As I prepare to wrap up my graduate school experience in the next 3 weeks, I really wonder in the most cliche way possible: where did the time go? It seems that the last two years of classes, assistantship experiences, practicum internships, and relationship building has flown by now that I’m nearing the end. UConn HESA students present a capstone oral examination at the conclusion of the program to be successfully hooded with the degree of Master of Arts. As many folks in #SAGrad programs complete some kind of culminating portfolio, it can be a valuable time of reflection and deep thought in an overwhelmingly busy final semester.
The UConn HESA Capstone
My capstone presentation will focus on a few different components: presenting a summary of significant learning experiences that reflect my mastery of competencies, and an enhancement project designed to demonstrate my ability to ground my practice in theory and research. These main pieces of the oral examination are compiled into a written portfolio project that is assessed in our related final seminar course in the HESA curriculum. As I’ve been working on this portfolio and presentation all semester long, I’ve struggled with summarizing and adequately communicating all that I’ve done in a succinct manner. However, I realized that I simply cannot capture every lesson learned along the way. I must focus on the most significant experiences that have impacted my identity and development as a practitioner.
Added Value to the Job Search
An unexpected benefit to the reflection process is the added value to my job search process. Our programs are preparing us to better understand ourselves and our interests in the field of higher education without us even realizing! I have found myself answering questions in interviews or forming opinions about possible opportunities that are directly related to conclusions and reflections that have materialized throughout the capstone portfolio preparation process. For example, when I speak about my philosophies on leadership or my individual advising style, I have thoughtful and well prepared statements that bring in theoretical underpinnings and how they impact my work as a professional. I can communicate and affirm that my work in the field is meaningful, well prepared, and intentionally focused on student success.
While it may feel that capstone projects, portfolios, or culminating experiences are one more thing to check off the to-do list before we graduate, #SAGrads should take full advantage of the opportunity. We should engage in intentional reflection that allows us to understand ourselves, our experiences, and our work better. We should strive not just for passing marks on these culminating projects, but to make this experience a worthwhile use of our limited time in the final semester. Many folks around me, myself included, feel that we’re barely staying afloat while balancing course loads, assistantships, job searching, internships, and living our lives. However, I feel that I have gained greater self-awareness and a stronger identity as a professional through critical reflection during this process. Does anyone else feel the same? Do you feel that your culminating requirements are not providing as much value as you had hoped? Leave me a comment here, or connect with me on Twitter @notvery_meek.
To all my #SAGrads in this month of April: hang in there. We’re almost Mastered.
Photo credit: https://www.dghistory.com/capstone.html