SYLLABUS: Spring 2024

Instructor: Katherine and faculty mentors
Schedule: At least twice per month meeting with faculty alongside workshops (Fridays at 5)
Location: Zoom, SH-375, SSA 107
Two 3-credit courses

“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 that bring together students with different academic backgrounds are assembled. 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, a mid-year poster, and a Project Management Log (both mid-year and final). Teams make two oral project presentations—mid-year and final. 

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. The capstone project is required of all students in the program, and constitutes six credits out of the 30 credits required for the MS in Sustainability degree. NOTE: Students are eligible to begin a capstone project only if they have successfully completed at least three core courses (or two core courses, but with the third being taken concurrently with SUS 7501C).

Basic Features

  • 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.
  • Provides new deliverables to the field of study.
  • Produces a final product of a report at least 25 pages in length per group member.

Capstone Project Time Commitments

The formally scheduled course meeting time is used primarily for purposes of the Capstone Workshops that take place over the course of the first semester of the project (SUS 7501C). Throughout the duration of SUS 7501C and SUS 7502C, it is up to individual teams and their advisers to arrange for mutually-convenient meeting times. The expectation is that students meets with their advisor/mentor at least twice per month. In between regular terms, meetings may be less frequent.

To summarize, the capstone project time commitments are as follows:

Capstone Information Session: The month during enrolling in courses for the next semester, students must first note they are planning to enroll in their capstone. They will then receive all options for projects on offer and meet to discuss on an evening in November on Zoom where groups will be formed. Students who have their own capstone ideas will need to propose them via the one-page problem statement summary the month beforehand (October for Spring project starts and March for Fall project starts) with a faculty mentor on boar. Sample summaries can be found in the capstone section of the curriculum web page and under “Sample Projects” here. 

Capstone Workshops: Fridays for the first semester course of the sequence (SUS 7501C), from 5:00-6:30pm in Shepard 375 or on Zoom. In addition, one mid-year review session late in the semester of SUS 7501C will take place in person.

Regular individual team meetings with faculty advisers: Approximately once every two weeks for the two-semester duration of project, at times/places to be arranged by individual teams and advisers.

Other (recommended but optional): Typically, team members find it useful to meet among themselves at various times throughout the year.

Capstone Advisers
Capstone project advisers are CCNY faculty (full-time or adjunct) with interest in and experience with sustainability-related topics. The adviser 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 adviser and team develops their own working relationship, an adviser 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 an iterative submission of the final report, in the Capstone Final Report format, beginning about a month before the final written report will be due.
-Grade the project. In cases where a adviser finds significantly differing levels of contributions among team members, differing grades are assigned.

Assigned Work-Products
-A mid-year presentation, as the first semester (SUS 7501C) nears completion.
-A mid-year written report, due at the end of the first semester. This is a very early draft of your final report (pieces/sections may be missing).
-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 December for those who begin in January, and in May for those who begin in August). It should be at least 25 pages per group member. Although one member may be a lead writer or editor, a team of 4 should have no fewer than 100 total pages.
-A final oral presentation as the project nears completion (i.e., in December for those who begin in January, and in May for those who begin in August).
-Advisers are advised 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 adviser’s rubric. There is a sample on the website as a general guide.

Rubrics will likely include some weighted combination of the following:
-Depth/quality of background research.
-Quality of primary project methodology.
-Spirit of teamwork and collaboration.
-Engagement with the community(-ies).
-Quality of mid-year written report.
-Quality of mid-year oral presentation.
-Quality of final written report.
-Quality of final oral presentation.

In the first semester, students receive a “Satisfactory Performance” to be changed to their final letter grade for both semesters upon complete the capstone. Students in the same group do not need to be assigned the same grades.