Reshaping the Senior Politics Capstone

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A Fresh Approach to Success

   Completing a senior project at Pacific is a challenging academic milestone, often considered the crowning achievement of one’s degree. Multimedia majors often produce podcasts while those in the humanities and social sciences write lengthy papers, and life science students sometimes investigate the effects of Wolbachia infection on bug populations.

   The capstone project reflect students’ interests, and are designed to challenge seniors to manage one large project from conception to completion. 

   Recently, in light of students’ interests and faculty’s considerations for best carrying out these final project, the Politics and Government department adjusted its senior project model; most notably replacing the nine credits marathon with a two-credit class, POLS 497. 

   “We wanted to restructure the major so that there was a new category called ‘research in the discipline’ that highlighted the fact that students were doing research in their 300-level classes,” said Politics Department Chair, Dr. Jules Boykoff. He explained that the department changed the requirements to create more “coherence” within the Politics major, and to “link up the 300-level courses in a more concerted way with 400-level classes.”

   But those changes may also be a measurement of another issue at Pacific: Declining enrollment. Dr. Jim Moore, the acting Associate Dean of Pacific’s Arts and Sciences department and a Politics Professor, claims the changes in the politic capstone are partially due to enrollment trends at Pacific. “There are a number of majors, Politics is one, where the number of majors is shrinking,” Moore asserted. “The pressure is we can’t have faculty just teaching classes to five or six people… You can see the equity issues of somebody who teaches a total of 20 students compared to someone who is teaching 120.”

   Across Oregon, overall enrollment at colleges is trending downward—and, for Moore, the answer to fewer students is increased efficiency, which the previous nine-credit Politics Capstone did not embody.

   Looking forward, Boykoff says Politics students undergoing the capstone experience can expect to “Carry out a fulsome research project in the list of classes that are under the ‘research in the discipline’ category.” He also expressed, “One of the beautiful things about working with students [at Pacific] is that people have so many different interests, and some of them want to take those interests all the way to a double major.” He feels the “streamlined” Capstone requirements make room for that potential. — Reed McFeely 


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