Capstone courses offer chance for creativity

The graphic design and film and moving image programs at Stevenson University offer capstone courses that encourage students to use the many skills they have learned in a creative project. These projects give students the opportunity to showcase their work at Stevenson while expressing themselves in an inventive and original way.


The graphic design capstone exhibit features and assesses 24 seniors one last time with a compelling, and possibly even controversial, final project.

Visual communication design student Angie Perez sets up her project, Hey You, in the Manning Academic Center gallery. (Photo by Emma Cathy Smith)

After weeks of brainstorming and researching, graphic design seniors must develop and create a “How Might We?” question and then represent it in a graphically designed way. Lori Rubeling, professor of art and graphic design, oversees the capstone course and challenges her students to think deeply about the “How Might We?” question.

“Social justice, or thinking about how design can affect social change is definitely driving a lot of the content this year,” said Rubeling.

While every student is not required to devise an enthralling, controversial question, many feel obligated to challenge themselves with a topic that is rarely seen or protested. One of Rubeling’s students, Heather Sun, chose a topic that might garner a plethora of different responses.

“My topic has to do with consent, and what the right age might be for a child to learn about consent,” said Sun.

Rubeling oversees the long process that this final capstone project entails. Some students have not only made a visual representation of their theme, but have also included touch as a part of their final project. Onlookers can physically feel something when observing these projects.

“Corrin Johnson’s project not only provides pictures for how a migraine feels if you’ve never had one occur before, but it also has five pedestals that you touch that also relate to a migraine,” said Rubeling.

Rubeling loves to see variety in the final projects. Not only do the projects cover very different topics, such as “How Might We” create a safe space for people to share traumatic experiences, or a project on coming from a farming family to a college, but the platforms in which they are graphically presented are also widely divergent.

“From clay sculptures, all the way to augmented reality, this years’ topics have a wide range, and it’s really quite beautiful,” said Rubeling. This range will make the final senior showcase appeal to many different spectators and students.

While there is certain anxiety that comes with being a senior, there is a rewarding sense of fulfillment when finishing a project like this one.

“This project brought a lot of stress, but I have really enjoyed the process and thinking about a topic that challenges the way people think and how parents raise their children,” said Sun.

Rubeling said she hopes this final project will teach the capstone students that “they should be confident in themselves, and that they are good designers and creative thinkers.” The final showcase that displays the Senior Capstone projects will open on April 22 in the Manning Academic Center on the second floor.


Stevenson film and moving image majors create capstone project that spans the last two semesters of their senior year. The project pushes students to use everything they have learned in their four years at Stevenson, according to Dina Fiasconaro, associate professor of film and moving image.

Posters highlighting the upcoming senior showcase are currently hanging in the School of Design gallery. A variety of films of many different genres will be shown at the event. (Photo by Emma Cathy Smith)

Fiasconaro, who helps teach the course that facilitates the capstone project, described the project as a culmination of the students’ four years in the major. They have the option to complete various types of projects, such as films, scripts and documentaries.

The project itself begins in the first semester as pre-production. This can involve writing scripts, directing, and assembling a crew. The second part, which takes place during the students last semester at Stevenson, involves filming and editing for the senior showcase.

Caitlyn McElroy, a senior taking part in the capstone experience, said some of the many benefits in being involved in a project like this include learning how the film industry works and learning how to budget, as students must fund their own projects.

Fiasconaro described the capstone as a chance for students to take risks. She said this experience provides students a place to make mistakes without a job at risk. This opportunity can help students develop other skills such as good time management.

While there are many benefits to creating a project of this magnitude, there are also many challenges, especially when it involves working with several other people. Fiasconaro said that some of the major challenges of her students include learning to collaborate with one another, as well as improving their communication and interpersonal skills.

McElroy said challenges she faced was not raising enough money for the project and scheduling problems due to weather and actors’ availability.

Along with the capstone project, students take part in a mentorship program that pairs them with a professional filmmaker, with whom students can talk about their future career path and gain feedback on their capstone project.

Fiasconaro sees the capstone project as the first time many students get to express themselves; they can tell their own story through this project.

McElroy said the final project gives students the chance to create something they are proud of and can showcase at festivals. Students are building upon many skills like communication and teamwork, while also gaining an immense amount of experience.

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