The key feature of the core curriculum are 2 semester-long, 3-credit interdisciplinary projects designed for teams of students with differing backgrounds–view the capstone syllabus below. Projects are either developed by student groups in the semester preceding the start of their capstones or chosen from a list of projects proposed by faculty. Listed under “sample projects” and “semester workshops” are some examples of recently-offered capstone projects by City College faculty. Capstones begin with workshops, but do not meet regularly as a class. Each student team is expected to meet in-person with their faculty mentor at least twice per month. Click on a project title in “sample projects” to view a summary of the project as initially offered to student teams. Students either pick from a list of projects on offer the semester before they start and form teams with the faculty adviser already on board or they can create their own capstone idea, find a faculty adviser, and recruit a team (see “creating your own capstone”). Start thinking about your capstone early in your first semester. In order to start your capstone in the Spring, you should make it known to your advisor no later than October 1st. To start in the Fall you should make it known no later than March 1st.

Capstone Interdisciplinary Team Projects

1.  Overview and Official description of Capstone Course

The capstone interdisciplinary team project is actually a sequence of two 3-credit courses—SUS 7501C and SUS 7502C—that students take in successive semesters. It is required of all students in the program, and constitutes six credits out of the 30 credits required for the MS in Sustainability degree. Excerpts from course description: “This course is designed to teach skills that are required in addressing interdisciplinary problems in sustainability.  Students learn to work in teams on projects in disciplines unfamiliar to them. They develop confidence in tackling and solving problems where technology, economics and environmental issues intersect. Teams are assembled [that bring together students with different academic backgrounds]. Lectures on project management and team work are given early in the semester. Project topics are either selected from a list or proposed by students. … A formal report is prepared and submitted by the team at the end of the term.”  The program also requires submission of a mid-year written report and poster, and a Project Management Log (both mid-year and final). Teams make two oral project presentations—mid-year and final. 

2.  Basic Features of a Capstone Course Project 

  • Focuses on a real-world sustainability issue or problem that invites an interdisciplinary approach (e.g., some combination of engineering, architecture, sciences, and social sciences).
  • Is difficult/challenging, but still allows for meaningful progress in two semesters.
  • Offers avenues for substantial academic research, possibly leading to a journal article.
  • Leads to a final paper product that is, at minimum, 25 pages in total length per group member.

3.  Capstone Project Advisors

Capstone project advisors are CCNY faculty or staff with interest in and experience with sustainability-related topics.  The advisor is the creator or co-creator of the particular project, and is also the prime audience for capstone student work (and the sole grader of that work). While each faculty advisor and team develops their own working relationship, an advisor is likely to:

  • Meet with students at a regularly scheduled time—on average once every two weeks.
  • Ask for verbal progress reports and plans for future work; ask for written progress reports as need be.
  • Ask for a detailed outline of the final report, about seven weeks before the end of the year.
  • Ask for iterative submission of the final report, in the Capstone Final Report format, beginning about a month before the end of the year.
  • Grade the project. Typically, all team members receive the same grade. However, in cases where an advisor finds significantly differing levels of contributions among team members, differing grades are justified.

4.  Capstone Project Work Products

  • A mid-year oral presentation, as the first semester (SUS 7501C) nears completion.
  • A mid-year written report, due at the end of the first semester.
  • A  Project Management Log, typically consisting of a cumulative compilation of written progress reports, meeting minutes, etc., due (i) with the mid-year report; and (ii) in completed form, with the final written report.
  • A final written report, in the Capstone Final Report format, due at the end of the year (i.e., in May 2020).
  • A final oral presentation as the project nears completion (i.e., in May 2020).

5.   Recommended Standards for Grading Capstone Projects

Faculty advisors are asked to develop their own set of evaluative criteria (‘rubric’), and share and discuss it with students on their team. Students should be proactive about determining the advisor’s rubric. Rubrics will likely include some weighted combination of the following:

  • a.       Depth/quality of background research.
  • b.      Quality of primary project methodology.
  • c.       Spirit of teamwork and collaboration.
  • d.      Originality/innovativeness.
  • e.       Engagement with the community (-ies).
  • f.        Quality of mid-year written report.
  • g.       Quality of mid-year oral presentation.
  • h.  Quality of final written report (eg. is it 25 pages at minimum per group member?)
  • i.        Quality of final oral presentation.

6.   Capstone Course Time Commitments

The formal SUS 7501C meeting time is essentially a placeholder that is used primarily for purposes of the Capstone Workshops that will take place over the course of four weeks early in the first semester. After that, it is up to individual teams and their supervisors to arrange for mutually-convenient meeting times. To summarize, the capstone project time commitments are as follows:

  • Capstone Workshops: Four to Five Friday evenings in January/February 2020. All sessions will begin at 5:00pm in Shepard 375. In addition, there will be one mid-year review session late in the Spring 2020 semester, day/time TBD.
  • Regular individual team meetings with faculty supervisors: Approximately once every two weeks for the two-semester duration of project, at times/places to be arranged by individual teams and supervisors.
  • Other (recommended but optional): Typically, team members find it useful to meet among themselves at various times throughout the year.