All Cal Poly undergraduate students shall complete a senior project as part of their baccalaureate degree program requirements.
A capstone experience is a high-impact educational practice in which students (a) integrate and evaluate the knowledge and skills gained in both the General Education and major curricula and (b) demonstrate career or postgraduate readiness.
As a bridge from college to career/postgraduate success, the senior project at Cal Poly is a capstone experience with achievable outcomes that culminates in a self-directed final production or product carried out under faculty direction. Senior projects analyze, evaluate, and synthesize a student's general and discipline-specific educational experiences; relate to a student's field of study, future employment, and/or postgraduate scholastic goals; and include an element of critical, self-reflectiveness to facilitate student development and promote the metacognitive awareness that leads to lifelong learning.
While major programs of study are responsible for designing specific senior project learning outcomes, all senior projects at Cal Poly provide an opportunity for holistic, competency-based assessment that demonstrates a strong foundation in general and discipline-specific knowledge as well as an advanced proficiency in the core competencies of critical thinking, written and oral communication, information literacy, and quantitative reasoning.
Furthermore, senior projects broadly address program learning objectives, which align with one or more University Learning Objectives.
Forms and Examples
Senior projects may be research-, project-, and/or portfolio-based; individually supervised or course-based; independently completed or team-based; discipline-specific and/or interdisciplinary. They may take forms including, but not limited to, the following:
- an experiment;
- a self-guided study;
- a student-generated research project;
- participation in a faculty-generated research project;
- engagement in an industry-driven project;
- a report based on a prior or concurrent co-op/internship or service learning experience;
- a design or construction project;
- a portfolio of work documenting the results of creative practices; and/or
- a public presentation or performance.
Each academic department determines specific senior project requirements, yet all senior projects and senior project policies adhere to the following requirements.
Senior projects shall:
- commence when, or after, a student has earned senior standing, though completion of preparatory courses and/or research may precede senior standing;
- serve as a bridge from the college experience to professional/postgraduate readiness;
- include clearly defined student learning outcomes that are aligned with program learning objectives;
- have faculty oversight with scheduled meetings for which specific timelines/outcomes are defined;
- include a formal proposal and/or statement of intent to be submitted to the faculty advisor;
- involve inquiry, analysis, evaluation, and creation;
- demonstrate core competencies in critical thinking, written and/or oral communication, information literacy, and quantitative and/or qualitative reasoning;
- require a process/production and culminate in a final product as defined at the program level;
- include an explicit element of self-reflection;
- adhere to discipline-specific norms of academic integrity and ethical practices;
- be individually and formally assessed;
- include a minimum count of 3 units, or 90 hours of work, with no maximum;
- take no more than three quarters to complete;
- be assigned grades consistent with Cal Poly's policy on grading.
Note: Senior projects shall neither consist solely of a co-op/internship experience nor solely of a test/exam of any kind, and senior projects shall not be unsupervised.
Each academic department determines a process for archiving senior projects, whether at the department or college level and/or in collaboration with Kennedy Library. Policies and procedures governing submissions to Kennedy Library's institutional repository are based on University policies pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), intellectual property rights, and CSU accessibility requirements. Senior projects submitted to Digital Commons, the institutional repository hosted by Kennedy Library, become part of university's scholarly record.