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The Final Milestone: A Victory Lap
CAPturing MCM A Series Chronicling My Capstone Experience by Joseph Brecht Program Assistant - Master of Communication & Media

I know, I know, this day has been a long time coming! At the start of the semester, when we began this journey, the task at hand seemed daunting. The prospect of developing an original research question, researching it, and writing about it in a 25–30-page research paper would make even the most diligent student take pause, and with good reason. The MCM capstone project is the culmination of your studies in the program and represents the very best work you have to offer. I say all this not to scare you - quite the opposite. Arriving at the capstone course means that you have nearly finished your degree and you are about to take the next steps in your personal and professional journey. But, before you do that, it is important to take a victory lap.

The capstone paper is your opportunity to highlight the knowledge and analytical skills you developed in the program, and it is important to remember that you are not doing it alone. Though the course is very much self-directed, your faculty member is a valuable resource for feedback and encouragement and is there to guide you through the process. And now, with your paper written and your feedback from the initial draft received, it is time to present your work to your colleagues and the world! This is the MCM Capstone Colloquium, your opportunity to connect with other capstone writers (over Zoom, in my case) and reflects both on your projects and the experience of drafting the paper. The end-of-term presentations include a visual element, typically a brief PowerPoint, accompanied by narration or, in non-pandemic times, a live presentation by the author. This is a wonderful opportunity to take your victory lap while also receiving questions and comments from your peers before turning in your final draft. Remember, great minds work together!

In terms of the presentation itself, capstone professor Dr. Albert Widman recommends a brief PowerPoint of roughly six slides, excluding the title and references slides. In general, he recommends students incorporate the following elements:

  1. An introductory slide identifying the research question and explaining its significance
  2. Two slides discussing the major literature and the key themes, trends you observed
  3. Two slides discussing your findings, including direct quotes from 3-4 key sources
  4. A final slide offering any conclusions and recommendations based on your research

Once you have put the slides together, take a moment to review them for clarity - remember, you may be an expert in your subject area now, but your colleagues (and faculty member) likely are not! The finishing touch on your capstone presentation is the slide narration unless you have the opportunity to present your work in person. In that case, I recommend preparing notecards that summarize the major points on each slide. And, especially if you are recording yourself and narrating the slides, it is important that the words you speak offer additional value to the information presented onscreen. Avoid simply re-reading what is written on the slides and offer your audience something original, such as a fact or anecdote, which illustrates your point without being too repetitive.

After this is all said and done, it is now time to share your work with your colleagues (and the world)! "It is always exciting for me to see the wonderful capstones that are produced by our students in the class," Dr. Widman says, "it is 'hold in your hand, physical proof' of the great personal advances achieved by the students in their scholarship, academic discipline, and development of personal expertise." The colloquium, in other words, makes the experience real for students by allowing them to present a (mostly) finished project that is the product of months of careful, deliberate effort and focus. It is not luck that got you to this moment; it is your due diligence and commitment to your work.

There are always two emotions that are very evident on the faces of the class during the end of term colloquium, according to Dr. Widman:

“First, a look of pride about the great work they were able to produce. Secondly, a look of great joy, anticipation, and excitement about taking the lessons learned at Rutgers into the next phase of their lives.” 

That is, after all, why we chose to pursue an MCM degree in the first place - to acquire skills for today and knowledge for tomorrow. The colloquium, and the capstone more generally, is the bookend on the educational journey that each of us began not because it was easy but because we wanted to improve ourselves. Finishing this paper and completing your degree should, indeed, be great sources of pride both for you and for those who have helped you along the way. I know, for me, the end of my capstone also marks the end of my time in the MCM program. At the same time, it is also marking the beginning of the next chapter for myself and my classmates. Whether you are embarking on a new career path or looking to advance in your current one, I want to congratulate you for achieving your master’s degree and thank you for taking this capstone journey with me. As we look ahead to the future, let us strive to continue learning and growing both professionally and personally.

Congratulations to the MCM Class of 2022 and to all the graduates in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information - We did it!

Image: Courtesy of Joseph Brecht

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