Environmental Studies Capstones

The capstone project is the culminating experience in the major and the minor.  It is intended to be an opportunity to apply the interests and skills you’ve developed in four years at W&L to complete an original project around an environmental topic. 

The 3-credit capstone course itself (ENV 397) is offered in Winter Term.  There is a 1-credit “pre-capstone seminar” offered in fall term that is not required but is strongly recommended, as it helps you prepare for and get the most out of your capstone experience in the winter.

The capstone is a great opportunity for you to complete a project that demonstrates what you want to do, and what you are capable of doing, with what you have learned in Environmental Studies.  It should serve as an example of not only your interdisciplinary knowledge in the field, but also of the “transferable skills” that you’ve honed in our program: communication, research, and critical thinking / problem solving.  It is something you can share with potential employers, grad school advisors, or prospective collaborators.

Capstone projects are flexible in their design, and can include:

·        Individual or small-group (2-4 person) projects

·        A significant (25-30 page) thesis-style paper investigating an original research question

·        A consulting-style project, producing a final report advising a “client” on a specific objective

·        Projects building on work completed as part of a summer research or internship

·        Projects complementary to a capstone or thesis in another relevant major

·        A significant service project, art project, multimedia project, etc.

All capstone projects must:

·        Start from a specific, plainly-stated research question or project objective

·        Be developed / advised in consultation with an appropriate faculty member

·        Be supported by appropriate background research

·        Produce a written final report / thesis

·        Present their results to the Environmental Studies faculty at the winter term capstone poster session

What if I also have to do a senior capstone thesis in another major/minor?  We will work with you to find the best way for you to hopefully combine the topics for both programs.  We want you to be able to put your full attention on your capstone experience so that you can get the most out of it.  Environmental Studies is a very interdisciplinary field; it is therefore generally easy to find topics that can work for both theses.  However, while the topic may overlap between the two programs, a substantial portion of your final thesis / report should be specific and unique to your Environmental Studies capstone.  In other words, you can’t simply write one paper for both theses.


Start thinking about your capstone project early!  The sooner you start thinking about what you might do for a capstone project, the more likely you are to choose a topic you really enjoy and can engage with.  A summer research project or internship can be a great foundation for your capstone.  Talk with your Environmental Studies advisor about possible capstone projects in your junior year.  That way you’ll be ready and excited to hit the ground running in your senior year!