What is a thesis or capstone project? How long does it have to be? How long do I have to complete it? How and what will I turn in? How will I be graded? Do I need to defend? And there are a dozen more questions students raise when it comes time for their culminating academic event. I refer to it as an event because it is eventful – there are successes and failures, panic attacks and feelings of relief, growth and setbacks, all of these combined together create this wonderful learning experience.
Students may begin their thesis or capstone work once they have completed 18 credits (half of their coursework). Students come to my office and we have “the talk.” Many of them are nervous or overwhelmed with few ideas solid ideas. I ask them one simple question: “What is your dream job?” Most look at me as if I am skipping a few steps, but it is the important question. Ultimately, students should work for a year on a project that interests them, challenges them, and one that will catapult them on a trajectory that will ultimately land them their dream job in the world of publishing.
After the student describes his/her dream job, we work backwards to develop a thesis or capstone topic that will best allow him/her to showcase their skills or knowledge base. The ideas that rise to the surface are nothing but exciting. I have to concede – I have to fight off a few jealous pangs. The thought of diving full-force into a single topic for a year is exciting!
The students work over the course of a calendar year on their chosen topic with a thesis advisor. Their topics range widely in scope, focus, and platform. To give you a flavor, here are just a few of the topics students will be grappling with over the course of the next 10 months: Role of the strong female archetype in children’s literature and the role of editors; How technology and communication raise issues such as libel, privacy, truthfulness, and obscenity in publishing memoir; Societal and cultural impact that banned books have on the individual, the classroom, and the public; Digital technology’s effect on news, magazines, and the children’s segments of the industry; In-depth study of the current state of print books, brick-and-mortar bookstores; and Study of the history, current state, and trajectory of the Christian publishing sector.
I look forward to hearing from the thesis students about their progress as the semester unfolds. There will be excitement as they reveal nuggets of information, disappointment as a source fails to provide the needed support, yet the fortitude to press forward.
So what would you study for an entire year given the opportunity?
Anne Converse Willkomm
Director, Graduate Publishing Programs