Introduction for Advisers


(1)  Projects should focus on a real-world sustainability* issue or problem that invites an interdisciplinary approach (e.g., some combination of engineering, architecture, sciences, and social sciences). Teams consist of 2 or 3 (or 4, but not recommended) students not all of the same academic backgrounds.  [* interpreting this amorphous term broadly]

(2)  Students drive the process of choosing teammates and projects. Teams interested in a particular project meet to discuss the project and expectations with the faculty supervisor. Projects do not go forward unless there is a mutual decision to do so. 

(3)  Projects should be difficult/challenging, but still allow for meaningful progress in two consecutive semesters. Even if the project is part of a larger series of interrelated projects that explore common territory, each individual team should have a particular project objective that can be accomplished in two consecutive semesters.

(4)  Project objectives, in terms of what the team is going to “produce” or “deliver,” can be any of various things, e.g.:

  • a creative new analysis/synthesis
  • one or more recommended solutions
  • comprehensive comparison of costs and benefits of differing types/designs
  • feasibility assessment of one or more proposed solutions
  • set of strategies, e.g., for minimizing ecosystem disruptions
  • design for a smartphone application

(5)  Projects should involve much more than routine work tasks. I.e., they should include creative academic/scholarly elements, and allow for substantial academic research, possibly leading to a journal article. It’s fine if collaborating entities have advocacy and/or commercializability as part of their mission, but the capstone project per se should be conducted with standards of academic rigor and objectivity that match those of peer-reviewed scholarly publications.

(6) Projects must have a project supervisor who is a CCNY faculty or staff member to serve as supervisor and project grader.

(7) If a project involves collaborations with entities/institutions outside CCNY, all parties involved need to be clear about the expectations when it comes to student supervision, i.e., find the right non-burdensome balance.

(8) In order to propose a project, a potential adviser must submit the one page problem statement in the format provided under “sample projects” on this site by the prior semester deadline. For projects starting in Fall, the deadline to submit proposals or to notify offering one previously offered is March 1st the semester prior. For Spring capstones the deadline to propose new topics or re-offer others is October 15th of the prior semester.


1.  Basic features of a capstone course project (to keep in mind):

  • 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 some meaningful progress in two semesters.
  • Offers avenues for substantial academic research, possibly leading to a journal article.
  • Connect your project ideas to relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals the project may be addressing.

2.  Some Operational Suggestions: 

  1. Meet with team members to describe the project and related matters, e.g., expectations, conduct, procedures, etc. 
  1. Meet with students at a regularly scheduled time. The Sustainability program expectation is that these meetings will occur at least once every two weeks.
  1. If useful, consider assigning a team leader to be your primary contact person. Alternatively, team members may elect a team leader (perhaps on a rotating basis).
  1. As needed, ask for verbal or written progress reports and plans for future work.  All teams will be required to provide a written Progress Report (and to make an oral presentation) at the end of the first semester.
  1. Require a final report (in the Capstone Final Report format) three weeks before the end of the year. This will allow time for supervisor review, revision by students, final approvals, and grade assignment.
  1. Require a Project Management Log—a cumulative written record of how the project progressed during the year, as evidenced by, e.g., dated progress reports, meeting minutes, task lists, scheduled action items, etc.
  1. Typically, all team members receive the same grade. However, experience has shown that occasionally a team member does not contribute sufficiently to the project—in which case differing grades are justified. 

3.  Recommended Criteria for Grading Capstone Projects

Supervisors are advised to develop their own set of evaluative criteria (‘rubric’), and share and discuss it with their team early in the course of the project.  A panel of veteran capstone supervisors has recommended that rubrics include some weighted combination of the following:

  1. Depth/quality of background research.
  2. Quality of primary project methodology.
  3. Spirit of teamwork and collaboration. 
  4. Originality/innovativeness.
  5. Engagement with the community (-ies).
  6. Quality of mid-year written report.
  7. Quality of mid-year oral presentation.
  8. Quality of final written report.
  9. Quality of final oral presentation.

4.   Expected Time Commitment by Supervisors

Supervisors and students decide when and where they will meet. As noted, the expectation is that supervisors will meet with their team at least once every two weeks. This implies at least 7-8 meetings during each semester, so 14-16 meetings for the project as a whole. During the first semester, it may be that the actual meeting time would be the only time invested by a supervisor. Keep in mind many students in the Program work full-time, so meeting are commonly evenings or weekends. During later sessions—as students begin to prepare preliminary versions of their reports—there would probably also be time invested in reading such materials prior to meetings.  In addition, there are two large-group sessions at CCNY at which all supervisors and teams need to be present: a mid-year review session at the end of the first semester; and a final oral presentation session, at the end of the second semester. Likely total time outlay:  seven one-hour meetings during semester one; then another eight meetings during semester two. Assume the latter all require an hour of preparation, so 16 hours in all.  Add to this six hours for the two large-group meetings: 7 + 16 + 6 = 29 hours. Thus, a two-semester project supervision is a time commitment of approximately 30 hours, perhaps more.

5.   Faculty Released-Time Credit

Faculty who supervise capstone projects deserve teaching credit for their efforts. Such credit should accumulate in accordance with the City College “Guidelines for Workload and Released-Time.”  The table below summarizes the allocation of credit hours. The general rule is that one allocates .5 credits for the first student in a group/team, and .25 credits for each additional student in the group/team. 

Students on Capstone Team Faculty released-time credit/semester Faculty released-time credit per 2-semester Capstone project
2 .5 + .25 = .75 credit hours 1.5 credit hours
3 .5 + .25 + .25 = 1.0 credit hours 2.0 credit hours
4 .5 + .25 + .25 + .25 = 1.25 credit hours 2.5 credit hours

Thus, if a faculty member were to serve concurrently as a supervisor for two different 2-member capstone teams, then when the projects finished at the end of the second semester the faculty member would have accrued 1.5 hours of released-time for each team, for a total of 3.0 hours of released time (equivalent to teaching one 3-credit course). If a faculty member were to mentor just one team, then the credits earned would be banked, i.e., would accumulate toward three hours of released-time that would accrue in a subsequent semester. Supervisors are asked to discuss and confirm the released-time credit understanding with their Department Chair prior to starting a capstone supervision.

6.  Capstone Workshops

This first semester workshop is required of all capstone students in the semester in which they begin their projects. The workshops are meant to reinforce the capstone process, and do not require any effort on the part of supervisors. To the contrary, they should serve to take some of the burden off supervisors with respect to matters such as the format of the capstone project final report, research using CCNY/CUNY resources, arranging final project presentations, etc. The workshops focus on matters of process and format, and thus should make the capstone supervision process more content-focused and more fulfilling for supervisors.