Capstone Project Stops Off SMC Bachelor’s Degree


Capstone Project Tops Off SMC

By Jeremy Handel

This article appeared originally in the fall 2021 issue of Frontiers Magazine


Any great stone structure starts with the laying of a cornerstone and a solid foundation. The crowning achievement of that structure is when it is topped off with a capstone.

At Spartanburg Methodist College, bachelor’s degree students start with a foundation of courses leading to their associate degree. And with the Camak Core professional development program, they top off their bachelor’s degree with a Capstone Project that puts their years of learning into action.

“We want to show our students that just getting their degree doesn’t guarantee success,” said Courtney Shelton, SMC Vice President for Student and Professional Development. “Workplace expectations are incredibly different these days, and we want them to learn the difference between college skills and workplace skills before they graduate and start their first job.

”College is designed to prepare students for future careers. Spartanburg Methodist College focuses on preparing students beyond the facts and theory of their chosen profession, providing its graduates with an understanding of how to function in the working world.

The Camak Core teaches the soft skills needed to easily transition into their careers and feel comfortable functioning in that environment. Students learn professional communication, problem identification and solving, professional development and leadership skills, and the common technology and tools used in the workplace. They are also required to complete an internship to get a first-hand, real-world experience of the skills they have learned.

The culmination of their professional development learning is the Capstone Project. Each student must take the skills and knowledge they have learned and develop a small business, non-profit, or other project or product that demonstrates their mastery of the Camak Core skills.

Students complete their projects by presenting them to a group of professionals, business owners, and faculty who provide feedback on their work. Due to COVID protocols, the presentations this year were conducted via pre-recorded videos.

The 2020-2021 school year hosted the first group of students to complete their Capstone Projects.

“Students seemed both nervous and excited to engage in the process of creating and implementing a project,” said Dr. Temeka Brantley, Director of Project-based Learning and Involvement. “They also recognized the hard work required to create and manage a project and persevered throughout the course.

”Among the biggest challenges students faced was simply deciding what their project was going to be. There were also a lot of nerves about creating and launching a business or organization in a semester’s time.

“Students are more familiar with a model where they are assigned a project to complete as opposed to having the autonomy to create one,” Dr. Brantley said. “Therefore, this process takes time to help shift their mindset and approach.

”The students expressed their trepidation at first, but they appreciated the importance of the lessons they had learned by the end.

“When I first heard about the Capstone Project, I was overwhelmed that I had to come up with a project and implement it by graduation,” said Landon Wakefield ‘21. “Because the Capstone is organized in a step-by-step process, it was easier to determine what needed to be done to complete the project.

”Once the projects were chosen, the students really took to the assignment, according to Dr. Brantley. They also showed a desire to help others with their projects.

“The first cohort of Capstone Projects demonstrated students’ compassion for having a positive impact on the surrounding community,” she said. “Although it was not a requirement, many projects aimed to give back, which I believe is a direct reflection of the incredible values instilled at SMC.”

With the Camak Core professional development program, they top off their bachelor’s degree with a Capstone Project that puts their years of learning into action.

One such project was called Eat, Learn, and Grow, developed by Mattison Church ‘21. The project provided weekly produce bags and easy recipe cards for SMC commuter students, giving them healthy options to prepare and eat on the go. Church said the program went better than expected, and she distributed nearly 50 bags to students during the spring semester. She also learned something about herself.

“I learned from the Capstone Project that I can complete a giant project in a matter of weeks, which gives me confidence in my skills going forward,” Church said. “I also learned about being willing to adapt in a constantly changing world.

”Quinn Mann ‘21 also said completing the Capstone Project has boosted his skill set for the future.

“It has given me insight into how to manage projects,” he said. “In the future, when an opportunity presents itself to lead a project, I will be well-prepared.

”While the Capstone Projects were developed for a grade in class, some students were inspired by their projects and plan to continue them beyond graduation or revisit them later in their careers.

While Kennedy Howard ‘22 had gotten started with her project prior to the Capstone class, she was able to build it out more and improve it during the class. Her Kennedy’s Corner: Pen Pal Connections created a correspondence program between students with special needs in middle school and college students to provide mentorship and instill confidence in the younger students. She plans to continue the program after graduation and hopes to expand it further.

Regardless of their plans, Dr. Brantley feels that each of the graduates gained valuable insight into themselves and how to navigate their careers.

“Throughout the course, students learned project management and other skills related to change management, giving them the confidence to apply those skills in their careers,” she said. “I am so proud of the students as they navigated a year interrupted by COVID-19 and were persistent in creating and implementing great projects.”

What I Learned From My Capstone Project

Image

KENNEDY HOWARD
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: Kennedy’s Corner: Pen Pal Konnections
SUMMARY: Digital pen pal connections between middle school students with special needs and college students to mentor and build confidence.

“By creating and managing a project from start to finish, I think it displays creative and organizational skills that employers will look for.”

Image

LANDON WAKEFIELD
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: PuriTea
SUMMARY: A business to provide caffeine options to those who don’t like coffee and introduce them to the benefits of tea.

“The Capstone helped me gain experience in project planning and time management. I can take this knowledge with me in my future career and know that I can manage tasks in a timely manner and plan major projects accordingly.”

Image

MATTISON CHURCH
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: Eat, Learn, and Grow
SUMMARY: Project to provide healthy food options to SMC commuter students.

“I think this is a great program. Not only did we get to choose and implement a project we are passionate about, but we also got to use and apply the skills we learned through the Camak Core classes.”

Image

NINA STONE
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: Beloved One: Young Daughters
SUMMARY: A Bible study program for young girls to teach them their true worth through four stories from the Bible.

“Beloved One: Young Daughters has developed me into a better person and has increased my confidence level as a leader, a communicator, a mentor, and a sister in Christ.”

Image

QUINN MANN
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: Carolina Caffeine Cart
SUMMARY: A mobile coffee cart business operated in Upstate South Carolina.

“I learned a lot of new things about project management like drafting a proposal, forming and working in committees, evaluating goals, and executing the project.”

Image

REBECCA EDMONDSON
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: You Are Not Alone
SUMMARY: Website focused on mental health awareness for college students.

“Something I appreciate about the Capstone Project was that it encouraged us to apply what we already know to make a project better.”

Image

WILLIAM FLINT
CAPSTONE PROJECT
: The Elite Minds Project
SUMMARY: A college prep course with current college students teaching incoming freshmen how to navigate college from their own experiences.

“I was able to prove to myself that I could create something that could help other people and enjoy what I had created.”

One such project was called Eat, Learn, and Grow, developed by Mattison Church ‘21. The project provided weekly produce bags and easy recipe cards for SMC commuter students, giving them healthy options to prepare and eat on the go. Church said the program went better than expected, and she distributed nearly 50 bags to students during the spring semester. She also learned something about herself.

“I learned from the Capstone Project that I can complete a giant project in a matter of weeks, which gives me confidence in my skills going forward,” Church said. “I also learned about being willing to adapt in a constantly changing world.

”Quinn Mann ‘21 also said completing the Capstone Project has boosted his skill set for the future.

“It has given me insight into how to manage projects,” he said. “In the future, when an opportunity presents itself to lead a project, I will be well-prepared.

”While the Capstone Projects were developed for a grade in class, some students were inspired by their projects and plan to continue them beyond graduation or revisit them later in their careers.

While Kennedy Howard ‘22 had gotten started with her project prior to the Capstone class, she was able to build it out more and improve it during the class. Her Kennedy’s Corner: Pen Pal Connections created a correspondence program between students with special needs in middle school and college students to provide mentorship and instill confidence in the younger students. She plans to continue the program after graduation and hopes to expand it further.

Regardless of their plans, Dr. Brantley feels that each of the graduates gained valuable insight into themselves and how to navigate their careers.

“Throughout the course, students learned project management and other skills related to change management, giving them the confidence to apply those skills in their careers,” she said. “I am so proud of the students as they navigated a year interrupted by COVID-19 and were persistent in creating and implementing great projects.”

“It has given me insight into how to manage projects...In the future, when an opportunity presents itself to lead a project, I will be well-prepared.”

Quinn Mann ‘21

CLASS OF 2021 CAPSTONE PROJECTS

“HOPE IN A CAN”
JOSH SPROUSE
Food donation program for local churches.

“ZA KNJIGA O BOSNASKA-CROAT”
ANDREA JERKOVIC
Bosnian and Croatian cultural awareness publication.

“KR CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM”
KHALIL ROBINSON
Knowledge and skills training in construction trade.

“WESTSIDE TIME CAPSULE MAGAZINE”
PIPER ADAN-BEDLEY
Historical and cultural appreciation of communities around SMC.

“RISING STARS”
ABIGAIL SIMPSON
Low-cost tutoring program for middle school students.

“SWEET CASES”
ROWAN SIVERS
Retail program to fund donating suitcases to foster children.

“SPIT CAKES”
BRADY WAKEFIELD
Retail project to introduce Czech delicacy to Spartanburg.

“THE ARK COFFEE CART”
ALEX MCNEELY
Mobile retail project providing coffee drinks in the community.

“STEEZY SATURDAYS”
JAMES PAINTER
Provide clothing to the homeless community of Spartanburg.

“OUR LIVES MATTER”
FASASHA SIMMONS
Bring community and law enforcement together to build relationships.

“LIFE SKILLS”
ALEX ALECXIH
Teaching everyday life skills to help ease tasks and build knowledge.

“CAFE DU MOORE”
NOAH MOORE
A mobile beignet cart to promote adult breakfast consumption.

“CROWNS & TIARAS”
KEAJHA SULLIVAN
Lending a helping hand to young women in Spartanburg creating a lifelong sisterhood.

“WASTE MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE”
STEVEN TRENCH
Consultancy to aid companies in moving to zero waste.

“HOMEPREP”
KABRI GARDNER
Help young adults find proper housing, via renting or purchasing.

“PIONEER SOCIETY”
CLAYTON HERNANDEZ
Organization for students to engage in social and service events.

“SPARTANBURG VOTES”
TYLER HUDSON
Help people with information to exercise their right to vote

“BILINGUAL AND DIVERSITY STORY TIME”
AMANDA ROSA BANCHS
A story time for Pre-K and Kindergarten students representing diversity in literature.

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