Capstone Experiences

Mercyhurst University guarantees that every incoming student who graduates with a Mercyhurst associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree will have gained real-world, outside-the-classroom experience in his or her discipline. These “hands-on” or applied learning opportunities, which we call capstone experiences, are part of the required curriculum for every student, in every major or program offered at Mercyhurst.

We believe that these capstone experiences add considerable value to any Mercyhurst University degree by enhancing each student’s job search, career progress or pursuit of further education following graduation from Mercyhurst.

Every academic program at Mercyhurst includes a capstone course as part of its curriculum. These courses are meant to provide students with learning experiences that replicate work that would be done in professional or graduate school settings, and allows them to build their portfolios and resumes while earning credit towards graduation. These guaranteed experiences, combined with other hands-on opportunities like study abroad and service projects, give our students an edge in today's competitive job market.

    Students enroll in a capstone course (Special Issues in Forensic Sciences), which provides one-on-one guidance for career development from faculty with relevant job experience, ethics training from world-renowned experts and assignments in scientific literacy.

    A student's experience in the Anthropology/Archaeology program culminates with the preparation of a professional portfolio that contains exemplars indicative of their interests, training, and experience in anthropology. The portfolio may include an article-length paper or poster detailing their internship or mentored research experience, as well as revised versions of key assignments from earlier coursework. The class aims to demonstrate that a student has met all of the student learning outcomes identified by the Department of Anthropology/Archaeology, while at the same time showcasing the student’s professional identity as an anthropologist. Students are guided in the preparation of focused statements, resumes, and cover letters that leverage the work they have curated to help them achieve their post-graduate career goals.

    Students investigate the healing potential of the arts through art experientials, research, and service learning in the community. Each student will gain experience with chosen populations in community agencies and therapeutic settings. Required internships provide students with opportunities to experience 200 contact hours of professionally supervised practical applications of the use of art as a means to support others.

    Students will conduct an evidence-based case scenario project in which they will utilize their prior Pre-Athletic Training knowledge to comprehensively address the treatment of a specific patient.  This will include looking at the patient as an individual, addressing comorbidities, appropriate evaluation with differential diagnoses, defining outcomes to be measured, and treating the individual to return them to activity.  

    Students have the opportunity to gain experience working in a variety of professional settings in preparation for graduate programs and/or careers and use cutting-edge equipment to conduct original research projects in the field and/or laboratory-setting and present their results at regional and national conferences. Students complete a content area exam, a synthesis paper based on their research, and a departmental seminar presentation.

    The capstone experience for students in the business department (including Accounting, Finance, Human Resource Management, Marketing, Sports Business Management, International Business, and Business Economics) consists of a competitive global strategic simulation that places students in small groups to control a company in the global athletic shoe industry. Students compete with other companies within the class and will use comprehensive critical thinking and analytical skills to try and outmaneuver competitors and implement a successful strategic plan over a 10-year period. 

    Students complete research projects as part of the curriculum in Chemistry and Biochemistry. This involves designing an individualized course of lab experiments, setting up data collection, and analyzing their results. Many students have produced work of graduate level/publishable quality. This is all designed to replicate what scientists and scientific educators do, and to complement their classroom instruction with real-world, “hands-on” science. Students must also prepare a 15-20 minute presentation of their research as part of the CHEM 409: Seminar course. This is excellent preparation for students who plan on graduate school and for those who want jobs in industry/government where they must prepare reports and seminars and be able to defend their work to their supervisors.

    Students complete internships with approved regional, national, and international businesses, industries, agencies, and institutions either in-person or online. These experiences can also be on-campus where students can work in spaces such as the Sports Information Office, The Merciad, Marketing and Public Relations, or Parkhurst Dining Services.

    Students in the Criminal Justice Senior Seminar course integrate criminological theory, research, ethics, and policy by designing and engaging in a project on a contemporary criminal justice issue of their choosing.  Students also work on professional development by creating a resume, cover letter, and preparing for a job search. 

    The cyber security capstone project allows students to investigate topics of interest within the cyber security field.  Students can work either independently or within teams and are encouraged to apply knowledge and skills to solve current cyber security issues. 

    The capstone experience in the Cyber Security graduate program provides a foundational understanding of what is required to secure a cloud ecosystem and an overall understanding of the most common web attacks and their countermeasures. Students who complete both courses entering any organization, utilizing cloud and web based applications, will immediately bring value to the infrastructure and security teams.

    The Senior capstone course offers each senior BA and BFA student the opportunity to work on faculty-mentored scholarly and creative research in performance, pedagogy, choreography, or any other specific area of the dance field. Professionally recognized faculty members guide students through the process of proposing, developing, and presenting their research in choreographic projects, performative experiences, and written and oral analyses. Additionally, all students present a portfolio of their creative, scholarly, and artistic work at the end of each year, including a résumé and professionally produced performance reel, demonstrating the rich collection of their work while at Mercyhurst.

    In the senior project course, students will work as a team, partnered with an outside organization, to assist the organization with their data analytics. Students will use their skills in data wrangling, data visualization, and machine learning.

    In our capstone course, students will have the opportunity to bring together their skills in data wrangling, data visualization, and machine learning in a learning experience, which will ordinarily be partnering, as a team, with an outside organization to assist them with their data analytics. This experience may also be a course in a new, cutting-edge application of data science, or participation in competitive data science.

    Every English major completes a Senior English Project, in which they produce a significant and original literary research essay and deliver a formal, public oral presentation of their results.

    Each student in the Exercise Science major will develop their own baccalaureate research project with the assistance of a departmental faculty member, who is the instructor for their research methods courses. Students collect their data using instrumentation housed in two human performance laboratories. The two-year research process, which culminates in the successful completion of the capstone project, embraces identifiable departmental global learning outcomes as an integral component of the overall progression from statement of the problem to a finished product, which adds to the body knowledge. In multiple instances, this has led to student presentation of research findings at local, regional, national, and international conferences and/or publication in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal.

    The capstone course thoroughly discusses the fashion merchandiser’s role as a product line developer.  Students will research populations, synthesize data, formulate plans, and source primary markets to justify a ready-to-wear collection for a target market of their choice.  Students will simultaneously learn how to utilize Adobe Illustrator to create technical drawings, fashion flats, and inspiration boards in order to create his/her own product line for women, men, or children.   

    Students gain hands-on training and experience under the guidance of award-winning faculty with the most up-to-date software and industry-standard facilities. Hands-on experiences include internships, portfolio development and projects for real-life clients through our many partnerships in the community. Students will experience both traditional and contemporary theories of design and idea-generating methods with our extensive art curriculum. Graphic Design students and alumni have been consistently recognized by their achievements in the field at the annual American Advertising Federation Awards. Other hands-on experiences come from participation in outside-of-class activities including clubs and organizations, professional portfolio reviews, and trips to major art museums such as the Carnegie in Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

    Students enrolled in either the traditional History or History-Social Studies content area must take either a senior seminar course in which they produce a primary source-driven original work of scholarship; or they may pursue a Senior Thesis—a more substantial work of original historical work with the goal of publication or presentation at professional conferences. Students enrolled in the Public History Concentration take HIS 485, the Public History Senior Project, completed during the student’s senior year.  It is designed to challenge students to apply many of the concepts, theories, and methods learned in the classroom together to produce a final work of scholarship that serves a regional institution.  Examples include: museum exhibits, outdoor historical interpretive signage projects, documentary films, and historical driving/walking tours.  

    Students enrolled in any of the three core Public History classes often engage in community projects, including curating and mounting exhibitions and producing oral histories of Erie neighborhoods.

    All students in the Public History program complete an internship.  In recent years, institutions where students have completed these experiences include: the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the Petrie Museum of Egyptology in London, Gettysburg National Battlefield, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields, Fort Stanwix National Historic Site, Plimoth Plantation National Historic Site, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the Thomas Edison Birthplace and Museum, Preservation Erie, Erie Maritime Museum and the U.S. Brig Niagara.

    Students in the hospitality management program will complete their course of study with the senior capstone class HRIM 50 Senior Seminar. This class is a culmination of the all the previous hospitality curriculum classes and includes a comprehensive exam required to graduate. Students also participate in consulting projects, visual internship presentations of their own experiences, and a simulation of an entrepreneurial business plan.

    By applying best practices learned throughout the program, students in the capstone project work with real-world clients to produce intelligence reports and briefings that address critical issues for decision making. Students apply the intelligence process of data collection, analysis, synthesis, dissemination (written and verbal), and feedback to answer questions such as the impacts of climate change on a country's security, analysis of internal and external threats to a company, organization, or agency, as well as identifying individuals or entities to understand and develop methods to counter their dealing in counterfeit or illegal products. In the past students have worked with clients such as the FBI, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and Fortune 500 companies, as well as local organizations like the Erie Police Department.

    Students spend three semesters working on a design project, then present and display their work in the annual Interior Design Senior Show to a jury of design professionals from the community. Students can also complete independent study programs, working on projects for businesses and organizations.

    Students will complete a mathematics focused research project in their junior or senior year, on a topic of their choice. This project, which involves an expository research paper and presentation, will expose students to the process of formal research in mathematics. Students are also encouraged to present their work at a regional or national mathematics meeting.

    Seniors present a recital of music that represents the music they have worked on in their Applied Lessons.  All students prepare music from a variety of compositional periods, with vocalists preparing at least three languages. In addition, student composers’ music is performed live by students, faculty, and professional musicians. In addition to the recital, the students are to produce a professionally representative printed program that contains scholarly program notes on the pieces performed.

    The MSN Leadership Capstone experience includes a 2-credit hour course component and a 2-credit hour clinical practicum.  This course enables the student to develop and apply the Emotional Intelligence (EI) abilities of transformational Nurse Leaders. The clinical precepted practicum allows the student to engage in a collaborative workforce safety initiative that improves the physical and psychological safety of healthcare workers. The student will experience the positive relationship between workforce safety and wellbeing and the safety of patients. This course ends with a personalized plan of action to further the student’s professional development and education, under the guidance of a mentor of their choosing.

    The overall capstone goal is one of transformation: the purposeful transformation of professional reflections, knowledge, skills and attitudes into advance integrative nursing practice to improve the health of the public and the nurses that we lead. 

    Every philosophy major completes a senior thesis by working closely with a thesis advisor on an independent and original research project, culminating in a public thesis defense before a committee of readers.

    The program culminates in a final 6-week full time clinical experience where students are assessed in relation to entry level practice.  This includes 14 criteria including hands-on skills, communication, interpersonal skills, professional responsibility, patient education, clinical problem solving, cultural competence, and legal/ethical behaviors. 

    Course PA-695, Summative Evaluation Experience, will serve as a capstone experience to prepare the student for the physician assistant profession.  There will be a focus on curricular review of topics in medicine, PA licensure, credentialing, laws and regulations of practice.  Students will complete their master portfolio to include a service learning project, a case presentation, a literature review, service learning and professional growth experiences.  Students must successfully complete all components of the Summative Evaluation Experience to be certified for graduation.  This testing will be conducted within the final 4 months of the program and includes a final summative evaluation examination, summative clinical scenarios and summative clinical skills testing.

    A research project with a faculty member is required for Physics (B.S.) majors. The Physics Department also offers interdisciplinary research projects for physics and non-physics major students to connect physics to life sciences disciplines (health and sport science, medicine, biology), mathematics and computational sciences, bioengineering and other disciplines. 

    Students conduct real-life public opinion polling through the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics state-of-the art computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) facility. The facility is comprised of thirty-one interviewer stations and is staffed by well-trained student research associates, who use specialized computer software to conduct telephone interviews gauging what residents of particular geographic areas feel about a particular position or policy.

    The Senior Project emphasizes political socialization and intellectual identity through a range of brief written assignments, designed to probe student beliefs and promote introspective reflection, culminate in a chapter length intellectual memoir produced by each senior.

    Applied capstone experiences are tailored to student’s individual interests and ambitions.  For example, students interested in careers in education may serve as research assistants to members of the department’s faculty, while students interested in the law, applied politics or public service will complete appropriate internships.

    An advanced capstone course is taught in a seminar style, covering special topics of current issues in psychology. Students will have an opportunity to explore an area of psychology in-depth by reading current articles, and discussing research findings.

    The Public Health Department offers students three options for their capstone experience:  

    • PUBH 475: Public Health Field Experience (0 to 12 credit) 
    • PUBH 476: Public Health Internship (0 to 12 credit) 
    • PUBH 490: Public Health Research Practicum (3 credits)  

    The first two involve field work that allows students to gain real experience working on a community-based public health project or with a public health agency or an organization that has a public health mission. We developed partnerships with the Erie County Health Department, Shriners’ Hospital of Erie, Women, Infant and Children Program, Regional Science Consortium, American Association, to name a few. The third option is for advanced students that wish to pursue independent or group research projects under faculty mentorship. 

    In the Religious Studies Senior Seminar, each student applies knowledge from their entire Religious Studies program by completing a formal research paper, review of the scholarly literature, and research presentation on a chosen topic.

    The Respiratory Therapist Program culminates with RT Clinical Practicum II, a clinical-based course that affords students the opportunity to participate in varied critical care clinical rotations four days a week.  At the completion of the course, students are required to submit a case study document outlining the clinical course of a mechanically ventilated patient they encounter during their clinical rotations.  Students must also successfully complete computerized practice exams in preparation for the National Board for Respiratory Care Therapist Multiple Choice and Clinical Simulation exams.

    Social work students are required to complete a 500-hour internship in an agency under the supervision of an agency social work as well as the social work faculty field coordinator. The department has relationships with nearly 40 agencies and non-profit organizations where students regularly complete these internships.  As an additional component of the senior capstone experience, social work majors also develop a comprehensive competency paper which incorporates an active research project and policy assessment of their internship agency.  This process allows formal assessment of the required social work competencies that are established by the accrediting board of the Council on Social Work Education.

    Sociology majors can complete either an internship in a variety of work environments or complete a senior research project under the direct supervision of the sociology department faculty.  This active research is based on students’ specific interests and often include agency grant-writing, single subject (treatment) designs, program evaluation or program exploration. 

    Each student in the Sports Medicine major will develop their own baccalaureate research project with the assistance of a departmental faculty member, who is the instructor for their research methods courses. Students collect their data using instrumentation housed in two human performance laboratories. The two-year research process, which culminates in the successful completion of the capstone project, embraces identifiable departmental global learning outcomes as an integral component of the overall progression from statement of the problem to a finished product, which adds to the body knowledge. In multiple instances, this has led to student presentation of research findings at local, regional, national, and international conferences and/or publication in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal.

    Students have numerous practical experiences in this dynamic hands-on field.  Students will experience both traditional and contemporary theories of art and idea generating methods with an extensive hands-on art curriculum. Working with accomplished faculty members as their mentors, each student will develop, design, produce and present their thesis artworks in a senior thesis exhibition held in the Cummings Art Gallery. A digital portfolio and resume complement this experience.  Other opportunities include outside-of-class activities such as field trips to local, regional and national exhibitions and workshops. These include regular bus trips to major art museums such as the Carnegie in Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Studio Art students also have the opportunity to experience professional internships at regional museums and galleries.

    (French, French Education, Russian Studies, Spanish, Spanish Education)

    All language majors participate in an Oral Proficiency Interview with an external evaluator in the spring semester of their senior year. This results in an internationally-recognized rating of their skills in listening and speaking their language, which students can use on their resumes, and employment and graduate school applications. The OPI score is part of a portfolio that all senior majors submit as senior review with the department, which also includes oral and written work.

    All majors are encouraged to complete a study abroad experience. Students who are not pursing the French or Spanish education majors must either study abroad OR complete an authentic cultural experience created in conjunction with the major advisor.

    French and Spanish education majors complete a semester-long student teaching experience designed to prepare them to assume full responsibilities in the classroom.