake a Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies. The optimal time to try to find a faculty tutor and obtain permission is by the end of the spring semester of your junior year.

Once you have secured a thesis tutor and permission to undertake a Senior Thesis in Environmental Studies, you must enroll during the add/drop period of the fall semester of your senior year in ENVS409, "Senior Thesis Tutorial." You can't include this tutorial in course planning during pre-registration; you have to add it during the in-semester add/drop period. You add the tutorial electronically, following instructions in the Tutorial Manual on the Tutorial Registration page on the website of the Office of the Registrar. Enrolling in ENVS409 will indicate to the Honors Coordinator in the Office of the Registrar that you are an Honors Candidate from the standpoint of the University as well as Environmental Studies. Then, during the add/drop period of the spring semester of your senior year, you must enroll electronically (using the same procedure) in a second tutorial, ENVS410, which is also entitled "Senior Thesis Tutorial." Enrolling in ENVS410 will indicate to the Honors Coordinator in the Office of the Registrar that, just over half-way into your senior year at Wesleyan, you remain in good standing as an Honors Candidate from the standpoint of the University as well as the Department.

Finally, to actually receive Honors in Environmental Studies, you must (1) complete the Environmental Studies linked major; (2) complete both Stage I and Stage II of the General Education Expectations; (3) write a thesis judged to be of honors quality; and (4) maintain a grade-point average of at least 90.00 in courses that count towards the Environmental Studies linked major through the first semester of your senior year.

UNIVERSITY HONORS REGULATIONS

To abide by Wesleyan's university-level honors regulations, which are formulated by a university-wide faculty Honors Committee and detailed on the Honors webpages maintained by the Office of the Registrar, is a requirement for receiving Honors in Environmental Studies. Especially useful are the Jellybean Papers (so-called because they used to come in many colors), which will tell you how to register your thesis project with the Coordinator of the university-wide Honors Program at the beginning of your senior year. You may apply to the Thorndike Fund for help in paying the production costs of creating the bound copy of their thesis/essay you must deposit with Olin Library.

EVALUATION OF HONORS THESES IN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Soon after theses are submitted, the Honors Coordinator will deliver an electronic copy of your thesis to the Administrative Assistant of the College of the Environment.

Your thesis will be evaluated by three faculty members: your thesis tutor and two readers designated by the Department Chair in consultation with your tutor. One reader will be close to your field and one will be farther afield. Your tutor and readers will read the thesis, will write a commentary on it, will evaluate it independently as worthy of High Honors, Honors, or Credit (No Honors); will recommend a grade for the thesis tutorial; and will send the comments and evaluations to the Administrative Assistant of the College of the Environment, who submits them to the Chair of Environmental Studies.

If the tutor and the readers agree that the thesis deserves Honors, or if they agree that the thesis deserves Credit (No Honors), the Chair of Environmental Studies in deliberation with the Governing Board of the College of the Environment, awards the thesis the grade that the tutor and readers agreed upon.

If the tutor and the readers disagree with respect to Honors or No Honors, the following procedure will be used. If there are two evaluations of Honors and one of Credit (No Honors), the Chair of Environmental Studies and the Governing Board of the College of the Environment will consider you for being Honors in Environmental Studies. If there is one evaluation of Honors and two of Credit (No Honors), the Chair of Environmental Studies will bring the case to the Governing Board of the College of the Environment with the recommendation of Credit (No Honors).

The Environmental Studies Department has stringent regulations governing High Honors. High Honors will be considered by the Chair of Environmental Studies and the Governing Board of the College of the Environment if (and only if) the tutor and the readers agree that the thesis deserves High Honors. High Honors in Environmental Studies requires unanimity among the three thesis-readers that the thesis deserves High Honors. In this respect, it is more difficult to achieve High Honors in Environmental Studies than it is to achieve High Honors in many other departments or programs at Wesleyan.

When all comments and evaluations have been received by the Department and when the your thesis and achievements have been deliberated by the Governing Board of the College of the Environment, the Chair of Environmental Studies will submit in writing the evaluations (but not the comments or the tutorial grades) to the Coordinator of the university-wide Honors Program. The Administrative Assistant records the honors recommendation electronically and retains a copy of the comments and the recommended tutorial grades.